Leading to Newness

I was reading an article about the great resignation, a term for the accelerated reshuffling occurring in major parts of the United States of American economy like hospitality and e-commerce.

Derek Thompson discusses at the Atlantic a number of historical referents for how workers are reconfiguring their expectations for work, for life, for balance. He suggests that the pandemic and the great resignation portrays the public’s shifting attitude toward work.

He says people are quitting jobs to begin new ones, to begin new endeavors. In pointing to this increasingly consistent finding, Thompson points to historical memory. He says, for instance, that the great fire in my city Chicago led to an emergence and “revolution in architecture.” The fires in the city contributed directly to the skyscrapers the city is known for, identified by.

Sometimes destruction, uninvited and unforeseen, can lead to newness, to invention, to recognition even while ashes and embers settle. Attitudes can change and so can landscapes.

A Message from Bishop Jakes

There is so much in this message. I saw it yesterday and decided I wanted to chronicle it as much for myself as for blog readers. It isn’t my habit to share sermons but there’s rich material about shame-based theology we must confront, truth about process addictions to social media, interpersonal relationship possibilities, rest, creativity, liberative self-determination, and grace for all the backgrounds that limit us.

While you will find disagreements–you should in every communication if you’re critically engaged–you will find something good and worth meditating upon. Listen to what’s for you.

One Letter at a Time

The other day my youngest son asked his brother what something spelled. He read the letters in his distinct voice and asked, what does OPEN spell?

I was driving, and my habit is to usually not see what they are seeing. Their perspective, in the backseat, is not mine. I regularly respond to their, “Daddy, what is that?” with “Son, I can’t see what you’re seeing right now. I’m driving.”

That is so much of life, isn’t it? Not seeing what someone else sees. Not sitting in the posture of another’s position. Not being able to shift perspectives. Not having empathy.

My little boy has caught on to this regularly enough. He’ll ask his bigger brother a question he may have tried with me.

The other thing is, my son was showing me evidence of his learning. I nearly missed it in that moment. I was amused that he was asking his brother a question. I turned toward the sound of voice. I appreciated that he knew how to ask a good question in order to find answer.

I almost missed that he’s learning how to read one letter at a time, one word at a time. He’s been learning but much that learning resides inside his little frame. I saw a glimpse of it!

Trauma, Suffering, Pain

The word trauma is a fashionable way of talking about suffering, and I find discussing trauma to be accurate and meaningful at many points. At the same time, I think that the word conjures defenses that make it hard to see suffering and pain, two words I prefer using when I’m trying to nuance the various ways people hurt.

Trauma should probably be diagnosed. It should be investigated in the body and the background with care, attentiveness, and skill. To assign something as traumatic brings an entire mechanism of treatment. As it should.

However, the skill and patience required to accurately say something is a trauma isn’t always necessary to call something painful. Sometimes addressing pain is a quicker focus. Plus, pain (or suffering) is always a part of trauma.

Whenever you talk of these three–trauma, suffering, or pain–there’s pain. So, querying your pain is a way to be healed even as trying to diagnose whether you’ve been traumatized. Where you hurt is an indication of where you need healing. You can call it trauma if that’s discerned. Or you can say you’re suffering or struggling or in pain.

I find this a help to me as I pray about my own pain. I know where I hurt and I try to survey that with God. God knows where I’ve been traumatized and God surveys that with me. I’m more skilled with what I know hurts, and God is more skilled (and patient and attentive) to the other things I don’t always yet know.

Pause

I read a reflection by Rabbi Brant Rosen who was discussing a number of things related to Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. I read once that Rosh Hashanah begins the “days of awe,” which made me smile. The high, celebratory holiday is followed in a few days by Yom Kippur, the Jewish time of atonement.

Rabbi Rosen wrote that, from last year to this one, many things have happened worth remembering, worth pausing. He narrated how significant it is that many of us have been grieving over the year. Grieving who was lost, particularly the more than four million who have died to Covid-19. Grieving unemployment. Grieving disorientation. Grieving an irretrievable life that won’t return.

His suggestion was to use the series of holy days to pause and to reflect. He suggested that we pause over the griefs, using a relevant Jewish custom to spend a year of mourning and praying the Kaddish, but also to pause over the wins, achievements, and triumphs. He noted that it is a scientific victory to, in the same year, locate a virus and a vaccine.

Even with the liturgical moment, in life routines, of reminding oneself that life and death come to us all, there is beauty in pausing, anchoring into what is good, worthy, honorable. Pausing to appreciate the undeniable blessings even while appreciating the undeniable losses. There’s an honesty there, no?

Rabbi Rosen had me considering another time of pause. In my hospital work, I’ve participated in moments of pause when a patient dies. Surrounded by medical staff, many of whom have worked to save the deceased person’s life, we pause in silence, to reflect upon the work and effort, to honor the dead, to acknowledge the loss.

“The Pause” as it’s called in medical literature doesn’t happen all the time, at every death, or after every code, but it is one of those liturgical acts worth using in hospital settings. A team, and anyone on the unit or service line who participated in caring can participate, gathers, pauses in intentional silence, and leaves. A chaplain can lead the moment but anyone else can too.

The pause allows for a gathering together, a joining with others when medical technologies have failed or when it was time for death to arrive. Everyone pauses. Pauses to think of the losses and the gains. Pauses to think of what dreadful things happened. Pauses to think of what great things happened.

All of it will leave us disoriented just enough but, somehow, also oriented toward a consideration of life and humility and death.