This blog features reflections on current affairs through the lens of my Quaker faith and practice and offers not only analysis but a perspective on hope, renewal, and reconciliation - a “lift”, as I call it - during these stressful, chaotic times.
As I sit down to write this evening in what feels like a bit of a respite from all the drama of the past two years, I realize it's been a while since our lives weren’t filled with political or Covid-related high drama, and I’m going to kick back this evening and enjoy it. Yes, the images of brutal bombing and destruction of cities in the Ukraine and the terrible suffering and disruption of the lives of the Ukrainian people provide all the horrific drama our emotions can tolerate. But domestically we had to settle this past week on “the slap” to release our sense of moral outrage. Perhaps like you, I’m ready to quietly focus on getting my fourth booster shot and enjoy, for the moment, a brief interlude from the more important stuff of racism, war, voting rights, and wealth disparity, for a start. It’s not that those dramas aren’t still waiting anxiously in in the wings, but it feels like we have some sort of break between acts for the time being.
Which gives us time to think about those sun-filled, carefree summer days ahead with leisurely lunch visits on the deck, barefoot walks on the beach, and time to read a book or two. There, now that you have done that, I want to share what’s really on my mind and heart during this interlude.
During the various interludes of my thinking these days I keep circling back to the "third act" of our current planetary drama. If life were only a play I would have been warned about whether I had come to see an operatic tragedy, or an “Our Town” happy ending, or a drama with all the unsettling moral dilemmas of life that don’t get resolved, and we leave the theater pondering what we are to make of the issues raised. But we don’t really know, of course, what will have happened when the curtain closes at the end of the current drama - or any drama, to be sure - as it plays out upon life’s stage.
But unlike the audience of a scripted play with assigned roles and a controlled plot, we are also the playwrights to a certain extent of our current drama. We each have an opportunity to envision a role we want to write for ourselves at least in our immediate personal and communitarian lives, but I also think that how we live our personal lives ultimately impacts the larger societal drama as well.
The catch, however, is that in order for our play to have an integrated plot, we would need our fellow playwrights to agree about how we want that act three to conclude by carefully negotiating what is to occur during the plot lines and tensions of acts one and two. So I imagine myself sitting quietly in the interlude intermissions of my imaginary play and asking myself what needs to happen to the conflicted characters if the drama is going to resolve into a redemptive and hopeful ending?
You will not be surprised when I tell you that my plot lines follow the inclusion of nonviolent practice, nonviolent communication, and a process of mediation and deep listening. My characters would engage in genuine curiosity about what and how their adversaries differ and what might be their common ground. I can imagine the audience actually being quite pleased, maybe even thrilled, with a successful, dramatic resolution to the harmful relationships and practices that so endanger the well-being and success of the characters.
My guess is that the scenario I want to write is actually being played out by you and many others on a daily basis if they have the basic, necessary relational tools that allow them not to avoid the conflicts, but to creatively resolve them. So one of my hopes for the world is to recognize we do have the means to prevent deadly conflict, to restore relationships broken in trauma and crime, with the orderly process of established just laws and formal mediation through a fair judicial system. And we can be assure that despite all the positive ways to handle conflict there would still be more than ample enough high drama in any case!
My little writing interlude is over. The lights lower. A hush envelopes the hall. And we await the next act….