Frustration causes Accidents
Heading into 4th and Walnut territory
One time, while on a solo performance tour, heading up the A9 toward Inverness, Scotland, I experienced one of those pinnacle moments. One of those strangely penetrating, discombobulating encounters with mysterious territory, that tastes tart and sweet all at once.
Every so often on the drive up this rather narrow throughway, I would see a sign that said “Frustration causes accidents, allow overtaking.”
After a number of repetitions of seeing this sign flash by, I was so taken by it, that I pulled over and parked at a little rest stop behind a lorry and sat there without words.
This experience on the A9 up to Inverness, was one of my “4th and Walnut” moments. I was brought to my knees. I could no longer extricate myself from all the people. All the people. I couldn’t keep going. My holding patterns were failing. Peaking. Melting down. And it was anything but resignation.
Many of us are familiar with trappist monk Thomas Merton’s experience, at the corner of 4th and Walnut, in Louisville, Kentucky. He said,
“I realized that I loved all the people, and none of them could ever be alien to me - as if waking from a dream, the dream of my separateness, of the special vocation to be different.”
This year, more than ever before, I have been down on my knees, sitting in silence, offering my repentance (and I do not throw that word around)… for any and all the times I have been mean, superior, self-righteous, belittling, and fragmenting, in place of descriptors I long to be, like: wisdom seeker, lover, one on their way to elderhood, or one who carries a reconciling spirit who can go deeper into paradox.
As an idealist, and a justice seeker, it has been hard for me to acknowledge, there are violences that do not require guns. There is a meanness and a pomp hidden in plain sight, inside my heart and yours, that has the power to provoke and prod and plug our ears and brush people off. As “uneducated”. Calling people “replaceable”, or “the cheap seats”, participating openly, in the dehumanization of other people… but feeling totally justified in doing it.
War never begins with obvious violence. It begins with treating other people like they are subhuman.
We have entered an age where all the old puritanical narratives are not going to cut it.
Binary has peaked. Which is why listening to each other more deeply, less cut and dried, is coming…
But when something deeper is coming, expect nonlinear and circuitous routes.
When we perceive any person to be worthless, and don’t hold them in the mystery of compassion, we would do well to remember who we often value without batting an eye. Just because someone is a PHD holder, doesn’t mean they’re not participating in supremacy. I know an indigenous woman who is two credits off her PHD, but left the university, because she realized she was being mined. Extracted. That the 20,000 year old wisdom lineage she stands in was being funnelled, at least in its technical form, to become a copyright of the academy. Look more closely… anywhere… and you’ll see the legacy: a National Park here in these lands, is still stained with traces of the blood, and fire, and apartheid - and we pay our fee to enter that desecrated space. A social worker’s docket is contaminated beyond comprehension with the legacy of residential schools. A doctor’s stethoscope dangles from the patrimony of forced sterilization. A psychiatrist’s pharmacy is riddled with the heritage of experimentation without consent.
Yes, these are Creator’s people and I do not write these things to disparage the individuals in these professions… but so are other people Creator’s people, who have less credentials, and are often more quickly written off.
I too have tried. In this one life, I have tried, somewhere on both ends of the political spectrum… to find purity. To find perfection. But it has become clear… we can’t get away from the enzymic ooze inside the belly of the whale. We can’t get away from the paradox. We can’t get away from a beautiful reckoning. We can’t get away from each other.
These energies… piety… dogma… puritanism… judgement… know how to jump wherever they can thrive. They don’t know the difference between right and left or religious and nonreligious. They will reside wherever they are welcome, and the more hidden in plain sight they can be, the more they will grow.
Exiling each other will never produce what we long for. Eternal splintering fragmentation will never prop our own ideals up on a pedestal in the way that we hope. In some wild, uncontrollable, rhyzomatic way, we belong to each other, in spite of ourselves. No one is actually alien to us. And no one is frozen in time. Everyone is becoming.
How do we seek to be the image of the unseen God, quivering at that thrumming threshold, where all things are held in unity?
I don’t know.
But maybe that’s where it begins…
We begin with “I don’t know”.
Thank God, thank God, I am only another member of the human race.
Like all the rest of them.