Episode 14: Life Together – A Community Special

Centuries of contemplatives and community leaders, alike, have drawn bridges between inner and outer work. Meister Eckhart, the great thirteenth century philosopher and mystic, writes, “What we plant in the soil of contemplation, we shall reap in the harvest of action.” In other words, the virtues we cultivate within ourselves spill over and course throughout the work we do in the world.

For our second issue, Clerestory writers and contributors have responded to the theme community. For the last four months, we’ve processed belonging, loneliness, and grief… love, friendship, and loss… locality and neighborliness… storytelling and peacebuilding… racial justice… liberation and the lack of it… human interconnectedness… and life together.

We began our series on community one month after the riot attack on the American capitol and two weeks after the inauguration of President Joe Biden, in the midst of an ongoing and uncertain and destructive pandemic. It was a hopeful, tired, grief and relief-filled moment. A quotation from Archbishop Desmond Tutu grounded our work: “My humanity is bound up in yours for we can only be human together.

Now, we’re concluding our conversations on community, perched on another interesting threshold: about to step out of isolation and back into a world “returning to normal.” But both “returning” and “normal” are inadequate, distorted concepts.

The pandemic further revealed injustice and deepened inequality. Pre-pandemic business as usual was neither life-giving nor life-affirming. Normal was injustice and inequality. Normal meant dehumanizing realities – police brutality, racism, violence, mass violence, instability, xenophobia, sexism, to name only a few.

For over a year, we have grieved alone. We’ve placed cloths over our faces to protect others. We’ve gone without forms of human connection that we need to endure the brutal parts of life. We want to return to our communities, our community spaces, to our friends and vulnerable family members. Of course, that is true. But we are emerging into a world which has been transformed by pain.

Richard Rohr writes, “I’ve often said that great love and great suffering (both healing and woundedness) are the universal, always available paths of transformation because they are the only things strong enough to take away the ego’s protections and pretensions.” After this year, we collectively have been filled with the felt knowledge of great love and great suffering, of both healing and woundedness. How will we use this transformation to make our communities more compassionate, in ways that allow us to all be fully human?

Today on the podcast, we’re sharing three stories from Clerestory’s second issue.

First, Kimi Bryson shares a creative nonfiction piece, “Pittsburgh” a reflection on moving and love in the time of the pandemic.

Emma McDonald shares an essay on epistemic trust, community, and the QAnon conspiracy.

And Anushree Singh shares “Coconut,” a moving personal essay on self-belonging and her identity as an Indian American woman.

I say this often, as the editor of Clerestory, the stories we tell together shape who we become together. Thank you for being here, for listening and receiving these stories, as we practice being human together.

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