As a human race, in our unaware state driven by a fear of being separate from Love, we organise ourselves around power. This plays out on a societal level with the combination of power and bias creating the violent oppression of racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, xenophobia and so on. The effects of living with this oppression are far reaching, many of which cannot even be discerned because the dynamic is so familiar, it seems real and true. The extent to which people question that reality and choose to live a different one, is generally the extent to which they are isolated, rejected, resisted, shunned, blamed, maimed or killed.
Other systems of oppression we live in today are perhaps quite subtle, feeling like the norm of our day and age—materialism, consumerism, capitalism… where the currency used to stay in the in group is performance, drivenness, social media presence, greed, attention and a pursuit of more, bigger, better, faster and newer.
Most of us are seduced in one way or another daily, and are not even aware of it. Red push notifications from the apps on a phone, designed to grab your attention and keep you coming back for more; marketing and advertising convincing you of a need you didn’t know you had, and the resultant answer to that need which is something you didn’t know existed; Netflix series episodes rolling from one into the next before you’ve had time to press stop.
Further still are the daily oppressive beliefs we have of what makes us worthy of love and belonging, whether that be our looks, our ability to succeed or produce, the number of people who like us or praise us, our need to be perfect or to stand out… Not only do we face oppressive systems on the outside with their deathly effects, we hand our personal power over to some violent value judgment that leaves us in a place of anxiety, shame, anger, despair or depression.
At the same time, there is another Way in this world, a way that comes from a different place, from Love, a belief of Oneness. It is a voice of permission. Permission to Be. Be exactly who you are. In the words of one who is speaking Truth to systems of oppression in our day, Brenè Brown, “Imperfect and enough”.
What does permission look like for each of us today? Permission to question a system, protocol or expectation of us from outside ourselves, or become curious about the voice of the critic within that leaves us with a sense of unworthiness. Permission to feel all our feelings, to be different, to not conform, to have boundaries, to pull aside into stillness, silence, solitude. Permission to connect with a different Way, to connect with non-violent teachers such as nature, children, animals, art, dance, music. Permission to take a break from the intensity of social media and news, or hurtful, burdening or unhelpful conversations. Permission to acknowledge our needs, get to know them, express them, and put time, effort, and resources into meeting them. Give permission to the different parts of ourselves that are looking for expression, acceptance and love to be witnessed.
When we know the freedom, joy and life that that permission produces in us, we will be compelled, enCOURAGEd to work for it for those around us who are struggling to see or access a reality outside of the system. Because we are One, my freedom and well-being is inextricably linked to the freedom and well-being of all.
May we grow more and more confident in the Power of Love.
A special thank you to all those who made last week’s camp
such a connecting time.
For the day visitors who made the trek — thank you.
It was great to be together.
Next year’s Weekend Away will be on from 17 to 19 October.
I dare you to put the date in your diary!
What are the two most important lessons you have learnt in your life? Go ahead and take some time to think about it…
I asked this question to the group I meet with on Wednesday mornings at The Carpenter’s Shop. Here is what was shared:
“Respect!” Respect as in being “considerate to the person in front of you” and “seeing a person’s dignity”. “Everyone must respect everyone — even old people must respect younger people”
“Discipline of myself. Without discipline you are nothing. Self-discipline to get up at 5 a.m. — to wash myself and to iron my pants and eat before I catch the train to look for work…”
I have learnt that I must be “wise with my words”. “Unwise words make trouble.”
“Honesty is the lesson I have learnt. It is always better to be honest.” At this point the conversation became very interesting. Another person said, “but sometimes you have to be dishonest”. And he went on to explain that when he was in Pollsmoor Prison a member of the 28s was killed in his communal cell. When the prison wardens asked him who was responsible he said he didn’t know. “If I had been honest I would have been killed just like that gang member” he reasoned. “I have learnt in life that sometimes it is best to be dishonest, but to be dishonest is not the same as lying. Lying is bad. Dishonesty is not.” “Yes”, explained another, “like when you go for a job interview and they ask you if you can do this or that and whether you have experience, you say ’yes’ because you want to impress them even though you do not have the experience — this is not lying because you do want to impress them”. This was a new insight for me!
“Well, yesterday I went to fill in a form for a job’, said another, ‘and on the form they asked if I had ever been in prison. I thought to myself: ‘why don’t they find out that information themselves’. I then changed my mind and told them. They asked me the nature of my crime. I told them and they wanted to know how long I was inside for. I told them and then they said that I was not ‘inside long enough’ so I did not get the job. It would have been better if I were dishonest”. Others nodded in agreement with him. And I found myself agreeing too. How unfair it is that the very people who were born with so many obstacles in their future now are held to ransom by their past. Let us pray…
God of Grace — God of forgiving love for all and forever. We praise you for the treasured lessons you have gifted us with in our living. Thank you for the people who have respected us and by doing so taught us how to respect others. Heal the wounds that we carry as well as the wounds that we have inflicted due to a lack of respect.
For the examples of self-discipline that have challenged and inspired us we are grateful. Give us disciple-like-discipline to shape of days in your service.
Tame our tongues O God. They are too sharp for us to handle on our own. We have witnessed them cut and tear others apart. Help us to fast from unnecessary talk. Erase all words of unkind judgement from our vocabulary and make us generous with words that heal, comfort and liberate.
Lord your word invites us to trust that the truth will set us free and yet we have heard how it may get one killed. Some of us struggle to be truthful if it means we may disappoint another — so how difficult it must be if a job or our life were on the line. Set us free from fear to be truth-tellers we pray.