embracing our vulnerability

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going.  No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousnes.

Give me your hand.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke ~

Dear Ones,

In this ever changing landscape, this is what I see today.

Down there, in the valley where I stood yesterday, I see my own feelings of helplessness, bundled up in my longing to DO something to help ease the suffering I see all around me, feeling chilled by the thought of just standing by, watching it all unfold without a thing I could actively do to help, but to stay in place. Perhaps this is what spectator guilt feels like.

Over there, on that ridgetop I see persons, feeling equally helpless, crying out, “What have we done to deserve this?”, shaking their fists at the heavens, their anger buffering their own broken hearts. They perhaps climbed up there to find safe footing, for when things fall apart the very ground beneath our feet feels frighteningly unstable. The earth shifts and we react from our fear, seeking out all sorts of high places.

In that village below, I see folks who clambered up onto their rooftops in the middle of the night, stunned and in shock. Waking up this morning, their eyes filling up with the destruction around them, they are beginning to fill up their heads with blame, seeking reasons for the suffering they have experienced. ‘How did this happen? What could we have done to prevent this?’ is their own sort of expression of raw helplessness. They have already begun hurling their stones from up there. “If only…. then this would not have happened”!

This is our understandable human response to trauma. When something beyond our ability to control, happens “to” us, we look for fault(s) (sometimes in ourselves) hoping to find some way to prevent the uncontrollable from happening again, the horror from revisiting our doorsteps. In this way, we are relieved from feeling the full brunt of our vulnerability, for it is terrifying to accept the idea that we are truly powerless, to believe that the only thing ever within our own contol is our response (and sometimes even that feels impossible!)

“But This did not have to happen!”, they scream. Although maybe it did. And maybe there is nothing at all we could have done to prevent it. Maybe, just maybe, we cannot control the earth like we thought that we could. Take the human out of the equation, if that helps, my friends. Call it a natural disaster, if you will. A biological one. Does that help just a little to stop blaming ourselves and our fellow human beings?

Yes, there are things we got wrong. But we also cannot control the fallibility of humanity. We mess up. We falter. We fail. We are imperfect. We are blind. We learn. We grow.

We forgive and we Love.

Blame is a natural stage of grief, and much that is precious has been lost for all of us — human life, trust, security, naivete, identity, to name just a few. Anger, blame, denial (running away), and even the settling down into sadness are all ways we seek solid ground in response to trauma or tragedy, when the earth is trembling beneath our feet, when the winds are uprooting our homes, when waters are washing them away, when wars are ravaging lives, when death steals our dreams, when horrors fill our eyes, when love breaks our heart, when hope disappoints.

How can we possibly let ourselves simply feel the heartbreak of this, our shared vulnerability? How can we surrender to the reality that to be human is to be broken (and hopefully broken open), so that the energy we use in resisting and railing against one another can be redirected to coming together, to sharing our mutual grief, to holding our tender humanity, to doing whatever we can to heal, even to encouraging and celebrating the goodnesses we see – the ingenuity, the remarkable responses of caring, the human stories of resilience and compassion, the love songs of our neighbor.

We are stronger together. Bonding together will help us all to feel a little less vulnerable.

I wish that you all could see me as I see you. I’m just over here, waving my arms, singing my lovesong, on the top of this hill, on the other side of this screen.

You see, I need you too. I need the energy of your passion, as you perhaps need the energy of my compassion. I need your call to action as you perhaps need my call to prayer. I need your head as much as you need my heart. I need your plans as much as you need my vision. I need your practicality as much as you need my imagination. We need the whole of humanity to make ourselves whole again. The songmaker. The planner. The builder. The challenger. The peacemaker. The artist. The helper. The researcher. The mathematician. The Poet. The priest. The healer. The seeker of justice. The seer of beauty.

Wont’ you join me?

PS. Who knows what horror or joys the morrow will bring. Perhaps I’ll need you to hold me up. Or to come down into the shadows with you. Perhaps I will be in despair and will as desparately need your light. Perhaps you will show me the way. Each day seems to bring some new revelation of beauty, or transport us into some unexpected terrain of sorrow.

May we welcome each other in all of our humanity, the strong and the weak, the frightened and the courageous, the sorrowful and the joyous, the deeply discouraged and the hopeful . May we welcome, as Rumi once said, it/us all into this Guesthouse of being Human.



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