My heart feels pensive. If the heart can think, then today, mine is preoccupied. Not quite sad, though tinged with sadness, but moving between heaviness and lightness, between sorrow and deep joy, between optimism and unknowing.
Thousands of Americans are living in tent cities right now as homes stand empty. 47 million live below the poverty line. People repeatedly ask the Occupy movement what its demands are. No one asks these other tent dwellers for their demands. They simply hope that they will fade into obscurity, and that the rest of us won’t share their fate. Few want to look poverty in the eye or shake its hand, fearing its contagion. This fear impoverishes us all.
Last Friday I went on retreat with the Interfaith Tent at Occupy Oakland. By the time I joined this group, they were tentless, because of tents, umbrellas, shelter canopies and altar objects being repeatedly taken away, as Occupiers are arrested, and icons, bells, and candles thrown into the trash. We built a small altar for the day together. I brought a picture of the Weld Angel, a situationist beauty from Tasmania, white gown and wings that rose high into the canopy of trees. I also brought the replica of an ancient statue of the Goddess Freya. Goddess of love, sensuality, and prosperity, she also rides a battle boar – sometimes said to be her human lover in disguise – and has first choice of those slain in battle, taking heroes to her hall. She herself is a hostage, having been traded, along with her brother, Freyr, to keep relative peace between the homes of Gods and Elves. As such, she builds a bridge between love and battle, and a bridge between otherwise warring realms. In her strength, she keeps the peace.
We can call upon her to help build bridges too. We can build a bridge between heart and mind. Between love and action. We can stand up for what we cherish. We can build bridges with and among each other, bridges of courage and love.
Greece is on fire. Nigerians live in poverty while their government thrives. Drones, long seen in Pakistani skies, are soon to fly over the U.S. Peaceful protestors are gassed and beaten. Children starve. Forests are decimated. Fish are gasping. Whales, confused.
Yet all is not bleak, says my heart. There is still art made, and songs are rising from our throats. Ravens call. Children chase each other. Flowers bloom. Kindness is offered and connection made. We can build bridges with and among one another. We are.
Some things tear us apart. Can we name them? Some things feel frightening. Can we call on courage, and look them in the eye? This is a time of tearing down and great rebuilding. What can we till, and plant, and sprout? What bricks can be laid, or tents raised in sunny fields?
What heroes can we be, to live for love, and ride this love to battle? Some things are just worth fighting for, with love. Least you think I speak of the violence of guns, molotov cocktails, or rocks, know that I do not. I speak of fighting with our hearts, our minds, our bodies. I speak of fighting with our art, our music, our poetry. I speak of fighting by standing, arms linked, against the powers that would suppress us. I speak of simply looking at a stranger, and saying “Hello.” Of offering help when we might otherwise walk away. I speak of learning that we are mutually obliged to love one another, because without this love, community falls apart, and then the world.
Where are you fighting petty skirmishes that can be lain down? What is the greater task you can pick up and work toward? Come together. Come to grace. Come to beauty. Come to love.
We can learn to take care of each other, governments be damned (or as we work, perhaps transformed). We shall govern ourselves, by daily choosing to ride love into the battle for what matters.
Will you? With me. Hold out one hand. And then the other. We encircle a world.