[I was unable to post last Saturday because we were in the middle of a four day power outage. Thank you to those of you who wrote to ask if I was OK. The loss of power reminds us or our vulnerability and our presumptive dependency on electricity. It also provides opportunities for deeper community and humility. And then, of course, we’re so glad and relieved when those lights flicker back on!]
For those of us who experienced both a sustained power outage and a dramatic process that tested our democracy, I write this evening with a welcome sense of relief. In terms of the election itself, I am primarily pleased and relieved that the democratic electoral process itself has stabilized and reestablished a confidence that our privilege to vote for leaders and policy has been at least provisionally affirmed. People voted, often on split tickets, which I take to mean the electorate gave more thought to individual candidates that I had assumed. There were no reported organized disruptions. The candidates for the most part who ran for office out of a sense of service prevailed over those who were running primarily for personal or politically obstructionist reasons. In short, we can have a much needed sense of relief that our vulnerable and faulted democratic system has dusted itself off a bit and is hopefully back on its feet.
Or another way to express it, we have a political respite from the stress and turbulence of the past several years now. Respite is aptly defined as “a short period of rest or relief from something difficult or unpleasant.” We can at least dare to believe those who have been elected, and those of us who have elected them, can now resolve to overcome the debilitating divisions among us and actually have the grace, humility, and competence to effectively govern for the common good. We now ask “Can our leaders help facilitate the truth and reconciliation - the reckonings - that will foster meaningful reconciliation and right action?" Tonight I am more hopeful this is possible than I have been for some time.
“Relief," take 2
In my word search for the word relief I found another entirely different meaning that also seems appropriate to explore this evening. In the art world "relief is a sculptural method in which the sculpted pieces are bonded to a solid background of the same material. The term relief is from the Latin verb relevo, to raise. To create a sculpture in relief is to give the impression that the sculpted material has been raised above the background plane.” (From Wikipedia)
Here is a side view of Lorenzo Ghiberti's cast gilt-bronze Gates of Paradise at the Florence Baptistery in Florence, Italy
One of my goals in each Saturday Evening Post is to offer some level of lift, a more hopeful perspective on our complex lives. So I am imagining a process this evening, like a piece of relief art, by which each of us can step forward (but not out of) the tests and turmoil of our lives and bring forth more that is noble and true in our nature.
Our Quaker tradition rests on the belief that there is “that of God in each of us,” and I believe most other religious also claim, at some level or wing, the sentiment that something profoundly sacred resides in each and every human being (and I would prefer to expand that belief to all of creation). In spite of all the evil and trauma that corrupts and tries to extinguish our essential sacredness, I believe there is a resilient sacred core that prevails. This sacred resiliency can also be described as love and the potential for kindness and mutual support. I experience this in the often surprising way people so sacrificially and tenderly care for one another in times of crisis like tragic deaths and natural disasters. Like sculpted relief art, people come forward, still grounded in their original being, to be sure, but somehow better than they may have known possible. This past week in the political drama, I felt our people stepping forward, not in any radical transformational way, but becoming a bit more thoughtful, perhaps kinder, more committed to the common good than the search for power. May it be so.