| Anne Williamson |

Synchronicity. It’s a great word – to say, but even more so, to experience. A month ago, as I was imagining and researching the topics for this round, I came across two seemingly unrelated articles: one, on why some marriages last and others fail, and the other, a conversation between President Obama and author Marilynne Robinson on, among other things, the state of America’s democracy. Surprisingly, the two articles discussed similar ideas.

As I continued researching Robinson’s perspective on democracy, the growing similarities between it and creating lasting relationships turned my initial calm curiosity into outright geeky giddiness. Don’t worry; I’ll spare you the graduate paper I wish I had been assigned. In fact, I simply want to use this week’s blog post to encourage you to read and discuss. WAYfinding participants this round get the benefit of me having culled the most relevant segments from four unique Robinson conversations and articles, but for others reading this, start here. Then, also read the marriage article, which is not just for the coupled among us. 

I hope most of you will be taking part in a WAYfinding group this week, giving space and new perspectives to your reflections. This, among other things, is the gift of what we do in WAYfinding. But, if you’re not in a group, first, it’s not too late! In fact, several groups are starting this week instead of last. You can learn more and sign-up here. Or, if participating isn’t possible, set an intention to read and share these articles and your thoughts with others. Loving better than we did yesterday – like relationships, like democracy – is not a given, it’s (to borrow Robinson’s words) “a made thing that we make continuously.” May it be so.


| Anne Williamson |

I haven’t been feeling particularly spiritual lately. No high-brow thoughts of g/God or the meaning of life. No extraordinary moments of awe or generosity. Instead, my thoughts linger on the ordinary: what to fix for dinner, household projects and preparation for baby #2, how to motivate myself to walk more, game nights and favorite TV shows. As my emotions fluctuate from joy to sadness, loneliness to connection, anger to peace, I don’t feel at all “enlightened”; I feel deeply human....

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| David Barickman |

This summer I am working as a chaplain intern in a Clinical Pastoral Education program at a Catholic hospital in Indianapolis. This program is teaching me about many things. What I’m finding most insightful, though, is the power of presence. 

In just a few weeks, I have had the pleasure of spending time with patients from many different backgrounds, faiths, and walks of life. One thing all of these encounters shared in common was the importance of presence. It seems, no matter who we are, in crisis moments, we simply need someone with us, to hear our story, to see our tears, to share our pain, and not run away. 

For me, these have been holy moments. ...

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When I hear the word greed, my body recoils. Shame is at least part of the reason. I may not be someone who perpetually wants more but I have early, hard-to-shake memories of feeling ashamed of the much more I already had. I recoil too because greed seems to be directly and indirectly responsible for so much pain: the Earth’s; the poor’s; women’s; even, when we begin to think spiritually, the pain of greed’s perpetuators.  

Nick Hanauer, one of our country’s .01% ers, agrees… in a way. His concern for he and his fellow plutocrats is not spiritual; it’s practical. In his TED Talk, Hanauer explains why the inevitable consequences of greed in the form of historically high income inequality will be an unstable democracy and less profitable businesses – realities bad for all. In Hanauer's view, this alone should compel us to end gross inequality; he doesn’t mind the moral argument; he simply thinks it unnecessary. 

I don’t agree....

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I remember my Ethics professor in seminary saying, "The worst thing Mr. Rogers did for you kids is convince you of your specialness." Intentionally provocative, he also believed it. In an academic field that plays so often in absolutes and the consequences of conduct, catering to the individual can be a dangerous game. 

I understand this perspective. Too often in our society, the world, we over emphasize the unique, special individual. This leads to myopic points of view. I fail to see - or choose to ignore - how my choices impact others, and consequently, others suffer. It also leads to some nauseatingly terrible commercials. Two words: perfumes, cars.

We can also under emphasize our specialness, though. Religions have certainly stumbled here. Whether extinguished in the non-dualism of eastern religions or contained in the rulebooks of western religions, the individual personality has often been denigrated.

Can there exist a happy middle ground? Can we be both special and One? I hope so. I think so. LEARN. LISTEN. LOVE.

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One of my favorite books to read my daughter is The Shape of My Heart by Mark Sperring. It runs through a series of shapes and their role in our lives concluding with, “And this is the shape I love you with. This is the shape of my heart.” So sweet. 

Lately, though, it’s become more than a heartwarming children’s book for me; it’s become a question: how do we form the shape of our hearts? How do we? How do we actually become more compassionate, more loving? 

There are a thousand stories every day – personal and not – that pull us to explore this question.  But, recently, none has pulled my attention like the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. (You may find a timeline here.) The analysis of, and responses to, this event and its aftermath has been so diverse, it begs the-shape-of-our-hearts question. How is it that we feel so differently? 

Perhaps it is because we’re not actually practiced in changing the shape of our hearts? The reason being: to really change the shape of our hearts requires deep discomfort. It can’t be achieved through loving someone you find easy to love. It comes when you expose your heart to that, to who, you struggle to understand, you struggle to empathize with, you struggle to love, and then say to your heart, repeatedly, as many times as it takes, “Open.” Whether a spouse we know intimately or a young urban black man we don’t know at all, we change the shape of our hearts by, as Jesus said, loving the “enemy” we perceive in them.

It is my belief this is the work of real spiritual growth. Whether we call it “salvation” or “enlightenment” or “nirvana,” it is not a destination but a process of changing the shape of our hearts. It’s a process where, instead of hoping to love some people well, we, in time, shape our hearts into a form where there is nothing but love… for all. 

What do you think? LISTEN, LEARN, LOVE…

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