This weekend I attended a book club where white folks came together to talk about the intersections of racial justice and spirituality. At one point the conversation veered towards hope.
I listened until the facilitator asked me directly what I was thinking. The first words that arose were, “white people don’t need more hope, we need a reality check.”
I don’t actually believe that wholeheartedly, but it was my first response so I stayed with it to explore it more deeply.
The majority of my life has been full of hope, but I do not believe it has been a realistic hope. In the book club the word “dissociative hope” emerged. It was the hope of, “Why can’t we all just get along?” Or, “I love everyone,” Or, “People are just doing the best they can.” Or, “Love trumps hate.” This kind of hope made me shy away from suffering, intentionally and unintentionally turn away from systems of oppression and avoid conflict at all cost.
Now I can not seem to turn my eyes away. I want to see and witness the suffering and pain in the world. I want to see it as fully as I am capable of and to courageously stay open to it. I do not want to dissociate anymore.
But in that desire to not turn away from suffering I have ultimately turned my back on hope.
I spent the majority of my life at one end of the pendulum of unexamined hope and love. Now I have swung to the other end of focusing primarily on pain, suffering and anger. I believe I have to go from one extreme to the other in order to find the middle ground and the place of balance. This, in itself, is a powerful spiritual practice for me as I attempt to not shy away from pain both outside and inside myself. My years of meditation and lovingkindness have fostered compassion and patience for myself as I move through this. When I am impatient with my challenges I do not get to experience the wisdom of that challenge fully. I am grateful for my anger. There is a lot to be angry about, and I am glad to be in touch with it. And I see hope. I see hope in resistance, boundaries, white folks looking at the ways white supremacy hurts them and others, and all the activists who came before this moment and hearing how they maintain hope as well as strength to keep fighting.
If you are navigating the pendulum swing of resistance and hope, struggle and love, embodiment and transcendence join Genevieve Hicks, a powerful teacher for me of embodied hope, and I for an on-line book club and group exploration: Moving with Balance Towards Racial Justice: Acting Outward for Justice and Focusing Inward for Spirituality. We start next Thursday, March 30.