Monday, March 28, 2011

Doing the work of reconciliation.

I rose early yesterday morning, packed up most of my stuff (other than art supplies), and stepped outside my cabin to take the first load to the car.  This was what I saw when I rounded the corner: I was SO grateful I'd thought to put my camera in my pocket!

We can see lots of mountains from our house, but none of them are this close; it's really quite amazing to watch the mists drifting back and forth across the snow all day.  Sometimes you wouldn't even know the mountains are there, and then the mist thins and for a moment this enormous presence is exposed...

It's really quite a mystical (or should I say Mist-ical?) experience.  It's even a bit like the way most of us go through our lives, just sort of drifting along in a haze, and then, with a shift of the wind, we sense this incredible divine presence...

What saddens me -- always -- is that there are so many of us who have experienced that presence, and yet we cannot seem to share that awareness with each other without wandering into dangerous territory.  Never talk about sex, politics, or religion, the pundits say, and why is that?  Because people tend to get very opinionated and argumentative about those subjects, and talking about them forces us to face into our differences; we can no longer paper over them or hide them in a mist of alcohol and cocktail chatter.

Sometimes I just hunger for an end to our tendency to obsess about our differences.  Which is really a hunger for reconciliation.  "The word itself," says Desmond Tutu, "indicates a restoration.  It implies the restoration of cordial relations that existed before the breach.  But in many places what existed before... was something else that was less than ideal."  Which is why, he says, the Biblical writers of the creation stories needed to imagine a Garden of Eden, "at time when all creation lived in harmony with God... When we reconcile, we inhabit that territory conceived by the hope-filled imagination.  We meet again as for the first time.  Eden is not an unattainable ideal.  It is a place that most of us have seen, even if only fleetingly."

"Even in South Africa," he goes on to say, "where the 'before of our experience was apartheid, a reality we have no desire to reinhabit, we had glimpses of Eden.  Disparate organizations worked together with common purpose.  People of faith from across the religious spectrum set aside their differences to oppose the evil machinations of the government."

It seems to me that our culture cries out for reconciliation on so many levels -- especially in these three areas.  It seems particularly sad that religion, which, as Richard Rohr says in today's reading, "was supposed to be life and healing for the world... has too often become death and boundary-keeping for the few."  But reconciliation is not a task that will ever be completed: it's really the work of a lifetime, executed on infinite levels by infinite numbers of people making infinite numbers of choices -- choices whose outcomes and principles may not always be totally clear to us.

But that doesn't mean we cannot continue to try to choose wisely: to choose inclusion rather than exclusion; to choose to discuss rather than to argue or shut down; to choose to reach out rather than to shut out.  It can sometimes be frightening to disagree, to hear a contrary opinion about something which matters to you on a very deep level.  We just have to trust that wisdom and hope will be revealed when we do this very important work.


Maureen said...

If only we could come to the truth of reconciliation far earlier than we do.

Louise Gallagher said...

wise words my friend.

Trust and hope... and take action.