Meeting Meditation, Broken Hearted People

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Issues of race are taking center stage during this time of social distancing. Hello, I am Andrew Faiz. I am a religious journalist that writes on popculture and race and I am offering Love Letters this week.

“It’s no good, it’s no good!” says the buyer; then off he goes and boasts about his purchase. Gold there is, and rubies in abundance, but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel. – Proverbs 20

 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. – Corinthians 13

Oh, get born, keep warm. Short pants, romance. Learn to dance, get dressed, get blessed. Try to be a success. Please her, please him, buy gifts. Don’t steal, don’t lift. Twenty years of schoolin’, and they put you on the day shift. – Subterranean Homesick Blues

 And when the broken-hearted people, living in the world agree. There will be an answer, let it be. For though they may be parted, there is still a chance that they will see. There will be an answer, let it be. – Let It Be

The poet and the prophet for thousands of years in literature, both faith and secular, from the pulpit and from the communal fire have made the same point, again and again and again, that what we pursue is empty. The poet and the prophet have told us that love is greater than wisdom, which is greater than financial wealth.

Mic Drop. That’s it.

It’s been a strange few months. A silent killer out there, out for all seven billion or so of us. We’ve been in hiding, in our homes, some alone, lonely, all of our diversions pulled from us. Once it was up in the morning, out the door, to work, pick up a coffee and a bun on the way, camaraderie with colleagues, a sense of accomplishment that created a paycheque, and then home, or on the way a quick shop, or a quick stop to meet a friend for a coffee or a beer, and then home, dinner, kids, the evening rituals which we claimed were what our lives were all about, but weren’t, not really, because we couldn’t find the time and space for them, and then to bed, and up again, out the door. Dinner with friends on the weekend, chores, and all that. All that gone since March.

It’s been a season of losses; counting all the plans we had made now impossible to achieve. If we still have a paycheque, the way we earn it has changed. The work is different, the process is different. Our friends and colleagues are flat screens. A friend said her marriage was perfect as long as they both were out of the house most of the day, met in the evening for a meal and each other’s company, but she feared spending 24/7 with her husband would prove the weaknesses in their relationship. Kids at home, all the time, demanding your time, now; friends, partners, colleagues, all demanding your time, now; corporations, organizations, churches, and every community to which you belong, demanding your time, now. We are all exhausted from being home, from being anxious.

We fill our angst with a lot of diversions. Sex, work, coffee, gardening; but the anxieties are still there, always. And then suddenly there’s this horrible murder of a man in Minneapolis, and it plays over and over again on TV, and it unleashes in us all that scream we have been holding in for months, and if you’re Black, Indigenous, or a Person of Colour, for years, decades, generations. It is a moment of pure anger, of rage.

Then the moment passes; not the rage, not the anger, just that screaming moment. The rage is always there, always. The rage is there if you’re a woman, if you’re LGBTQi, if you’re BIPoC, if you live in poverty, if you feel othered and ignored by society at large. Last month we were indignant about ageism as our elders were killed in care homes; this month we discovered Race; next month perhaps it’ll be Gender; we’ve been on this carousel before, and each time we are shocked, indignant, angry, screaming, and then, nothing, just nothing, nothing comes of all that. Oh there might be a coalition; the first ‘rainbow’ coalition I was part of was in the 1970s about multiculturalism, then there was a rainbow coalition on poverty issues in the 90s, then about sexuality in the ‘00s.

Do I sound cynical? I’m not. I don’t think. I’m more amused, or bemused, like Jesus in this story, one of my favourites: “The young man said to Him, ‘All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”

Despite thousands of years of the poet and the prophet telling us the same thing – divest yourself, seek the kingdom – we walk away sorrowful because we have great possessions. We tiptoe back with mea culpas and rainbow coalitions, with indignation and donations. That’s real life, and it is good, and it sucks.

The Church is addicted to its possessions; to bricks and mortars, to those who support bricks and mortars, to the comfortable structures and traditions. The Church, in its various parts, like every other major and minor corporation and organization, has policy statements to prove it is not racist, or misogynist, or homophobic, or whatever, and yet its membership and leadership does not reflect that. Nobody thinks they are racist, or misogynist, yet many feel diminished, set aside. And we hold it in because it is too exhausting to fight it all the time. Then a black man is butchered on TV, or a woman is raped, or a homosexual is stoned, or an Indigenous woman is dragged by her hair, and then the Church, all sincere, along with every organization and institution which has our email address, comes running, flashing its policy statements, admitting its ‘privilege’, eager to listen and have us on a committee. Or be a guest blogger.

And all I want to do is quote Ecclesiastes: “Everything is meaningless, completely meaningless.” And I feel cynical. But I am tired. I am so tired. On the podcast White Homework two women chat about race. One asks, What did you do last week, as that horrible video cycled on every media, and people protested across the country. Her friend replies, I stayed home and played the Sims. And I totally get that. I get it. I am horrified by the violence and hate, and I am horrified by the rhetoric of care.

I don’t know why I read Ecclesiastes: “The greater my wisdom, the greater my grief. To increase knowledge only increases sorrow.” Even Jesus doesn’t make it all easy: “I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” I mean, the poet and the prophet are not comforting. But, they have wisdom, and they have love and that works for me. And they are antidote to the cynicism of our institutions and culture.

I have no answers. So let me leave you with the last verse of Bob Dylan’s Every Grain Of Sand:

I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
Sometimes I turn, there’s someone there, other times it’s only me
I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand.

Beginning of Meeting:

Listen to Every Grain of Sand. You can find it on YouTube. And on another window have the lyrics. Read along. Or read Ecclesiastes 1. Or both.

Psalm:

The day, with all its pain ahead, is yours.
The ceaseless creasing of the morning sea,
the fluttering gamboge cedar leaves allegro,
the rods of the yawning branches trolling in the breeze,
the rusted meadows, the wind-whitened grass,
the coos of the stone-colored ground doves on the road,
the echo of benediction on a house—
its rooms of pain, its verandah of remorse
when joy lanced through its open-hearted doors
like a hummingbird out to the garden and the pool
in which the sky has fallen. These are all yours,
and pain has made them brighter as absence does
after a death, as the light heals the grass.
And the twig-brown lizard scuttles up its branch
like fingers on the struts of a guitar.
I hear the detonations of agave
the stuttering outbursts of bougainvillea,
I see the acacia’s bonfire, the begonia’s bayonets,
and the tamarind’s thorns and the broadsides of clouds from the calabash
and the cedars fluttering their white flags of surrender
and the flame trees’ siege of the fort.
I saw black bulls, horns lowered, galloping, goring the mist
that rose, unshrouding the hillocks of Santa Cruz
and the olives of Esperanza
Andalusian idyll, and answer
and the moon’s blank tambourine
and the drizzle’s guitars
and the sunlit wires of the rain
the shawls and the used stars
and the ruined fountains.    – Derek Walcott

Discussion:

Please read and repeat this meditation. Seven works of prophets and poets have been quoted here. They are hints towards something that may not produce conclusion or policy. Still I urge you to discuss whatever confession this stirs in you.

If you desperately need a question, I leave you this from Ecclesiastes 11:  Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don’t know if profit will come from one activity or another—or maybe both. Light is sweet; how pleasant to see a new day dawning. When people live to be very old, let them rejoice in every day of life. But let them also remember there will be many dark days. Everything still to come is meaningless. Young people, it’s wonderful to be young! Enjoy every minute of it. Do everything you want to do; take it all in. But remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do. So refuse to worry, and keep your body healthy. But remember that youth, with a whole life before you, is meaningless.

Concluding Prayer:

You could sing this, or recite it, or hum it:

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

And when the broken hearted people
Living in the world agree
There will be an answer, let it be
For though they may be parted
There is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
There will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, yeah, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

And when the night is cloudy
There is still a light that shines on me
Shine on until tomorrow, let it be
I wake up to the sound of music
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

And let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Let it be, yeah, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

2 thoughts on “Meeting Meditation, Broken Hearted People

  1. Cheryl Palmer says:

    Wonderful reflection! It was so artfully written. Loved it.

    I have verbalized and recognized one of my roles in our race concerns since my conversations with you, and I am thrilled. Thanks for the opportunity to reflect and make sense of why I often feel I am on the outside of the race conversation.

    CCP

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Like

  2. Andrew Faiz says:

    Thank you Cheryl. I had the great advantage of having your meditation before me to give me permission.
    AF.

    Like

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