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at least I’m dreaming again.

I dreamt last night of faith-leaders being overturned by a coming Aboriginal-led resistance, rising up. Of an ex-vangelical mega-church pastor being turned into a youth-movement-leading prophet, raising up a generation to reclaim their voices. Of dirt bike accidents and flying polar bears.

When I awoke, blinking into the autumn blackness, I wandered downstairs alone, before kids awoke, to write down those absurd dreams.

This morning chores finished and led me to discovering that the Flaming Lips made the Beatles weird again. They also did a TinyDesk in bubbles. The music hit me like a unicorn/rainbow/wizard burst radiating out of my chest.

The day was as full as a filing cabinet in a 1970s law firm. I bustled and hustled, until at the end of the day, I was the fallen faith leader, overturned by my own inner resistance.

How can we lead people through the change to come, when they crave normalcy?

Are we here to tend to the religiously obsessed, or the righteously oppressed?

How can we be awake to the revolution if we cannot even stay awake?

My friends are truly haunted by the plagues inside and out, of inner anxiety and external threats. Do we simply sign off and return to daily normal? What is normal?

“Try not to go numb to the possibilities around you.” But the possibilities hum with the threat of revolution, the intensity of attentiveness, the magnetic draw to collapse into rest. Can I not simply throw myself to that mattress, please?

Who will help us see the true pain and darkness we can no longer look away from? Who will hold us, nurture us, heal us as we confront that pain? Who will inspire us to turn to each other as co-creators of a better world, healing from pain, stepping into possibility? Who will give voice to the possibility of love-based systems?

Isn’t that my very heartbeat? The very world of I’m dreaming of?

But when I’m dreaming, I’m asleep.

When I’m awake, I’m busy.

After I’m busy, I’m exhausted.

When I’m exhausted, I need sleep.

But then at least I’m dreaming again.

O! Quiet stream of the universe, I’m going to sleep again. Wake me when the world’s consciousness is ready to meet me with a package consisting of RedBull and a three-month paid sabbatical, childcare included, a book deal and an agent, and encouraging, kind friends, insanely talented collaborators to learn from, and a readiness to form a project that will lift the people of the world up, together, to together create a new world.

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Make

Art is the name for the thing you see other people making.

The thing YOU are making, you don’t tend to give it kind names.

You are making:

  • It up
  • Too big a deal out of things
  • Everybody else pick up your slack while you waste your time and everybody else’s

What do you want to make?

It’s so hard to tell, when you are so motivated by duty and performance to score social points. It becomes, more like, what do they want me to make?

They want me to make:

  • Them laugh
  • Them feel good
  • Them money
  • Them look good

I can do that. And I do, do that. And after a while, we get back to the question: what do you want?

How can I know what I want, if I am constantly in the proximity of sensing the needs and desires of others? I need to push them away. Fully assert self-hood and be done with the “what will people think” module; a forceful self-assertive shove into the proverbial printer.

Now that I’m alone, what do I want to make?

I want to make:

  • It right
  • Amends
  • People like me again

This is hard.

Is there any quietness where my own desires can be heard, and not drowned out by the radar-pings of what I pick up from others?

I want to make:

  • The world a better place
  • A fun day for my family
  • A dent in the universe
  • Books — drinks — music
  • Tidied-up houses, sometimes
  • Great decisions
  • Breakfast — scrambled eggs, with sausages. And coffee.
  • Made-up stories
  • A clearly integrated path and narrative between my employment, my skills, my gifts, my passions, my calling
  • A clear permission slip to enjoy life and have fun without trying to solve anything

This is a trick question.

“What do you want to make?” Is so…industrial, imperial. Colonial. Why the fabrication? Why the productive-mindset? Why the impose-your-force-and-will-upon-the-world frame? Why are we centering it on ME, as the maker?

What wants to get made?
What is trying to get made?
What does the maker want?
What is being unmade?
What got made that isn’t being seen?
What can I help others make?
What makes me?
What is?
What was?
What will be?
How can I participate in the now, quietly, creatively, collaboratively?

What if there are principles — of interconnectedness, of wholeness, of love — that once were core to humanity. The way things were. The way things could have been.

What if our constant makery is still drowning them out? What if what we need is to unmake our haste, and simply return to that?

This, in not theory alone, is Indigenization. Resurgence. Decolonization.

I know I’m not yet grasping anywhere close the depth and possibility and intensity of those words.

I do know that our colonial customs are drowning out and stepping on ways of being that must be, and will be, heard.

Stop it with your ceaseless making, striving, self-centered output. Cease with your noisy gongs. Come here and listen to the burbling stream in your backyard. That tiny meadowlark chirping in your heart. It’s the very tweet of the universe.

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What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding

What if the only thing that separates us from one another are the stories we tell about each other’s evilness?

Hell is not some distant terror, a punishment doled out by omniscient beings. It’s a reality issued by you and me the moment we say someone is not welcome. You and me draw the lines. We cut and we separate, and the moment we do, we lose part of ourselves.

There is no separateness. Only separateness we create with our stories.

What if the sense of longing-for-something-better is only a self-indulgent fantasy that causes us to no longer participate in the magic in front of us?

Heaven is not some distant reward, a celebration reserved for the righteous. It’s a reality being brought into existence by you and I, when we choose to bring compassion and love to those in front of us, and act to alleviate suffering, extend welcome, nurture others.

What if holiness, purity, perfection, righteousness are all secret code-words for “missing the point”? The intention is compassion. It’s love. It’s welcome.

To be “holy” is to be set apart, separate. That’s a dream that has died. The curtain has torn. The hamster wheel has broken. No longer must humans churn and earn and yearn for “holiness,” in the same sense that we do not wish and pine for our bodies to decompose. The opposite is the desire. Connection. Integration.

Does it frustrate you as it does me, that some of our greatest artists and songwriters have already given voice to these concepts, and we have ignored them, or treated them merely as poets, and not prophets?

When John Lennon sings “Imagine.” When Bob Marley sings “Redemption Song. “When Elvis Costello sings “What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding.” These aren’t a lunatic’s pipe dreams, these are the mystical glimpses from souls who have opened themselves up to a greater knowing.

We are here, today, connected with each other in perfect union with the very love and life source that gave us our origin. This is the now, the future, the past, the present plane and the realm of the spiritual, all at once. I hope we can all come to know it. It’s a non-linear, organically-developing plan for renewal that every day comes to fruition, when we surrender our own selfish interests and participate as partners in this source-work. And today, the plan starts with: deep gratitude for our provisions, letting go of resentment, asking others to forgive us for our wrongdoings, staying sensitive to the plan, being mindful of our capacity for distraction and evil. We see that love is the ultimate power and possibility.

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Impossible Transformation

The words "impossible transformation" are encircled by a series of words: co-create a better world > justice and equity > empathy > love > dialogue > imagination > hope

Is it possible to co-create a better world?

Not unless we come face-to-face with the injustice and inequity that is at our nation’s roots, embedded in our practices, and continuing forth today.  There is no “better world” until there is justice and equity for all.

To see it is to feel empathy. To feel it deeply: this sense of our shared humanity,  to recognize in our gut, the unfairness.

To see the other is to feel love.

We can explore the underlying realities of the other through the practice of dialogue. We can listen, hear, exchange, share, facilitate, moderate, pay attention.

When we listen, our imagination is sparked. Possibilities emerge. Creative can exist again.

It gives hope. Hope that the impossible, maybe, is possible again.

Co-creating a better world, one that is just and equitable for all, is possible if we are centered on empathy and love. Dialogue is often enough to start the conversation, spark the imagination, and reignite hope. It’s not impossible transformation, if we are willing to bring our whole selves to the table.

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A list

A community of like-minded practitioners.

The chance to write and share and storytell and express.

A deep connection with themes of Indigenous resurgence and reconciliation, of racial justice, of peace and justice all around, of pushing into new paradigms of seeing spirituality, and of helping co-create a better world.

The up-close love and care for my family, with whom I am uniquely situated to care for, deeply.

Rest, and play, and fun, and joy, and creativity, and curiousity.

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Mene, mene, tekel, parsin!

“If personal computers are such a big deal, wouldn’t there be one in every home already?” says the cynic in 1981.

“You don’t understand,” replies the optimist. “The change is about to happen. It’s not that the computers are already in the home. It’s that they are about to be.”

A shift is afoot. A gargantuan, monumental, societal shift. It will take over the spirit and psyche of each of us, with the full, heaving and grieving weight of a death or birth in the family. If you are not presently partnered with a loved one, involved in a community, connected with a counsellor, living life with a close friend, it is time to put yourself in the path of deep vulnerability and care, for this blanket of support will be needed.

The Innovators who have gone before us have shown us: what they’ve done is brave and risky, and they have endured the heartbreak and pain as initial breakers-of-ice. They have been discarded and shunned, labelled as heretics, the Galileos of our time. They’ve dared to re-label the universe, and experience the wrath of authorities who refuse to be proven wrong. And they, the first-goers, are being proven right.

It’s found in communities like Evolving Faith — a legacy left by the late Rachel Held Evans, a true spiritual seeker and pioneer. It’s found in works like The Great Spiritual Migration, by Brian McLaren, heretic-in-chief. These brave prophets have lit the way in the wilderness, and have been excommunicated by the mainstream.

But they were not joking, or merely messing with you. They were right, they are right, and we will soon be catching up to their world.

The path is now clear for the Early Adopters, emerging a half-generation later to benefit from the work, and see with new eyes the pain, the possibility and the pure potential of what’s to come. As I walk around this room, I look around and see people of my own age bracket, trembling with deep suffering and empathy, eyes widened to see the impossible injustice, heart burning for a new world, head shaking at the resistance we know we will face.

Soon, the Early Majority will be here, and it will be a sloshing, crushing wave of pain and hope. The dam can only hold so long. If you are not already heartbroken, you are about to be heartbroken. If your fundamental world orientation has not shifted, the tectonic plates will soon shift.

Do I say this to frighten you?

No, I say this to frighten myself.

How can I do my part to help prepare the way?

How can I help awaken our churches to be safer havens? How can I help alert our spiritual communities about the tidal wave approaching their shores? How can we send the message to mobilize our groups to become rescuers before we must be evacuees?

My country has committed cultural genocide. My religion has been complicit in it. Our teachings have fed into a narrative of domination. We have assisted the rise of harmful leaders, contributed to the exploitation of the planet, justified the abuse of others. We continue to be use our “holy scriptures” to justify exclusion of marginalized people. Our belief system continues to separate us and others from the very God we claim to serve. Our belief system clouds our abilities to love and serve. If we don’t choose to dismantle and address these harmful beliefs, it will soon be inevitably and unavoidably laid bare. Meanwhile, urgent work remains to be done, not to “save lost souls” but to be active agents of love in a world that is truly suffering.

Alert! Awaken! Rise up! Mene, mene, tekel, parsin!

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Transcend and transform

When I was part of the learning at THNK, one of my instructors was Kaz Brecher. The daughter of two rocket scientists, and herself a filmmaker and facilitator, she brings incredible intelligence and creativity to the world around her. Today online she shared about the Better Arguments project.

One of the things they’ve created is the “Principles for Better Arguments,” shared below.Five Principles of Better Arguments - from betterarguments.org

It reminds me of some of the work I’ve helped shared before, which comes from my colleague Ceri Rees, via the Justice Institute of BC. It’s a diagram showing how we can move together from disagreement into solution-finding.

Conflict resolution model from JIBC: two mountains near each other. The summit of each is labeled "position." A floating orb labeled "Issue" lies in the middle. Each mountain face itself is labeled "interests." The mountains overlap, and the area of overlap isn't labelled but is shaded differently. Below each mountain, in shared soil, or perhaps even rich and nourishing well-water, the blue area is labelled Solution.As you can see, at each mountain-top lies our positions. Our viewpoints on the issue at hand, they differ. While we can’t cross any sort of bridge to each other’s summits, we can instead descend into each other’s interests. This means asking each other questions about what is behind each other’s positions. “Tell me why you came to have that stance,” you might say. Or, “I’m curious what interests brought you to that position.”

The more you dig and mine and explore each other’s interest, which underly your position, you’ll eventually unearth some common ground. And it’s there that solutions lie. It’s there that you can begin the creative, generative work of finding ways forward.

It was also today that I came across a new project, curated by David Byrne of Talking Heads fame, called Reasons to be Cheerful.

One project, called “We Are Not Divided,” reads as follows:

“Everywhere you look, the message is the same: that we are hopelessly divided. That all over the world, our rifts are so entrenched they can never be reconciled. But that’s only half the story. In fact, there is abundant evidence that we human beings have far greater ability and desire to overcome our divisions than we realize.”

I followed the page to read an article this morning: “The Unlikely Friendship that Helped Legalize Same-Sex Marriage in Ireland.” As you read it, you will read of how an older Irish fellow refused to acknowledge the abuse he endured from a regular visitor to his house when he was a child. You’ll hear how this shaped his life. You’ll hear how it took friendship and openness to delve into this, and how his story ended up influencing a country’s choice. Please read it.

As I read it, tears leapt into my eyes. Just like yesterday. Like almost every day.

Kendra says she loves how easily I cry these days. It can happen without much notice, usually related to music or writing or art or storytelling — something will bring up an evocative, emotional sense, and I’m done. Tears.

It’s partly because I’m overcome by these tensions: so much is possible in terms of reconciliation and hope. And so much blocks us.

Tonight I made the mistake of watching the US presidential debate. I watched it on my phone, during gaps between dinner clean-up and bedtime for the kids. In some moments, the kids gathered around to watch with me. “Who is telling the truth?” they would ask. “I don’t know,” I would reply.

Kendra asked, “Are you sure you want to be watching that?”

I was hunched over, sighing, shaking my head, not doing well.

“Two more minutes?” I said.

I’m not even American, but it was sucking me in. It is rare for me to feel how I felt: shot through with surges of adrenaline and other chemical reactions, my body pulsing with stress and engagement.  What was getting me was the lack of listening, of empathy, of decorum, of civility, of health. of healing, of possibility.

All I want to say is this: we can transcend this. It’s about voting, sure, but it’s also not. We can unite as a grassroots coalition of citizens who choose a better way. We can choose love. We can choose listening. We can support each other through alternative economies. We can be human beings, transcending the limitations of our nation states and seeing each other across divides, no matter the distance.  We must.

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Tell me how

In the morning, when I awoke and trudged downstairs, I was carrying the burden of post-sleep heaviness, weighed down by the mantle of morning responsibilities — yet with one of heart’s skylights cracked open to try to receive the fresh air of the morning’s possibilities.

I thought of a song I wanted to hear. A woman’s voice, it would be, quiet, and guided by guitar. She would sing and it would tune right into the chill morning autumn, transporting me back to the first year of being married and commuting with Kendra in the cold roads outside Calgary.

I found the track on Spotify. Rosie Thomas, from the album “Only With Laughter Can You Win,” straight to the track called “Tell Me How.”

She sang: “How am I supposed to know what love is really like, when I’ve never even been in love before? Aren’t you supposed to love yourself before you can understand how to love someone after all?”

Like being struck gently on the back of the head from someone inside my own mind, I winced, dislodging a tear from some inner reservoir that rushed towards my open duct.

Love. This call to love our neighbours, to love our enemies, to love even those we’ve called evil. It’s too hard. It’s so necessary. It’s a wild goose chase, an impossible push. We’re doing it, we’re at least working on it, a loosely-organized school of would-be world-lovers chaotically self-organizing in a church gym to ask each other questions about how.

But how? If underneath all this striving is still a self that carries such burdens, how can a love reach out? I don’t have what it takes. I’m not steady or ready enough inside my own blinded, unkind mind.

That late September chill, the shift into Autumn, the twist into quiet folk music, the gentle questions of Rosie Thomas, the quest for a world that can love, if only love could seep into this leaking, lurching life…

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Hey, I’ve been falling apart!

What I’ve been reading this season:

  • An Inconvenient Indian, by Thomas King: An ironic, hilarious, heartbreaking and highly readable history of how the Canadian and American treatment of Indigenous peoples has gone.
  • The New Jim Crow: Documenting the American storyline since slavery of how the Black experience has been targeted and challenged, deliberately, by government choices.
  • Surviving Canada – Indigenous Peoples Celebrate 150 Years of Betrayal: This collection of essays, history, articles, poetry and storytelling is earth-shattering, heartbreaking and transformative. There’s no going back after reading this. The myth of Canada will be shattered. For me, it has left me broken open, wondering what could possibly come next in this wicked chapter of the world’s hidden history.
  • 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act – Bob Joseph: A thin volume that captures the essentials of how the Canadian colonial experiment has subjugated First Nations people over the years, the consequences, the current reality, and the hope ahead.
  • Indigenous Relations: Insights, Tips & Suggestions to Make Reconciliation a Reality (In progress)
  • Unclean by Richard Beck: An exploration of how Christian rituals and traditions end up creating an exclusive religion that causes its practitioners to experience pure disgust towards outsiders.
  • Bad Theology Kills by Kevin Miguel Garcia: A salty and self-published work by a queer Christian writer who brings a profound, personal work of prophecy and power to show their own way forward.
  • Sacred Fire: A Vision for a Deeper Human and Christian Maturity: A Catholic writer’s attempt to put the genie back in the bottle and convince readers that nothing’s wrong, it’s just midlife, persevere through this familiar angst until you eventually graduate into a new angst in your 60s.
  • The Great Spiritual Migration – How the World’s Largest Religion is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian: This is a book that had me in tears before I was finished the introduction. “I’m not crazy,” I felt myself saying. “There really is a massive shift afoot. Christianity has been terrible. We must keep moving. Other people are thinking through these things too. It’s not just me.” It has helped me calm down a bit, aim myself forward, and feel confident that I can stay connected to my current communities as an agent of love and change in the world.
  • Designing Your Work Life – Bill Burnett and Dave Evans (In progress) – Reading as a way to explore how to redesign my own contributions, in light of my reorienting understanding
  • Seven Fallen Feathers (In progress)

To summarize, everything I’ve been reading lately had found me falling apart.

In the throes of this deconstruction, I recorded a song demo. It’s a cover of a song by Soccer Mommy, called Circle the Drain. Not perfectly produced, but a needed explosion and expression during this time of being split open.

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Read ’em and weep

This week, I opened up the PDF volumes of the final report of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls national inquiry. It was released in 2019.

Volume 1a is available here. (It’s 728 pages)
Volume 1b is available here. (It’s 352 pages)

I share it here to encourage all of us to set aside some time to dig into this.

And to give us a call: this is for us to explore.

This is new (2019). It’s unique to Canada, and especially British Columbians. There are no other meme-makers to do this work for us to help us understand what is in here. It won’t automatically swoosh downhill in a palatable wave of Instagram-memes, unless we are the ones helping make them.

The stories and heartache here in Canada remains trapped in 1000 PDF pages. This is not a good format for the internet.

If you find yourself to be a content specialist — someone who copywrites, makes memes, writes blogs, creates infographics, storytells, makes videos — consider this an invitation.

As you read it, consider sharing notable quotes, stand-out stats, key calls-to-action. Consider doing what you can to help make the content more discoverable. We need to hear this.

As I began to dig into it, my heart began to break:

Officially, the Government of Canada currently recognizes five genocides: the Holocaust, the Holodomor genocide, the Armenian genocide in 1915, the Rwandan genocide of 1994, and the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia from 1992 to 1995.

 

The testimonies heard by the National Inquiry make clear, we must consider the application of genocide in both legal and in social terms, and as it persists today.

(The above passages are on page 53 of volume 1a)

This is not being stated as hyperbole.

Our home-on-native-land stands accused of genocide, not just in the past, but continuing today. There is much to rediscover about the nation we have thought of as Canada. Will you read with me and learn what action we must take?