Late Saturday morning I was in the bedroom folding laundry. I heard a whimper and looked towards the rocking chair in the corner. It’s old and comfortable, and becomes fully stationary when I sit in it, so I do my meditation and often give talks while seated there.
But it wasn’t stationary now. Henry, who loves to bring me his stuffed monkey toys to throw for him, had put one on the rocking chair. Usually, he puts them next to me—on the bed, the office chair, the sofa, and even in the shower and dishwasher. This one he put on the rocking chair, and as he jumped up to pick it up with his mouth, putting weight on the front part of the chair, the chair swung forward. Instantly he jumped back, surprised that the chair didn’t stay put. He tried again, the chair swung forward and at him, instantly he jumped back. He sat on his haunches, clearly flummoxed. He tried again and again, and always the chair rocked forward towards him, throwing him off balance.
That’s when he began to whimper, causing me to look up. “Get it, Henry,” I told him. “Come on, get the monkey.”
But no matter what he tried, he couldn’t get the chair to stay still long enough for him to fetch his monkey from the back. He began to go around the chair because, after a while, he realized that if he went at it from the side, the chair didn’t rock so much. Finally, he found just the right angle from the window side, got his teeth around the monkey and instantly jumped back. He shook his monkey treasure with a big roar (big for him, that is) and threw it over his head in triumph.
“Good dog, Henry,” I congratulated him. “You did it!”
I thought of how the pendulum of life goes back and forth just like my rocking chair, and if we put our weight on one part of it, it will sink right under us, taking us off balance.
I think of the time we’re in and how we try to lean on something, depend on this vs. that, only to have it swing and bite us in the face. I think of the rioters who smashed their way into the Capitol, defacing, bullying, endangering people in the name of patriotism. The FBI and local police should arrest every single person they can identify and bring that person to justice.
But now other reactions are coming in. I read that companies are firing any employee who went to the DC rally; they’re shamed, ridiculed, and even threatened on social media. It’s good to remember that the rally was nonviolent till the attack on the Capitol. It’s good to remember that only a minority went to the Capitol, the majority did not. Some of that minority had planned and plotted, and came prepared. But a majority wanted to protest in support of Trump and the Congress Republicans voting against the election results, and then go home. Firing them from jobs, indulging in what we do so often, e.g., public ridicule, shame, and slurs, don’t go anywhere.
I admit it’s hard for me to feed that way towards the Republican leaders who hid for their lives during the attack (many refusing to wear masks), and then came out to vote against the election results. They’re the ones I wake up at night thinking about.
Over the past 5 days I have woken up in the middle of the night to a surge of anger inside, turning from side to side, feeling a stranger in my own bed. Indignation and something else: revenge. The monologue is a familiar one. Finally, they’re getting what’s been coming to them for years. Finally, the pendulum is moving to the other side. Finally, people are waking up to the danger we should have seen years ago. Finally! Finally! Finally!
I could say that word in the spirit of gratitude, but in the middle of the night I don’t feel gratitude, I feel RIGHT! I feel pride at being proved right and disdain for those who couldn’t see it coming, like Republican lawmakers. Deep inside there’s the voice I know so well: I knew it! I just knew it!
What’s better than life proving that you were right all along, that you knew better than those frauds sucking up to Fox, that all along you knew what would happen—and it happened. SEE!
When I wake up in the morning and sit, those emotions settle down. Hypocrisy and manipulation didn’t stop outside the boundaries of this person called Eve, they’ve been there for years. Ambition and self-regard are part of my nature, too. If everything meets inside, how can it meet outside?
What will finally bring us together, even into the same room, around the same table? I shiver when I think that it might take some momentous external catastrophe that is so clear and visible that no one has a doubt about it–and is that what we’re waiting for?
An old friend, Paul Gorman, founded an interfaith partnership for environmental action many years ago. It took him a long time to convince even liberal denominations of Christianity and Judaism (I know little of his experience with Muslim communities) to come around the table, quoting liberally from the Old and New Testament to remind them that God asked us to be stewards of the earth.
In later years Paul tried to bring in the American evangelical community and finally got a meeting with some major players. He made his presentation, and when he finished one of the leaders said: “That’s all fine, Paul, but we can’t move forward till you answer me this: Do you declare that Jesus Christ is your savior?”
Bernie used to say that no matter how open you are, not everybody will want to come round the table. He remembered being part of a program many years ago in Chicago, where an African American woman minister pointed to him and said that since Buddhist priests wore black robes, she could have nothing to do with him because for her, black was the work of the devil.
At night the voices of rage and indignation arise. In the morning they subside and I remember again and again that we’re One Body. How do we realize and manifest this day after day?
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