The briefest backstory. Perhaps more so than essays, poems deserve a measure of their own agency. What’s suggested, evoked, or left unsaid, means that between my keyboard and your reception (whether in mind, gut, or both) there is “wiggle room.” The poem demands it as the price of its liminal beauty.
This poem reflects the resonance between my intuitions and those of Joanna Macy. For years now I have been saying grief is our way forward in this precarious moment. (But who listens to me?) This week, in preparation for a class I’m in right now being led by Joanna Macy (now 91 years old), these themes came up loud and clear.
Many persons today experience a numbness, cynicism, despair that is pervasive as the “white noise” backdrop to life. It is the unspoken but very real anxiety that we may not make it many more generations. Our days may well be numbered, not just in abstract theory but in actual years that may cut short actual lives that we could actually imagine.
Macy’s conviction, borne out in her workshops, is that when we stop denying or suppressing that despair but dare to name it—with honest feeling—in the presence of others willing to listen … THEN shared despair can spark an empathy that runs to the very heart of creation that opens to solidarity that gives back a vitality that chooses to resist in love … and that this just might tip the balance for tomorrow. And, quite honestly, even if it doesn’t it provides the bearing to end today in love.
The bottomless anguish
over all that might now never be,
that forms the unvoiced fringe
of the apathy-cynicism-despair
that suspends our hope
over an abyss—
named aloud, confessed, shared,
is the doorway
to the all-inclusive empathy
that is the base tone of the cosmos,
to the communal vitality
that can birth true solidarity
and the deep hope
that can resist . . .
until what might now never be
its fraught beauty
. . . priceless
David R. Weiss
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David Weiss is a theologian, writer, poet and hymnist, doing “public theology” around climate crisis, sexuality, justice, diversity, and peace. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more at www.davidrweiss.com where he blogs under the theme, “Full Frontal Faith: Erring on the Edge of Honest.” Support him in writing Community Supported Theology at www.patreon.com/fullfrontalfaith.
You speak a collective truth, David. I am reminded of Valerie Kaur and a quote from her TED talk: : “What if this darkness is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb? What if our America is not dead but a country that is waiting to be born? What if the story of America is one long labor? What if all of our grandfathers and grandmothers are standing behind now, those who survived occupation and genocide, slavery and Jim Crow, detentions and political assault? What if they are whispering in our ears “You are brave”? What if this is our nation’s greatest transition?
What does the midwife tell us to do? Breathe. And then? Push. Because if we don’t push we will die. If we don’t push our nation will die. Tonight we will breathe. Tomorrow we will labor in love through love and your revolutionary love is the magic we will show our children.”