Ten Days In

It’s amazing how life can knock the wind out of you, leave you flattened and gasping for breath.

A lot of us feel that way after November 8th. Ten days now and this might be the first day I’ve felt even remotely normal.

It’s the new normal, of course. When the wind knocks something down it can’t be set back up in precisely the same way again. Then again, a Greek philosopher once said we can never step in the same river twice: from moment to moment we are different people, and the river continually flows with new water.

But that feeling is also a truth: there are moments for all of us that define a “before” and an “after”. For many of us November 8th will be one of those dates. Still, in the new Now most of the old truths hold steady. We have to feed the kids. Feed the dog. Feed the chickens.

Feed the hungry.

Run the laundry. Wash the dishes. Fold the clothes.

Clothe the shivering.

Call the parents. Visit the neighbors. Comfort the crying child.

Comfort the sick. Visit the prisoner. Call the senator.

There is no work to be done that did not need doing Before. We woke up not into a world that had changed but to our own sense of urgency. Moments that knock our breaths out of our bodies are in reality little Apocalypses, a now-scary word that really only means “unveiling”. We now realize something we didn’t before, that our national priorities are radically disunified, that we are not hearing voices that need to be heard, that what we thought was safe needs active and engaged protecting. That we are not communicating what we need to express. And yes, that there is more fear and pain and hatred out there than many of us realized.

As with all little deaths, as with all realizations great and small, we have two choices now. We can sleep. Or we can rise.

We can rise up in Truth and Love, we can take this awareness and build something with it. But whatever we build must be built in both Truth and Love or it will be built out of sand.

Notice I said “Truth”. I said “Love”. I didn’t say “Nice”. Politeness is nowhere here mentioned. We confuse these things in our culture: we smear the difference between the True and the Nice, between Love, which is sacrificial and hard and messy and sometimes very very blunt, and Polite, which ignores truth in favor of just keeping the peace long enough to get home. Nice and Polite have their place: they’re essential to life in a crowded society. But they’re paint and fabric. You cannot build with them.

They’re the trimmings that decorate a functioning society.

And that it what we clearly don’t have.

We’ve spent our ten days mourning. The alarm clock is going off.

Time to rise.


The Cost of a Culture

I’m totally That Girl on Facebook.
Not the one who posts her lunch every day, or the one who posts a million and one requests from Farmville. (Does anyone still play Farmville?) But I’m pretty sure that there’s a contingent of my friends who, any time anything happens, groan to themselves and think “Oh crap. Liz will have something to say about this.”

So yeah. I’m THAT that girl. The SJW. I’m opinionated and passionate and I’m likely to have something to say about it. Rewrite that: I’m unable to keep my mouth shut about it.

For those of us who are opinionated and loud there are two kinds of posts in the world. There are the ones we write that basically boil down to “I can’t believe we still have to argue this point”. And then there are the ones that we ourselves have really struggled with and evolved on and write because we hope to help other people get there too.
And the issue I’ve done the most growing on is around questions of violence.

Let me back up a second. Where I come from, firearms are a regular household implement. They’re not scary or even particularly manly or considered aggressive. They’re just part of your usual stock of household equipment. Spanking in public was a bit déclassé but not shocking. Daily brawls happened in the hallway without any particularly damaging outcome and without anything more than two kids getting pulled apart and shoved opposite ways down the hallway. (If somebody bled, it went to the principal’s office, or if it really got out of hand.) Casual slapping and punching (Again, not even hard enough to bruise) were a thing.

So was casual hugging, handholding, and back patting. We’re a physical people, is what I’m saying.

So for a long time I was blind to the fact that as a culture, we have an inordinately high tolerance for violence. Not just that, we have an inordinately high expectation of violence. Americans as a rule operate under the assumption that a fair degree of violence is unavoidable and inevitable.

We see it most clearly around Black Lives Matter. When someone resists arrest the chorus from a large percentage of the population at large is that resistance will inevitably lead to a violent response. Failure to follow police instructions will get you shot. And here in Madison, WI our mayor’s suggestion following the battery of a young woman was a class for high schoolers in how to properly follow police orders.
This is a tautology to them. Failure to follow instructions from authority figures will lead to a violent response.

This line of thinking is drawn through parenting, where it claims that the only two options are corporal punishment or indulgence, to schooling to law enforcement to International Policy. It presumes that the only meaningful authority is the use of force. It presumes that failure to exercise that force either through physical violence or through the threat of it is a display of weakness.

And worst of all, it believes that there is no other way.

These are the Devil’s absolutes, as it were.

We know that peaceful parenting is possible. Overseas policing and work in any number of institutions on the civilian side of life demonstrate that it is almost always possible to control even very violently agitated people without returning force. Especially in domestic contexts it is almost always possible to resolve issues without resorting to force.

The trick, of course, is that it requires more work. For police it requires more training. As a culture it means reworking how we do things so that we ask police to do a lot less. Right now we have profoundly unreasonable expectations of our police forces, and that in itself is an act of violence both against them and against the populations they’re called upon to serve. Beyond that it requires an openness, honesty and vulnerability we don’t like expressing.

It requires humility from all comers, and that’s next to heresy in this country.
It’s a difficult proposition. But it’s a necessary one. Without it, we aren’t going to survive.

First Fruits and Summer Nights

imageLughnasad is one of those old old days that the uppity Celts kept around. It’s named for the old God Lugh, who got conveniently reassigned to the “heroes and champions” division once the new Roman Catholic leadership staged the takeover in the first millennia.

So the festival stuck around, going as Lammas in England (which means the loaf-mass) and a long list of unpronounceable names in Manx, welsh and Scotch Gaelic.

What does it mean? It’s the halfway point between Midsummer and the Fall Equinox, and at Northern latitudes it represents a substantial tipping point in the weather. The hottest days are yet to come because of seasonal lag, but the days begin to shorten perceptibly. Slowly, not as rapidly as they do during the fall months, but they shorten nonetheless. The plant life shifts from the growing cycle to full fruit production and preparing for dormancy. And depending on the crop, the season of first harvest begins.

Early summer was a starving time for our ancestors. After the first spring fruits and before the fall harvests, there is a lull in production in which things can get very hairy if you haven’t planned properly. Animals are In Reproductive mode , so if you slaughter and eat any (or hunt carelessly) you will survive but at the cost of future security. Early August is when produce begins coming in earnest. The first grain harvests are available, the berries are plentiful, and the larger fresh vegetables are ready to be brought in.

So done merrily Lughnasad was a time of celebration, of knowing you had made it. The bigger harvest festivals would be more prominent, but by now you would be able to tell if it was a good year or bad. It was time for celebrating the good and praying for miracles if it was otherwise. It was a good time for choosing a bride, so that a new household could be prepared and stocked before winter came. And it was a good time to make sure the beer barrels were empty so that they could be scrubbed out and filled through August and September.

So today is a good day to take stock. Celebrate the good that this year has brought. Mourn the bad.

And best of all, take a look at where you want to be by the end of the year. Have you taken on resolutions that you haven’t fulfilled yet? Have you reached goals and want to set new ones? What tools do you want to hone to make the next 6 to 12 weeks most productive?

Then, find some fresh bread and a bowl of berries, and enjoy summer. If you’re so inclined pour a tall one. Give gratitude where it is owed.

And by whichever name you celebrate, from Lammas to the Feast of the Ascension, have a blessed Lughnasad.