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Free Association

Aw hell, friends…  Some weeks I really don’t know what to say.  Spiritual principles and noble truths sound like feeble lip-service.  I can’t make sense of humanity’s inhumanity.  I don’t know how to answer it. 

Yeah, I’ll share angry Facebook condemnations of hideous politicking, lies, and institutionalized cruelty.  For sure, I’ll sign petitions.  I’ll carry a sign and chant and march.  You can bet your ass I vote.  But it all feels insufficient, and none of it nearly effective enough right now.  It’s great to hear the breaking news this morning that civic pressure is finally forcing a policy change — but how much pressure does it have to take?  How awful do things have to get first, time and time again?  How many lives shattered?  And if I’m reading this new executive order correctly, it will mean that immigrants and asylum seekers of all ages can now be detained in camps indefinitely.  For the love of God… I don’t think this is really good news, either.

So here I’m trying to prepare an empowering sermon grounded in faith and full of hope, one I can actually believe in, and everything I can think to say seems limp and inadequate whether kids are being ripped from their families and put in cages, or being kept with their families in cages.  I mean, what the actual fuck?!

Since everything sounds like a cliché or platitude anyway, maybe I should just go for it and paraphrase Albert Einstein again with the old adage, “You can’t solve a problem with the same consciousness that created it.”  I get that, I accept that. 

Trouble with this, though, is that it’s so tempting to think that the problem is “theirs” and the new needed consciousness is “mine.”  To think that the dysfunction is the result of someone else’s consciousness, and the solution is my brilliant certainty.  The truth is, we’ve all screwed up, otherwise it wouldn’t be so screwed up.

We’ve messed up as a country, as a society, and as a species.  We are being horrible and hateful.   Let’s admit that, for starters.  None of us has the single answer.  Maybe Love is an answer, but I think that really means inviting 7 billion people to to collaborate in a conversation that includes everyone’s different ideas about love —and figuring out how to do that sounds like part of the problem, honestly.

I watched a short video this week about improvisation — with a freestyle rap artist, a jazz pianist, and an improv comedy duo — and how the improvisational process opens up different neural pathways, uses the human brain in different ways.  There were several fascinating points in this study that got me thinking about a different approach to creativity and problem-solving:

  • Improvisation necessitates uninhibited unanticipated unselfconscious expression, which invites intuition and feeling, freedom and truth-telling.
  • Improvisation taps into a loose and flowing attentiveness which is a clearing for discovery, sudden insights, unexpected connections, and epiphanies.
  • Improvisation with others requires, first and foremost, a deep listening, inclusivity, and acceptance.  “Yes, and…” is the golden rule of improv performance.  As participants accept everyone else’s contribution, what is built together is “a world we can agree on.”

The key is to give up the idea that we’ve already got the answer, that we’ve already figured it out, that we know how to fix things if only everyone else would get on board.  We can’t script it out beforehand, or strategize how to have our way.  What’s called for is an open mind, an open heart, and a willingness to collaborate in the moment — as things are, including everything that has come before — and with each other going forward.

I don’t have any freakin’ answers right now.  But I know how I feel.  I’m interested in how you feel.  I’m willing to try to listen and create something new together, and I’m sure as hell open to whatever epiphanies and sudden insights might be available in a shared space of free association, riffing on a theme, and letting go into the deeper wisdom that is pulsing through all of it.

Let’s try it, my friends.  I can’t wait to be with you.  XO, Drew

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