We read the headlines at our house and shake our heads. Is this the Times or the Onion, we ask each other in disbelief. The world that we've known and prepared for is battered daily; institutions take big hits and falter; protections we had come to take for granted are no more. Is this just the way the pendulum swings, part of the big shifts of culture and politics that will eventually come back to the middle? I don't know; possibly. But it feels more to me as though something is coming apart, and that something new wants to emerge in its place.
Rudolf Bahro, a German activist wrote, "When the forms of an old culture are dying, the new culture is created by a few people who are not afraid to be insecure."… In response, Margaret Wheatley writes, "I don't know what Bahro meant by "insecure"; however, I've noted that those who endure, who have stamina for the long haul and become wiser in their actions over time are those who are not attached to outcomes. They don't seek security in plans or accomplishments. They exchange certainty for curiosity, fear for generosity. They plunge into the problem, treat their attempts as experiments, and learn as they go. This kind of insecurity is energizing…"
This kind of insecurity is what our Universalist ancestors learned to live in very well. Even though their neighbors feared them at times and sometimes even lashed out with violence against them, the Universalists let go of the need to be right, and instead focused on their own questions about their faith. They focused on living with joy and confidence. They were happy to share their simple but hard won wisdom with any who were interested. Their compelling offer eventually made great sense to many, especially in light of the fundamentalists' god who professed love and offered an eternity of abuse. I don't know what we can do about politics today, but I have hope, because I can practice being curious with someone who is not like me, someone of another faith, or another political orientation. And over time I can learn enough through questions and observation to finally understand them. When we do this, something shifts, often profoundly. If not in the other, at least within our self. An expanding thought, a wider view an old Universalist hymn puts it.
This also means that when we're true to ourselves, we have a better chance of finding others who are also curious and committed. Others who are kind and generous, and not fearful. Others who will be good company for the long haul, however long it takes as we hold on and try to be some ballast to the wildly tilting world, as it struggles to come into a new and more broadly inclusive and healthy balance.