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“This situation is going to call for a lot of patience. To be patient in an emergency is a real trial.” --Wendell Berry
What I hunger for, and what I believe the world hungers for these days, is a generous portion of love served up with a spicy side dish of anger.
Seldom do we hear the ideal of a fiery love, a love powered and fueled by rage at injustice, unnecessary suffering, and the destruction of life. We are aware of the ideal of love as patient and kind, and that’s an important characterization of love when we hold the reins of power. But with regard to the environmental crisis, this is a truncated and dangerous understanding of the power of love. Love, when rooted in the unyielding ground of reality, is nothing less than the most potent force for change and renewal in our world.
Now to clarify a bit about anger, a potent energy in its own right. To borrow an image from Sojourner Truth, anger is both the realization that the world is upside down and the power to turn it right side up again.
We’re an angry people, and rightfully so. As an angry people, though, we want to see massive change “now.” We are a people with apocalyptic leanings; we favor a “big bang” approach to creating a new world over the long, slow work of cleaning up after ourselves. We don’t much enjoy the organic process of change, getting our hands dirty, sweating with time and effort, working to create fertile ground in the midst of the wasteland.
We have a habit of overlooking the power of accumulated, small actions to create harmony or disease in persons, landscapes, or societies. We tell our histories through the lens of large events, and as a consequence, lack stories of revolution rooted in the soil of untold numbers of actions taken by ordinary people in the course of daily life. Given that the challenges we face were built slowly over the course of decades, the big bang paradigm through which we tell our story, and seek to shape history, isn’t a particularly truthful or adaptive approach to righting our upside down world.
We are also a nation of “patients,” increasingly sick and broken in body, mind, and spirit. To heal means to become whole. Our anger, misunderstood and un-mastered, has torn us and our planet asunder. We have forgotten the art of being patient, the importance of bending low to listen and learn from uncomfortable people, facts, and feelings in order to become whole again.
Instead of being patient with anger, we treat our anger with anger. We stuff our anger, throw it away as if it were trash, or throw it around as if those around us were trash. Our stuffed and discarded anger chokes the air and pollutes the water, raises our blood pressure, overwhelms the vulnerable among us, crushes us with depression, warms the earth.
We fill landfills with our unwanted anger, when in fact anger is a gift, a resource, something to be treasured. Anger is not something to be pushed down or thrown “away” — there is no “away.” We are all connected. Anger goes somewhere when you cannot, or will not, hold it and transmute it into right action. Much of the anger that we feel, in fact, rises up through us from mother Earth: her anger seeks to awaken us, to compel us — her very limbs — to blaze new paths of beauty and justice with a fiery love.
We feel anger, but anger as we express it in our society is an ungrounded anger. We are like trees cut off at the roots. The anger we throw away and around is medicine for the disease that ails us all: our alienation and disconnection from nature and our native selves. Our medicine, anger, is calling us back to our roots, calling us back to our bodies, calling us back to the earth.
Take some time every day to concentrate on the quality of your connection with the earth as you sit, stand, or walk. This is the seat of a fiery love, a love that can sustain us in our efforts to remain patient creators of a new world in the midst of an emergency. Until we are firmly rooted in the earth, until we are firmly rooted in our bodies, until we are firmly rooted in love, we remain loose cannons, sloppy lovers, and silent onlookers in the war against life in all of her forms.
Our job is to create new ground, fertile soil, for the coming world. We start by feeling, by listening, by rooting ourselves deeply in the sacred ground of our lives. We must become as walking trees, rooted in devotion and fierce connection to the earth, all the while moving through our daily lives with an embodied presence and a determined wakefulness.
Undisciplined, ungrounded anger likes to use the big bang to get attention, if not applause. Anger likes to see results now and to have its way. But disciplined anger, an anger rooted in love, is a potent mixture of seeming opposites. A fiery love, like that of a mama bear for her cubs, listens intently, channels ferocity, and fuels right action over time, regardless of chances for success.
As we connect to our ground in new ways, we must also learn how to share this sacred ground with others, standing together as we learn to speak new truths, dream new dreams, and support one another in our efforts to create a more beautiful and just world.
We need to attend to the ground beneath our feet. This is the path of the Sacred Feminine. Too long suppressed and silenced, it is time to tell a new story based in a very old story, a herstory.
I, for one, am tired of yielding the story of this world to the bigots, the power-hungry, and the zealots. I am also finished keeping my living interpretation of life to myself as the world starves. It is high time that history as we know it — the holocaust of nature, the rape of persons, the demonization of the “other” — ends.
Together, let us begin telling a new story. Let us stand, speak, and move from a place of grounded fiery love. This ground, your ground, is sacred ground. The whole world is your temple, our temple. Embrace your vocation as a protector, co-creator, and midwife of the Sacred Feminine in the world.
We need your righteous anger and your loving acts of resistance, resilience, and creativity. She needs you, too, your stubborn, unyielding efforts to turn the world right side up again. Join me in weaving this new story, our story, Herstory.
P.S. It has been slowly dawning on me that my writing really must include the voices of women, all kinds of women. The old standards, like faith, hope, love, and God, are coming through me in a way that is quite different from what we've been taught. But it’s not just me.
Women in our times see things very differently from the outdated, male-dominated, Sky God worldview that dominates our spiritual discourse. Our voices are a vital, untapped resource in the work of righting our world.
My dream is to weave women’s voices, still largely unheard in public discourse, into the narrative of what I am writing. The question is how to do it. How to begin a Herstory Project? The answer, I hope, will include you and your friends.
I still don’t have the format figured out. If you have ideas, lay them on me. I could start a Herstory Project Facebook page with pictures, quotes, and questions for everyone to weigh in on. Or I could retool this blog (or create a new one) to have shorter, more frequent posts, posing questions for your response. The advantage of a blog is that it gives people the ability to comment anonymously (I want people to really lay it out there), the disadvantage is that blogs aren’t as accessible to the broader public as is Facebook.
Regardless of format, though, if you are crazy enough to help me to re-imagine the old standards in new ways, let me know in the comments below, or drop me an email at email@example.com.