Last year my wife and I moved into a very large and very undefined space. We moved into a vacant factory building, almost 12,000 square feet, or over six times the largest house we had previously lived in. There was delight in the possibilities of such a grand space. So many things that we could do…go roller-skating in our house for example. But, the grandness of what-is-possible soon wears thin when there is no actual defined space. Or to say it another way, the grand kitchen that you might build one day is hard to cook eggs and toast in today.
There is a sectioning off or a holding space that is required for life to happen. In the same way that I can’t cook without space for cooking, all life requires space. Biology is a great teacher of this principle. Look at the cell wall’s definition and role:
So ‘tough, flexible, and sometimes rigid’ are attributes that hold space for a healthy cell. But what does any of this have to do with racism? Well…the ‘rigid’ sectioning off in order to hold space reminds me of what the white nationalist group in my town is seeking. They are attempting to create a boundary that holds space for their community.
They define their community as a group with “Shared blood, history, and traditions” And while I personally view this as a collapsed view of community, I think that how we hold or don’t hold space is something worth looking deeply into.
The racists are right about the need for holding space.
And, they are being very systematic and disciplined in their approach to this. They are actually doing it so effectively, that many who don’t agree with them have had that feeling of nausea upon realizing what they have accomplished. Perhaps it is like realizing, when playing chess, that your opponent is thinking 10 moves out, and you are thinking about your next move. So, they are ‘right’ about the need to hold space.
But ‘right’ doesn’t live in your body. It doesn’t live in the soil that grows your food. It doesn’t live in clean water or air. It turns out that ‘right’ doesn’t really have a home (well it might live on Facebook.) ‘Right’ is the fantasy of a teenage culture in desperate need of initiation.
Our culture is an awkward teenager that has told his parents to fuck off. We have gone to our room and are pouting about not having the things we think we are entitled to. We are fascinated with all that is disembodied: the internet, cell phones, Facebook. We feel that nobody understands us and that we have no allies. We are just going to stay in our room.
But we cannot hide in our room forever. Even with over 50% of the U.S. budget going to militarily maintain our ability to hide in our room. It cannot be sustained. And there are very few enablers left that are willing to bring us meals and slide them under the door. Fear guides our suspicion of anything and anyone that is not like us. So we drive away all of our possible allies and fall prey to anyone proclaiming that we deserve the best spaces available because ‘we are special.’
We are experiencing the growing pains of coming in to a new body…an adult body, a Cosmic body, an Imago. A body associated with the whole but rooted in the corporeal sensing body. Dissolution of body may have been part of the process to become associated with the whole. We may have needed the whole deconstruction of time and space that science, petroleum and the internet provided. But what is now required is that we participate in the whole by going deeply into the place where we are. Place is not our enemy but our very foothold in the world, and the way we journey into place is by being deeply in our bodies.
It is also only by going deep into our sensing bodies that we will realize that we have allies.
Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. -Khalil Gibran
This is not a motivational phrase or a feel-good saying. Gibran is reminding us that when we inhabit our sensory body we actually have allies. This is simply paying attention.
We must learn to pay attention. We must learn to pay attention with our senses. We must learn to listen to the more-than-human world. Our culture is about to receive its initiation. Many cultures use some form of wounding for initiation. This may very well be what Donald Trump’s regime is. He is to be our initiatory wound.
To survive initiation, we will be required to fiercely hold space for the new adult community that is being born. It will need to have a permeable membrane in order to be sustainable. We can no longer lock ourselves in our room. We need to develop the skill of ‘filtering’ what is allowed in our space and what is not. This is the job of any intact culture. Unfortunately we don’t have an intact culture. But, we do have allies.
Our only chance of surviving this initiation is by learning to listen deeply to the place we live. Our place is our ally. This deep listening will let us know how to guard our space. The deep listening will let us know what we as a living system can support. We will then be able to see that, when we as humans are fed by the more-than-human, we have a debt. And, as learning-to-be-adult humans, we might learn to honor this debt as a mandatory part of what it means to continue on as humans.
We cannot afford to let how we listen for and hold space for community collapse into juvenile and simplistic understandings such as 'white,' or whatever the current code word is for entitlement. The etymology of ‘ethnic’ has the same root as does ‘idiom.' Both refer to ‘one’s own.’ The immature understanding of ‘one’s own’ is ‘that entity which serves me.’ The adult human understanding of ‘one’s own’ is ‘that to which we belong, serve, and die into.’ Leonard Cohen pleaded for our culture’s chance of finding the latter definition:
Show me the place where you want your slave to go
Show me the place, I've forgotten, I don't know
Show me the place for my head is bending low
Show me the place where you want your slave to go
May we learn to listen deeply so that we may continue.
May we hold space for our immature self-serving culture to die.
May we hold space for the new community to be born.
May the party of good endings begin.