To listen to an audio companion to this post, click the player below or you can download an mp3 file here.
Like most of us, this year, I’ve had many moments when I’ve heard people say, “the world is upside down,” or “this is a time of everything going wrong.” “The order of things has been completely disrupted.”
A few months ago, after I once again read one of those kinds of sentiments, I heard a little whisper in my head that, at first, shocked me. I had been cleaning up the house, picking up after the kids, and I was midway up the stairs in my home, thinking about this idea of “the world upside down.” And then, I heard something answer back to me, “Perfect order.”
As if to say, “things are in perfect order.”
This was not said in a carefree voice; the tone was grave. It was delivered like an admonishment, not an encouragement.
“No, that’s too easy – to call this chaos,” it seemed to whisper. “The truth is, nothing about this time is chaotic. The link between cause and effect is clear.”
I understood this to mean:
If we act with greed and disregard for the earth, our beautiful skies and clean air will no longer be there for us.
If our economy doesn’t put people first – treating its workers with decency and care – we will find it is profoundly vulnerable in a time of crisis.
If as a collective, we can’t walk humbly and work together diligently in the face of a pandemic, we will become its fools.
And if we try to ignore, or somehow transcend, our oppression of people and communities, without real reckoning, without the destruction of old ideas and systems and the creation of new ones, we will find out that no, there is no true way forward without deep transformation and reparation.
In all these ways, nothing that is happening now is out of order.
Nothing that is happening now is out of order – and the order it is revealing to us is one where regard for the earth, and each other, is imperative.
Because consider this:
If we could act with greed and disregard for the earth, as we have been, and pay no penalty,
If we could live divided and arrogant in the face of a pandemic, as we have been, and suffer no major loss of life,
If we could deny and perpetuate oppression of others, as we have been, and find that it does not cause suffering in our communities, our hearts, our countries…
then we would know we lived in a morally corrupt realm, or perhaps a morally agnostic one, where disconnection and dehumanization work out just fine. But what we are seeing in this time is that way of being does not work here, nor is it workable.
This is the gorgeous, unforgiving feedback loop. Gorgeously unforgiving because it will not let us out of here until we all learn the truth: none of us will find enduring peace or safety until each of us has enduring peace and safety.
That is the true order of things here.
These times are so painful, and so ugly, but the order they are pointing us to is the opposite of that – it is a beautiful and kind one. It is the one many of us have been fighting for, or longing for, or suspecting was the way of things, for a very long time.
When we look at the news, or to our streets, or to the numbers that count the loss of so many, and the neglect of so many more, we can see: the world we are living in does not exemplify the values you and I hold dear, but it absolutely validates the imperative of them.
And so today, my prayer for us is this (if “God” language doesn’t work for you, feel free to use the resonant term of your choosing instead):
May we not take the easy way out, calling this a time of disorder or chaos.
May we be damn honest about how we got here.
May we talk with God every day about what God is trying to show us
about how to live here, with one another and the earth.
May we make amends, in words and deeds,
and may our amends become our new way of life.