Here's a map, that if you've seen, liked or retweeted in the past few weeks… turns out you (and millions of other well intentioned progressives) were the victim of an incredibly subtle psy-op by a Berlin based Kremlin agency named Redfish!
Remember: If you’re not holding a deeply agnostic center line through the culture wars, odds are 10:1 you’ve been infected and the egregore is renting space in your head.
This past week, as all eyes turned to Ukraine (and all recently self-anointed Covid experts became overnight European military strategists #becuzcontent), other stuff happened too...
🌎 The IPCC released another climate report which said all the same things, but more shrilly, and more urgently as all the ones before it.
Greece and other nations worldwide got accused of "pushback" of refugees denying asylum. Turns out Eastern Europeans are much friendlier to other Eastern Europeans than they are to Muslims. Which makes grim but obvious sense.
Remember folks: Tribalism is destiny. Humanism is optional.
And then, one I just scrolled right on past – "6 million people dead of Covid."
I saw it out of the corner of my eye, but some part of me mumbled "been there, done that, tell me something I don't already know." So I kept on scrolling for something, anything, else to read.
Later that night, that moment flashed back in my head and I thought "holy shit!!! That's as many Jews as died in the Holocaust, and it's happened in less than half the time.*”
And I'm scrolling past it.
At this point, we all are.
That's a pretty low bar for compassion-capacity.
I flunked it. And my life, is, as far as lives go, mostly on track. Tons to be grateful for. I shouldn't be anywhere near my psychological limits just yet.
Then I remembered "hey, I know a guy who just wrote a really detailed book about exactly this challenge––how to stay connected to our humanity in challenging times, how, to, what was it again? Recapture our rapture???"
So I thumbed through a dog-eared copy committed to eating my own dog food–trying to remember what we’re supposed to do in times when it feels like we're choking on our grief. When there's just too much unraveling too fast to process.
There it was. Feed the holy! Acknowledge the timeless beauty of this world and do our bit to make it a little more beautiful still.
Pursue peak experiences of awe that remind us of the good things, so we can come back down the mountain with the inspiration to deal with the hard things.
In Recapture, I even quoted EB White, the Charlotte's Web author speaking directly to this dilemma. "I wake up in the morning," he said, "torn between savoring the world and saving it!"
But for writerly reasons, I couldn't fit his punchline in, which I'll fix now.
"Then I realized,” he said, “that in fact the savoring has to come first, because if there was nothing left to savor, there would be nothing worth saving!"
That's a pithy breakdown of how to keep our heads when all about us are losing there's, etc. etc.
Cultivate the ecstasy so we can endure the agony.
It's deep and timeless wisdom.
We have to keep savoring all that's good, true and beautiful, to galvanize our efforts to preserve and protect those very same things.
But here's the problem with that, and why I picked this to write about today.
The Holy is getting hammered.
It's getting harder and harder to find those moments of respite and renewal, precisely at a time when we need them more than ever. War torn regions are obvious examples, but it's happening at all the ends of the earth. To all of us.
Over the last couple of years, many families have seen otherwise wonderful, life affirming rites of passage, from weddings and graduations to adventures and anniversaries scrambled. Folks in less stable parts of the world have been dealing with much worse.
It's on us all to get more resourceful and resilient in our hunt for the Holy. Or when the easy stuff runs out, we’ll collapse and forget what we’re supposed to be saving.
A personal case in point:
Just got back from a once-in-a-lifetime heli-skiing trip at our friends' lodge up in the Chugach Mountains of Alaska.
As jaw dropping as the experience was, as flow and stoke-producing as the endless steep powder descents were, and as fired up as I was to share it with people I deeply love, including my own son...
Honestly, it was kind of a mixed bag.
When we stopped over in Anchorage it was warmer there than when we'd left Austin, Texas. They were having to truck in snow to line the streets for the Iditarod dog sled race. In February. In Alaska.
When we flew into the fishing lodge that served as basecamp, we got socked in for days of "unseasonable weather" which meant storms and driving rain.
When the clouds broke and we could finally fly up into the spectacular mountain ranges looking for ski lines, many had shifted from years past as all the glaciers are collapsing and reshaping those mountains in real time (prompting the Alaskan landmass to actually be rising as all that weight melts into the ocean).
So here was an experience, that at least for me, was literally and figuratively as close to heaven as I could get, and I could. not. shake. the rest.
We were bearing witness in real time to what Zen elder and grandmother ecologist Joanna Macy calls The Great Unraveling. And there's boatloads of grief in that experience.
But here's the thing: just because things might be unraveling faster than expected doesn't make EB White wrong!
It's not the "savor the world-before-saving it" approach that's insufficient.
It's just that as we savor the world and feed the holy going forward, we might need to wrap our heads around a calorie-restricted version.
Like the desert dwelling Fremen in Dune, who literally recycle their own piss to drink, but revere the "water of life" all the more because of its scarcity, it might be time to sip and not guzzle the bliss that remains accessible to us. Intermittent fasting. It’s not just for biohackers anymore.
Sure, if we still have the luxury and privilege of mobility and choice, lean right into your bucket list of Instagrammable adventures. "Last-chance tourism" is, apparently, a thing these days.
Go to Machu Picchu, dive the Great Barrier Reefs, track lions in the African Bush, get freaky at Burning Man. Suck the marrow out of life while you still can. But do it with the deep and certain knowledge of the blessing and the burden it entails. To hold that fleeting and increasingly vulnerable beauty in our minds and hearts, to galvanize our commitment to protecting what remains.
From this point on, the banquet of life is a perpetual Last Supper. But don’t sulk. Raise a glass (and really mean it). L’Chaim!
We’re gonna have to get a whole lot more efficient in what counts as an encounter with the Sacred, with the Natural Sublime. We are going to have to get better and better at finding the Holy before we even attempt to feed it.
We all know stories of this kind of thing, right?
The prisoner who made it through the concentration camps by befriending (and sharing food with) a mouse.
The child soldier moved to tears of joy at the flower growing in the rubble of their bombed out township.
The convict who strained to catch a brief moment of sunshine through their cell window each day.
All of them found lifelines to Life. All of them led back to the Holy, in however modest or fleeting form.
Two quotes that can help:
William Blake famously penned the line, "To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower."
Gandhi quipped "If you do not see God in the eyes of the next person you seek, look no further!"
We can challenge ourselves with a mashup of them both––"if we do not see Heaven in the next wild flower (or sidewalk weed), we seek, look no further!"
Simple. Build practices that sanctify the mundane. Ritualize and emphasize the tiny flames, the modest embers of light, rather than waiting for the next bonfire to bask in.
That can start with something super simple–like grace at dinner. As Ukraine, "the breadbasket of Europe" edges closer to spring planting season, every grain of wheat, and all our supermarket plenty is all the more precious. Let's give thanks for what's on our plates, and actually mean it, sharpened by a newfound sense of its uncertain path to get there. (and sympathy for those whose plates aren’t as full)
As we conclude each week, take a Saturday or Sunday morning as a contemporary Sabbath to make love, get outside, play with our kids (instead of hyperscheduling them). Devote the other half day and tithe to some community project––the library, the homeless, youth coaching, a CSA, highway cleanup (4 hours of a 40 hour workweek = a "tithing" tenth).
Adopt Your Spot. I was standup paddling one day and found myself drawn to a beautiful little side creek off our river––only to recoil as it was littered with bottles and broken old folding chairs from kids parties. My first instinct was to keep paddling and look for a "better" more worthy place to chill. But then I realized that the partiers who'd trashed the spot were drawn to it for the same reasons I was. They'd just lapsed in looking after it.
So find a gnarled old tree, a pond, a lake, a hilltop lookout, a creek turned into a storm culvert––and bring a trash bag. And a book. Or some tunes. A bottle of wine, or some smoke. Or a candle. Stack some stones. Make a sculpture of sticks and found objects. Let it grow into an altar. Revisit that spot through the seasons. Give thanks to it. Feed it.
Take the tiniest, most humble Charlie Brown Christmas tree glimpse of nature you've got, and will it back to wholeness, to holiness.
That way, if and when full scale Grace revisits us, we’re no longer so greedy or wasteful with it. We’ve recalibrated our bliss-mileage and can get much further with far less. And the leftovers that we might have slurped and spilled in headier times? We can share it with those who are struggling to find it at all. #increasethepeace
The time is long gone for Leave No Trace, where we tiptoe through the tulips trying desperately to erase our place in the scheme of things.
It's time to Make Our Marks. Leave it better than we found it.
(That's what Feeding the Holy is really all about, Charlie Brown)
Because, as Joanna Macy reminds us, "This life and love is the only terra firma in time of collapse. It is the only clear path for We People of the Passage."
We, the People of the Passage.
Gave me goosebumps the first time I read that line. From the Shire to the darkest depths of Mordor. There and back again, if we can make it.
As Curtis Mayfield sings to us:
"People get ready, there's a train a-comin'. Don't need no baggage, you just get on board. All you need is faith To hear the diesels hummin' You don't need no ticket You just thank the Lord
(you can crank up this sweet version by Joss Stone)
We, the People of the Passage.
In a world shifting under our feet, it’s the only terra firma, the only solid ground we’ve got.
When all else is shattered, and we're choking on our undigested grief, it's our Redemption Songs that pick us up, it’s our redemption songs that bring us Home.
People get ready.
People get ready.
(and just thank the Lord)
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