Race: Insights of the Black Lives Matter Movement and Things I Don’t Understand

Since the tragic and unjust death of George Floyd, much has happened online and in life, and while I have been quarantined, I have been following current events and reading about it all. I haven’t posted on my Instragram or Facebook pages because I’ve had such strong and mixed feelings about the atmosphere online. Particularly troubling to me have been the posts, admittedly by folks I don’t know, that shame others who do not post social justice related images and topics. I have watched people I respected get “canceled,” and I have been actually afraid of being trolled for posting my normal book pictures and family updates. This was probably overboard, but it did lead me to stop and think.

So I want to post what I really think about race relations in America and the Black Lives Matter movement. I don’t want the cancel-social-media-warriors to prevent me from embracing the true insights of the movement. And at the same time, I don’t want to mindlessly bandwagon myself onto causes I don’t fully understand and be inauthentic for the sake of an empty virtue-signaling performance.

I have been reading about white privilege and the historical injustices that still harm black folks for a few years now, before the recent wave. Currently, I am reading, “So You Want to Talk About Race,” by Ijeoma Oluo as recommended by a colleague.

I absolutely believe in and support two main insights–the reality of unintended biases in white people (and all people). And the historic injustices that continue to leave black folks at a disadvantage.

And I want to work to heal these by the practical ways that I can, especially using best practices in my classroom. I believe it’s about love. God loves all his children, and that we are called to love each other in Jesus as the Body of Christ.

There are some recent things I’ve read online that have been upsetting to me, however, that I don’t think follow from these basic insights, and I’ve listed them out here because to me, I would be being inauthentic if I pretended to ascribe to everything entailed by the recent social justice movement.

I understand:

  1. That historic injustices have left blacks at disadvantages that persist into the present day.
    1. Such as slavery, Jim Crow Laws, redlining of school and voting districts.
    2. Phil Vischer, creator of Veggie Tales, describes in 17 minutes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGUwcs9qJXY
  2. That white people and all people likely carry unexamined and unintentional biases that need to be conscientiously examined.
  3. I am happy and willing to consider and examine the existence of such biases.
  4. I am happy and willing to listen to the stories of the people of color and everyone I know, and let them know that I support them.
  5. I am happy and willing to add more books by black authors to my personal bookshelf such as Maya Angelou and Ta Nehisi Coates.
  6. I am happy and willing to examine my classroom practices to promote fairness.
  7. I am interested in reform of police practices.
  8. I am extremely excited to add more children’s books featuring people of color to my classroom and home book shelf. I loved this list that a colleague-friend sent out. https://www.readbrightly.com/diverse-poetry-picture-books-for-kids/?ref=PRHBEBAF5AF5E&aid=randohouseinc8425-20&linkid=PRHBEBAF5AF5E&fbclid=IwAR0QH9oMlinRY8TB1vnb2RoHycmnZhUZLORwS37UUbOzkPwPNUzwkb_LNJU

What I don’t understand:

  1. The call for white people to identify as racist because of the aforementioned unintended biases
    1. To me, a term like racist is so loaded, like Hitler, …I prefer explanations to labels.
    2. I believe that intention matters. If I hold an unintended bias and am willing to examine it, it doesn’t seem right to label or penalize someone for the unintended bias.

Ancillary Topics I Don’t Understand:

  1. The call to abolish or defund the police.
    1. I do not understand what “defunding” the police entails.
    2. I was under the impression that police officers carry out certain essential functions in communities? Who do I call if someone breaks into my house?
    3. Statistically, officers who are white do not disproportionately shoot black people. (https://www.npr.org/2019/07/26/745731839/new-study-says-white-police-officers-are-not-more-likely-to-shoot-minority-suspe) Can we recognize the positive accomplishments of police while improving practices?
  2. The implication of one article about de-colonializing one’s bookshelf that said there should be as many black as white authors.
    1. As stated earlier, I embrace the call to add more authors of color.
    1. At the same time, my personal bookshelf includes many volumes of philosophy, theology, history and literature that are European in origin and predate the 1800s or are totally unrelated to race relations in America. These were my majors and MA (Religious Studies, Government, Theology). These disciplines have immense value, and I don’t understand why there are calls to focus all learning on race relations and ignore other subjects.
    2. Philosophy, history and theology have given great contributions to thought and human learning that I think retain value even if they came from European culture.
    3. When the phrase “dismantle systems of oppression” comes out, I don’t understand what exactly it entails and I worry about losing the great contributions to learning by European society. To give an example, I am a feminist and Aristotle thought that women were not equal in intellect or value to men. I disagree with him there, but I still think Aristotle had an accurate picture of virtue and morality that I wouldn’t discard.
  3. How do I avoid microagressions?
    1. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/microaggressions-black-people-deal-with_l_5ee8ffa9c5b6fe2600260ec8?fbclid=IwAR32JwNL7J4COYSQgIcG4b1ZNU1XdH0ocYsJP6_O8V-uyLnEblEqESORs4w
    1. #11 and #12 give me special trouble because I am unsure of how to reconcile them.
      1. I get that ignoring race and being “color blind” can be inauthentic and can lead to leaving people of color at a disadvantage
      2. I also understand that it isn’t fair to expect a person of color to represent all people of color in a discussion or situation.
      3. However, this leaves me very confused and worried about doing it wrong. So in very practical classroom discussions, such as about slavery, I just avoid it altogether out of fear. I would like to learn the right way to allow students who are of color or who have a strong reaction to the subject the place and space to be heard without demanding it of them.
  4. The difference between cultural diffusion and cultural “appropriation.” (This came from the Angela Watson article. I don’t get it. People dress up as sexy nuns for Halloween, and it bothers me a bit, but that’s all. I cook tacos for dinner–is there a problem with that?)

Here is what upsets me most: Posts on social media shaming people who don’t post (I’ve seen a lot of it on Instagram).

  • We don’t know anyone else’s story
  • We should not assume the worst of others or assume we know the meaning of their silence
  • Posting on social media is not inherently virtuous or akin to meaningful action. – Thank you for this post, David Brooks, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/25/opinion/us-coronavirus-protests.html?smid=fb-nytopinion&smtyp=cur&fbclid=IwAR2E0ktMEexmXXT1w6NCbeZL2b7s1qr1cFfSwbY2s01rq6h1y5_lHNGhc3k
  • Other need space to think. (I do).
  • The assumption of so certain a moral high ground that conversation and disagreement is precluded and mere silence is itself shamed. 
  • This dries up good will, prevents meaningful conversion and conversation and serves only to alienate others. It violates basic ideas on the respect and goodness of others which have otherwise been enshrined in current psychological and therapeutic practices and which are actually good.

Giving others the space to disagree, allows both of us to grow. We aren’t in control of others, no matter how much we might want to be. And few people change their minds when backed into a rhetorical corner. We can give each other some space and invite one another.

Here is what I do believe:

  1. That there are win/win situations and we should aim for that. Such as noting the advantages (privileges) we do have, and leveraging them to include others.
  2. That hearts and minds can be convinced and brought into unity by telling the truth with love, especially when the truth is the obvious fact that we are all created equally in the love of God.
  3. That discussion and teamwork should be the goal.
  4. That Jesus can restore us to healing beyond belief, in the words of the popular song.

Well, that’s all for now, though I have loads more that I’ve written and am thinking about, and there is loads more left to be said. And I would like to end with a prayer.

I pray that we can see the face of Christ in each other, and live in the reality that God calls us to share together in his life. I pray that we will know that we are One Body in Christ, and that that means love and compassion even when it’s difficult and that we rise by lifting others. Amen.

If this has been objectionable to you, or if it hasn’t, and you have something to share, I welcome and invite you to do with thought, care and love. St. Augustine said, “Love, and you what you will.”

Your son could be my son. A prayer for Unity.

As a mother, it breaks my heart to know that other mothers whose children are a different color than mine, worry more about them being out alone because of what could happen to them just because they are black. To imagine gazing at a tiny, innocent newborn angel and to think that another mother’s son will face potentially lethal differences in how others see him through no action of his own and only because of the actions of our ancestors and whose parent is whose, is the height of injustice. And I can never know deep in my bones what that worry feels like.

I can only pray that the Lord will heal us and bring us into deep unity. I pray that everyone in our country may see others in the light of love, for as St. Thomas Aquinas said, no one chooses evil as evil. People choose sin under the misguided pretense of goodness. I pray that we may see ourselves in each other, in the mistakes of others, in the tempers of others, and that we may know we are one people, one humanity, one family, one tribe of children loved and created by God. I pray that we heal as a nation from historic and current wrongs and from the Corona virus together in safety. I pray for unity and for Jesus to have mercy on us and unite us in love for each other, for truth and for honesty under God.

No matter how Jefferson meant it and whatever mistakes he made, I hope we can recognize the truth inside the words that, “All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,”

These stories are encouraging of police officers taking a knee beside protesters. Also, when we want to do something, here is something.

Here are some things we can do, https://medium.com/equality-includes-you/what-white-people-can-do-for-racial-justice-f2d18b0e0234

And let’s just talk to each other and listen.

I pray that we use our voices to be together, to lift up others and not to divide where we it harms. That we take Social Media with a grain of salt and seek to listen and understand others, not just to trumpet.

[The NY Times reported that Facebook internal meetings reveal they know that the site increases polarization in the population, and they “shelved” the issue because it increases time on the site. That’s probably because people prefer confirmation bias.

But it’s a problem. A huge problem. Time Magazine reported the same last year. For social media’s good purposes, I hope we can embrace it and go beyond the divisive.]

What are your thoughts on the current events, the death of George Floyd and the protesting and riots that are going on now?

Abandoned Church– Hollow, still Hallowed.

Something about abandoned places just draws me in–the mystery of why the owner stopped needing, wanting or caring about a place that had once been so alive.

Abandoned churches, in particular, grab me with their haunting sense of lingering holiness, despite the disrepair and dingy pews. The vaulted ceilings and stained glass are timelessly beautiful.

I ran into a church being torn down in my home town and stopped by, and jotted some observations, attempts at poetry. In any case, I hope you enjoy!

Empty sanctuary, ripped open to the sky.

No pews, just carpet and intact windows high.

A cross, fallen from its place, rests across a pastor’s couch.

Cracked buttresses triangulate the unkempt ground.

Beside piles of shingles, planks, splinters and rubble

A shredded leather seat, ajar by a dumpster in grassy stubble.

Vines creep up the sides and the roof

Of decline, cracked tile is proof.

Vacant Sunday School halls;

Preschoolers artworks forgotten on walls.

Purple and blue bulletin board paper, rimmed by sagging borders

Vinyl room dividers, unused; an oven, alone out of order.

Church is empty, the flock sauntered away.

Hollow, hallowed space cannot stay

To tend the sinners, lift the prayers,

Heal the hurts and so readies for dozers.

Wheat and chaff mixed in the group meeting.

No time for worship, tears or for greeting.

Subject now to other calendars and fears.

Abandoned, stretched too thin…

But not lost; alive within.

#AmQuerying – Announcing: THE GIRL FROM THE OUTSIDE

If you’ve known me a while, I may have let on that there was a novel in the works during my evenings and weekends. It’s finally done, and I am actively seeking (querying) an agent to represent me for publication!

Here’s some info and the pitch:

Dymphna Ambulo didn’t intend to become a radical when she was born on the outside, and Agent Halgrom just wanted to keep citizens safe–in the one-room, Intercon chambers… 
THE GIRL FROM THE OUTSIDE is a young adult, science fiction novel with a speculative side that will appeal to readers who liked The Hunger Games, Divergent and Ender’s Game. Plus, I heard you liked The Hunger Games, so I suspect my manuscript is in good hands.

When civilized folk live inside walled hive-cities and criminals wander the outdoor fringes of an America 200 years in the future, radical ideas and books threaten the peace. One drifter girl is searching for her family, but when that family has connections to a book-smuggling terrorist group, a chance crossing of paths with Intercon landed her in its legal crosshairs. 

The upright, dutiful Agent Wesnen Halgrom, now holds her fate under his magnifying glass–and she’s his main suspect!

Dymphna wants to prove her innocence and escape, but doing so will test Halgrom’s loyalty to Intercon, his superiors and his career. Uncovering the rationale of the bombing pits truth against ideology and Dymphna’s hopes of finding her family against the secret history of the life they actually lived.

Author Bio: Breakout author, Stephanie Pacheco, is a superhero enthusiast, math teacher and book blogger (@theoresstephanie on Instagram and theoress.wordpress.com), with various freelance essay publications.

SO–if that sounds good to you, let me know!! If you wanna read more, you can DM on instagram @theoresstephanie, and I will email you some chapters. If you’re an agent, comment or DM me, and we’ll go from there!

Wish me luck, say a prayer for me, cuz I really need it!!! It feels very raw to put this out there, but it’s got to be done! Also, yes–other writing projects are on-going 😉

Found Treasure: Mysteriously Abandoned Books

Abandoned. In the wilderness. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. When I saw a big, blue tub alone under a tree in an overgrown lot, I did not expect books.

How do I describe the book treasure find that my daughter and I happened upon while walking? A few houses down, there is a a vacant lot–several acres, that was supposed to be turned into a park. But the county just let it get overgrown, and it’s become a favorite spot for us despite the thorny brambles and waist-high weeds. It has daffodils and wild onions and blackberries.

It also has rogue water bottles, tarps and beer cans, signs of vagrants and whomever Dharma bums that may be passing through.

So when we eyed the blue tub, I thought it would be pots and pans, old bottles, who knew…but certainly not books. Why someone would dump such a tub under a tree, is a mystery. But I’ll take it as just my luck, like finding treasure.

It was mostly a collection of early 90s self-help books, a lot on greiving, a few obsolete financial tomes, and a surprisingly high number of volumes on spirituality.

My haul.

Here are the ones I saved, some Michael Crichton classics, including my favorite, Timeline and some great spiritual songs and a dictionary. Shockingly, I don’t own one.

The rest, I’ll donate. Just kinda neat. It reminds me of an imaginary future where books are contraband and wandering Wayfarers smuggle them around the wild, abandoned parts of the world on the run from indoor cops…but more about that tomorrow 😉

Have you ever happened upon anything like a cache of books? Would you have taken any?

You might wanna read A Baker’s Year by Tara Jenson – Book Review

“We know how to make bread deep in our being. That is why it calls to us. The labor is the labor of coming home” (56).

A Baker’s Year by Tara Jensen

I learned of her in Bon Appetite Mag, and oogling her bread and pie pictures the reason I signed up for Instagram. Following the baking and life of Tara Jensen of Smoke Signals Bakery in NC has been an on and off inspiration for me. The beautiful rhythms of the year and the land, the sad and the sweet in love, and those perfectly golden cookie edges and craggy bread crusts always lift my spirits.

I’ve enjoyed reading her book–part cook book / part confession and philosophy — especially during quarantine. The time she spent alone at her bakery is an exemplar for us in our homes during quarantine, the recipes are artisan and exciting. She must be almost my age, because–

A Baker’s Year feels like reading the outpourings of a soul-companion at the same place on the path as I am, though the outer forms certainly look different.

Her poetic style draws the reader in, and her descriptions of nature and romance and solitude are authentic and as accurate as it gets. Regarding spring, she says, “Although the ground lie barren, there is a stirring underfoot” (18).

Regarding the recipes, I will say they are challenging. I enjoyed learning about types of grain and flour as I’ve been delving into those and sour dough starters on my own quarantine. However, if it wasn’t for my interest and experience, I would say the recipes are hard.

There are tons of appealing pie pictures and recipes. I do wish there were some COOKIE recipes in here, and why not some brownies or muffins? What can I say–I bake for my sweet tooth!

On the plus side, her advice on baking in a home oven, sour dough starters, achieving an oven spring in an open pan and lessons on grain types, has revolutionized my personal practice.

So there, if you want some expert advice on grain, bread, sour dough and pies, go for this book.

If you want to understand someone’s personal journey in a frank, refreshing and practice-tied way, go for this book. Here are some of my fav passages.

“The dynamics of a breakup in a small town are particular…After all, the majority of the community had already gone through several waves of marriages, divorces, affairs and other questionable arrangements. So I retreated” (30-31).

“I was along through every season…and I noticed how particular I becoming. My whole world arranged in just the right order. Never a stray water glass…I had control over my life, but I was also suffocating it. So when I saw his shoes tossed by the woodstove and his beer sweating water on the windowsill, I got nervous” (86).

” ‘It’s just that I’ve given up on find love. And I know that sounds sad, but it’s not. I’m free from all the waiting and wanting and hoping.’ He lit a cigarette and took a long drag, the cherry lighting up his face. ‘So what do you want?’ he asked” (111).

A Baker’s Year by Tara Jensen

So there you have it! How are YOU managing this quarantine? Bread-baking? Are you brave enough to share your place on the path?

A Canticle for Leibowitz – A Parable for our Times?

But neither infinite power nor infinite wisdom could bestow godhood upon men. For that there would have to be infinite love as well. (234)

That’s Walter Miller’s take on what the world needs in A Canticle for Leibowitz, p. 234.

Do we need a post-apocalyptic dystopia to relate with us about our modern corona-virus quarantine? Of course! We always need post-apocalyptic worlds and dystopias to show us posssible outcomes if we pushed our views to the extreme.

Author Walter Miller (no relation), set A Canticle for Leibowitz 2,000 years in the future after the nuclear war wiped out civilization. Following humanity’s destruction, survivors became suspicious of science and culture underwent “The Simplification” where all intellectual knowledge remains suspect.

A monastery 2,000 years in the future is the sole keeper of the remains of humanity’s natural, scientific and humanitarian knowledge, much as the Benedictine monasteries really did do this after the fall of the Roman Empire.

The action heats up when a visiting scholar (“thon” in the book’s terminology) has made inroads to the sciences and rediscovers a host of scientific advances in the monastery’s libraries.

The thon [scholar] seemed mildly embarrassed. “Only an uncertainty about my audience. I would not wish to offend anyone’s religious beliefs.”

“But how could you? Isn’t it a matter of natural philosophy? Of physical science?” (195) responded the abbot.

The irony for the modern reader is that it’s the monks who embrace learning and the sciences when popular culture has abandoned such enterprises. In many ways though, I think certain pockets of Catholicism maintain many of the humanitarian traditions in history, philosophy and theology that are largely forgotten today.

Back to the story, Miller’s monks aren’t merely pious, cliche-spouting archetypes. They are realistic, imperfect people who quarrel and make angry outbursts and otherwise act just like real folks. And they have many thoughts about why humanity launched nuclear war against itself.

The closer men came to perfecting for themselves a paradise, the more impatient they seemed to become with it, and with themselves as well. They made a garden of pleasure, and became progressively more miserable with it as it grew in richness and power and beauty; for then, perhaps, it was easier for them to see that something was missing in the garden, some tree or shrub that would not grow. When the world was in darkness and wretchedness, it could believe in perfection and yearn for it….Well, they were going to destroy it again. (285)

Isn’t there a truth to this? That the easier we make our lives through technological advances and economic prosperity, the more restless we become. It doesn’t yield the peace we expect. Think of how depression and anxiety have sky-rocketed in our times of relative ease. And I’m not immune–no one in modern America is!

In Miller’s story, *spoiler alert* when the world rediscovers the nuke, they use it again. And the hopeful message–if you can say–is that the Church sends a rocket ship into space to colonize the moon to keep the teacherings going!

It’s a surprising story–maybe parallel to today maybe not? What do you think?

I will say the rallies that violate stay-home orders boggle my mind–the corona virus quarantine is one thing that seems pretty non-political to me, something that we can generally agree on. Though I know some people are in really rough straits because of it, and that stinks.

Maybe, like Miller said, when we approach beauty and peace, the sense of restlessness threatens to overwhelm us and destroy the world. Or maybe, we can work together for the something truly pro-life, the safe keeping our most vulnerable members. (More on that here: https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2020/04/epidemic-danger-and-catholic-sacraments)

And in any case, our empty streets sure are starting to resemble a post-apocalyptic world. It feels that way for us when we play in rain reservoirs instead of playgrounds.

But Miller would leave us with this:

But neither infinite power nor infinite wisdom could bestow godhood upon men. For that there would have to be infinite love as well. (234)

Neither power nor wisdom is enough to get us through this. Only love.

So how have you been holding up during the quarantine? Is there something you need? Do you agree with Miller that we get more restless the easier we have it?

Slowing down to quarantine Bandwagon bake.

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Like the rest of the country, apparently, I’ve taken up home baking–and finally activated the thoughts of sour dough floating around, unindulged, in the back of my head.

Raising a sourdough culture–just a mix of water and flour–isn’t hard, but it takes time and waiting, and being home at the same times everyday to feed it regularly. Mixing dough takes five minutes, but it takes hours to rise–sometimes all night and then again the next day. It probably takes 20 minutes of active time–virtually nothing. But you have to be there for those 10 second folds and kneads and pre-heatings and taking the lid off the dutch oven. It has a rhythm of life, of presence that just ain’t compatible with the modern–rush off at six am and scoop everyone off to practices and homework life.

As much as I found it hard to be at home 24/7 as a stay-at-home-mom, and as much as I thrived on the structured schedule of school, I’m also enjoying this. There is something about everyone being stuck at home together that makes it better. We are riding bikes in the street and skipping baseball practice, not because mom is too haggard to add it to the schedule, but because there is no baseball practice. In some ways, it’s such a relief.

That said, I am sorry, very sorry for those who are sick and those who are lonely, and I hope that everyone can heal and find comfort during this.

I wish I could remember the quote, but I am falling in with the opinion that while I hope people can all get what they need, I wish the re-opening of the world somehow allows a change of pace, an acceptance of drawing back, of staying home and slowing down.

We need stories, philosophy, faith and each other in the midst of Corona Virus.

4 Great Books for the Stay-at-home-pocalypse

The news and friend-of-friend/group posts on facebook are getting scarier about Covid-19: deaths, bureaucratic delays, and “social distancing” or even “lock down” measures to contain spread and #flattenthecurve.

It’s led me to pondering what to say to our children, to consider worst-case scenarios, and what I most want to communicate to them about what matters in life. Here are my thoughts on what has helped me, what matters and what I need to keep going on a spiritual, emotional level.

1. History of what has happened.
-My husband and I first heard about what was going on in China in February of 2020. Since then, our gravest concerns have materialized faster than we imagined possible: global spread, “pandemic,” community spread, testing shortages, grocery store hoarding, lock-down measures and so on with numbers climbing in exponential growth trends and getting closer and closer. And maybe it’s all paranoia and it’ll blow over as no big deal at all. I hope that’s the case. 

Ironically, I had become concerned about societal break-down when Ebola spread to the US a few years ago, based on my reading history of “The Hot Zone” and tales of bleeding out from every orifice. Those fears never came to pass, but it did get me thinking about what could happen.

Last Friday, the school where I teach and my kids attend closed until the end of April. We are blessed that all of us can work from home and can be together during this time. It also means major changes in our routine and unprecedented attempts at digital learning and teaching. We’ll see how it goes!

2. Books of the Past.
-In times of stress, old books have given me so much comfort. They remind me that my problems aren’t new, that humans have been facing much worse situations and responding to them and pondering them for thousands of years. Reading and discovering this has brought me great comfort at many times in my life when I felt like I was adrift in a boat with no sails or oars over dark waters. Here are some of my top picks:

a. Plato’s Republic. When Plato describes types of government that degenerate into each other, oligarchy  into democracy, democracy into tyranny, (Book VIII)  it gives context to what I observe in government and society at times when it might be troubling. No, we aren’t uncharted territory for humans. Rather, we are at a point on a circle that is rotating and has been rotating for thousands of years. Somehow, this makes my concerns about bad leaders seem less world-shattering.

b. The Bible. It reminds that God created everything, that the ancient Israelites went through way worse than me–slavery in Egypt, having their homeland conquered and living dispersed through out the diaspora, and that Jesus went through much worse than me–being slandered, abandoned and crucified with nails driven through his hands and feet. And good came from that–Jesus saved us and adopted us into His Body, as children of God. Our suffering–infections, death–are bad, but they don’t mean God isn’t with us and still working beyond our understanding. 

c. The Once and Future King by T.H. White. This 20th century Arthur retelling spans Arthur’s entire lifetime and is packed with emotional depth and insight that, for me, amazingly captured what it felt like to mature and realize what changes in our understanding and what matters as we become older and wiser. For a few tough months awhile back, this book felt like my only friend.

d. After Virtue by Alasdair MacIntyre. His whirl-wind tour of western philosophy puts various philosophical movements in context and explains a return to the concept of telos, or ends, to inspire and justify action. It also warns about the dangers of losing philosophical history and context. If I could pass one nugget onto my kids, it’s the clarity of MacIntyre’s explanation of the context of moral philosophy. I would hope that it would impress upon my kids why it is so vital to hold onto the wisdom of previous ages–without that context, we keep frustratingly and ineptly trying to reinvent the wheel and building disparate pieces that don’t fit together. We must remember history in order to understand the present. It’s as true in philosophy as it is government and practical, everyday life. 

3. We need stories and art–books, and yes, movies and even video games. 

In this time of social isolation, I need stories. Stories and art in any form are more than entertainment. They are a communication of values, of lessons, of experiences of how some people dealt with things and what they learned. They are a reflection on what’s happened to us. I see this in the superhero trend of late. Here’s what I said about Wonder Woman:

Wonder Woman, and superheroes in general, are the myths of our time, our art. They are the stories we tell ourselves about what matters. The emphasis on preserving life, embracing one’s gifts, encountering and countering evil, and striving against crushing odds is a sign of health in our society. Wonder WomanSpidermanBatman, and Captain America reach across the political divide and present characters and messages and almost all Americans venture to the theater to see. That’s good news for us. It means we do still have some shared values, and that our moral compass can still find north.

Beyond artistic ponderings, stories have the power to make us forget ourselves, to get lost in someone else’s life. The intensity of characters’ conflict can force our own conflicts into perspective. My favorite TV show is The Punisher, and despite the thrill of it, the pain of Frank Castle’s life as he avenges his lost family somehow reminds me of just how lucky I am to have my husband and three kids right here beside me. 

4. Education matters. Experience matters. Because you matter.  

The proverbial poop seems to be hitting the fan, and as it does, I realize that education matters. My education matters–your education matters. It’s not enough that knowledge exists somewhere out there abstractly. At the end of the day, during this quarantine, for example, only knowledge that has formed me, that I have internalized–will I be able to draw up and pass on to my children. 

When I first left academia, I sometimes despaired that all my learning was for naught because I’m not getting paid to write philosophical commentaries. But now, I’m thinking I had it wrong. Learning history, philosophy, theology, moral philosophy has helped form me in how I think and analyze situations, in what I prioritize as important, and it’s filled my internal bookshelf with resources that I can give to my children from texts, to sayings, to how I explain why we do things. 

The liberal arts aren’t just fluffy things to shrug off–though some academic material is codswallop. They can be deeply formative, grounding and cultural. So I need to keep reading! And so do my kids! And all of us!

5. Listening to God.

A friend in college once told me I was “judgmental and self-righteous.” He was right. I could parrot all the Christian phrases and moral platitudes about acceptance and love, but I was blind to how all that operated inside me. There was no authenticity or empathy in 18-year-old me. I sincerely hope that is changed, though I know there is still much room for growth. What growth there has been has came through much suffering and inward-looking. 

Somehow, I think that is where God found me and taught me. I need to learn to explain myself and what I’m feeling and deeply needing without automatically demanding that someone out there meet that need. I need to be in touch with those feelings and needs precisely in order to fulfill them and not fling them outside of myself as anger or neediness or showiness (falsity). 

I know mostly that I don’t know a heaping ton of things, especially what’s going on in other people’s heads and hearts. I’m not sure about much of anything these days, but I do believe that God is somewhere in the midst of me, my situation and everyone’s and that he cares, understands and wants to bring good out of hardship. 

And if I was giving an unscripted experience of mine to my kids, it’s that a lot my instincts are precisely that inner voice that I need to listen to and follow. That little pull of tension that says a situation isn’t good, is usually right, and I’m working on trying to notice and respond to those types of instincts more. I’m learning to trust them because following them, heart instead of head, shall I say, is tending to produce more “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and faithfulness,” the fruits of the Holy Spirit. And if we shall judge a tree by its fruit as Jesus taught us, then these “instincts” as I’m calling them as good trees, maybe even what it means to hear the Holy Spirit.

6. Look for unity and see unity.

I’ve had much easier times understanding new ideas and even conflicts when I look for ways that both people are going for the same good, just using different words that appear to be in conflict, but are not. Let’s say one person is an anarchist, and one person is a Democrat. Instead of focusing on the differences, we can work together by starting where we do agree–both are trying to achieve safety. That’s at least a starting point.

7. Keep learning with humility. Humility isn’t about thinking poorly of yourself. It’s about seeing oneself in the interconnected web of a community, and in this web, we all have gifts to offer, shortcomings to overcome, and needs that we rely on others to meet. In this context, the goal is to tell the truth about our faults, our gifts and those of others, with an emphasis on appreciating the gifts and abilities of all.

 

This is just what I think I’ve learned and has helped me so far. So children, take what lessons you can, know that I love you, and that God loves you, and that I have confidence that communities have weathered far worse than this, and that you will too!

 So–what are you telling your kids or other young people about covid-19? What have you learned in life that you would most want to pass on?

Richard Rohr Connect’s AA’s 12 Steps to Christianity, and it’s great!

He says, “I believe that Jesus and the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are saying the same thing but with different vocabulary: We suffer to get well. We surrender to win. We die to live. We give it away to keep it.”

Now, I don’t always agree with everything Rohr puts out,  but I do like how he connects other aspects of life to prayer and spirituality. To me, it makes spirituality feel possible in the midst of my busy life–hence my rare posting :-/

He helps translate the different languages and it makes our faith more accessible:

We are all addicts. Human beings are addictive by nature. King writes: “The question for each of us is not whether we are addicted but how we are addicted, and to what. Denial of the existence of addiction in your life is not a mark of moral accomplishment but a sign of blindness.” [3] Addiction is a modern name and honest description for what the biblical tradition called “sin” and medieval Christians called “passions” or “attachments.” They both recognized that serious measures or practices were needed to break us out of these illusions and entrapments.” https://cac.org/a-universal-addiction-2019-12-08/

Finally, he describes mindfulness and prayer as a way to deal with reality,

A radical, almost nonsensical “okayness” characterizes mature believers, which is why they are often called “holy fools.” We don’t have to deny, dismiss, defy, or ignore reality anymore. What is, is gradually okay. What is, is the greatest of teachers.” https://cac.org/twelve-step-spirituality-part-one-weekly-summary-2019-12-14/

I love the phrase a “radical okayness.” I once saw a shirt that said “World’s Okay-est Runner,” and I thought it applied to me. I’m not that fast, I don’t run every day, but I do run every weekend, and I keep at it. Seeing this phrase in spirituality actually makes a lot of sense to me.  I don’t have to see myself as the best, I just try to keep it up.

Thoughts?