What does it mean to bless? my friend Howard asked Reb Zalman. By way of response, Zalman posted Howard by the door to the retreat space as we returned from lunch, with no more directive than that.
It is in this spirit that I stand by the door of the year and consider the personal and public events of 2017, marked by disruption, interruption, dismantling.
On the personal side, I initiated significant disruption: after 35 years in our house, a project to re-do our sad-looking wood floors and repaint much of the first floor of our home. The domino effect, which I intended but couldn’t exactly plan, meant moving a lot of stuff around, getting into corners of accumulation, runs for empty beer and liquor boxes, hours of sorting and letting go. The physical and psychological labor was intense over a four-month period. A blockbuster approach to nostalgia, values clarification, and the great American dilemma of too-much-stuff. The process had its disruptive effects on my relationship with virtually every part of my identity, my family and my professional life. What does it all come down to? What, indeed. The outer rearrangements and lightening-up are settling in, the inner rearrangements and lightening up, still a work in progress.
But if a life of practice is about anything, it is about being a disruptor of habit and denial. And that commonly comes wrapped in discomfort.
There is more work to follow to get our house in order, going beyond nostalgia into territory such as: how long shall we assume we are going to live? how well-prepared are we financially? How well-prepared to assume care-taking roles for one another? what legacies are important to us, may someday help our children and grand-kids?
On the public side, I am horrified and terrified to live under an elected leader who governs by chaos and divisiveness and who cannot distinguish allies from enemies. Nostalgia makes for poor public and foreign policy. Values clarification? Many of us have caught fire with a new sense of urgency, commitment, skill and solidarity. We are paying attention. Our nation too has its ugly accumulation of dirt that now sees the light of day. Thousands of us are engaged daily to disrupt denial: the forces of habit of power-holders are formidable – whether in government, or in the home.
What does it even mean to be willing to bless such events?
May we each stand at the door of the year to bless as we can, looking first back, then ahead:
- to look life straight in the eyes, to see who/what is before you and what is needed
- to hold a profound intention for goodness
- to take personal responsibility for guarding the threshold of the year
- to join our volition with the volition of the universe that has our back
May we offer one another honesty suffused with kindness.
May we offer one another refuge from the wild elements within and without.