“There is an inmost center in us all, where truth abides in fullness;....and, to know, rather consists in opening out a way where the imprisoned splendor may escape, then in effecting entry for a light supposed to be without.”
― Robert Browning
Sponsored by the King Breaking Silence committee of the National Council of Elders, The National Webinar: From Terror to Transformation: Can the Violence in Palestine-Israel Become a Turning Point for Humanity ended at 5:00. I co-hosted the event from our church in San Francisco. Refusing to engage Bay Bridge traffic at that hour, I decided to do a little grocery shopping and eat dinner before heading home to Oakland. I would stop at Rainbow Grocery, a worker-owned co-op, and then have dinner at the Pink Onion located behind Rainbow.
Twice I had ordered take-out pizza. This would be my first time dining in. The restaurant has a rather small capacity. I was asked if I would sit at the bar. At the end of the bar with one seat separating us and another patron. He was already enjoying his dinner of at least a medium, if not large, pizza, a huge salad with pecans and other delectable food, and an equally large container of something else. He later mentioned that he would “probably” have to take some to his home. I was bemused. I couldn’t think of anyone ordering such a quantity of food for one person. Declining his very generous offer of a glass of sparkling wine, I inquired a bit more about him. He stated that the reason he was dining at the Pink Onion was that he had just finished his job and could not bear the thought of trying to cross the Bay Bridge to return to his home in Berkeley. I laughed saying that was the reason I was at the restaurant. I informed him that I had just finished a webinar.
We exchanged pleasantries and wondered why most of the people entering and exiting the restaurant ignored the clearly written and posted message of closing the door when leaving the restaurant. The night was cold. Near the end of our time together, he asked what the focus of the webinar was. I responded that it was about was about the Trauma inflicted on Palestinians and transforming that reality. He paused and returned to his meal. Then he said: “One thing’s for sure. We must learn to live together.” We shook hands and smiled at each other as I departed.
On my way to my car, I thought: “Haven’t I heard these or similar words before?” Rodney King was savagely beaten by Los Angeles Police Department officers on March 3, 1991. The beating was caught on tape. After the acquittal of the officers, people rioted. During the rebellion, King stated: “I just want to say – you know – can we, can we all get along? Can we, can we get along?”
My bar buddy’s affirmation has lived with me: “We must learn to live together.” We know how to live together. We must unlearn how not to live together. We must undo the socialization that makes “the other.” Hydrogen and oxygen come together in the right portions to make water, critical for our flourishing, water that covers the earth. At birth, we lived together. We do not have to be taught. We are a part of and aligned with cosmic intimacy, an intimacy that includes more than the human.
Rubem A. Alves writes in The Poet, The Warrior, The Prophet:
From my chair I watch a spider which made her cobweb on the upper corner of the walls of my study. She was there yesterday and a broom I got rid of it. Spiders and cobwebs are a sign of carelessness, and I did not want my visitors disturbed by their annoying presence. But she returned and rebuilt her house in the same place. I believe she has forgiven me and that she hopes that I will understand . . . I understand. And I decided to share my space with her.
There is wisdom that we can learn from the other if we learn to get along, to live together.
The spider leaps to the corner with the faith that something can be created there, something unique, although it comes out of the long legacy of spider existence. It is something that spiders were meant to do, to accomplish. There is something within that needs to get outside of itself to have its fullest expression. The spider has confidence that it can move from where it is to where it needs to be to allow for the unfolding of its fulfillment.
There are obstacles to its fulfilling the design that seeks to come forth, mainly, human beings like me, who will be repulsed by the creature and creation and destroy both. We, humans, have perfected that, destroying that made by another entity that does not fit within our scheme of preconceived notions or order.
The spider is not afraid of the void or the leap (as many of us are) confident of creating something worthy of producing interconnectedness, creating a design for its world according to its inherent talents, needs, trust, and wisdom. Its designs are exquisite - intricate, connected, delicate, and strong.
What is needed for this exquisite design is within the spider, not outside. Yet, the something within must find outward expression. That is its responsibility as an affirmation mystic. The cosmic oneness of its inner life longs to be affirmed in the outward places of its abode.
The spider is not colonized. It resists colonization and expresses what decolonized living looks like. The spider acts not (or reacts not) to something imposed on it. Does not allow colonial powers to impose on it a way of life in opposition to its essence and destination. It does not seek approval of its actions nor of what is legitimate or contraband. No, it does its own thing, which is not linear, or straightforward. It weaves a web because even for the spider life is not a straight path. Life is not linear, never was and never will be. The cosmos flaring was not linear. Built into existence is the mystery of life which is not linear. Life is a web, a mysterious one. And if you could examine each spider web, you would find that each is different. Yes, there are common threads. However, what each spins from within is different. The silk produced is a unique gift and fulfillment of that particular spider.
There was something within Alfred Fisk, Howard and Sue Bailey Thurman, Rickie Riley, Bayard Rustin, and others who leaped across the void believing that on the other side of the abyss, they would co-create a unique gift, this congregation, Fellowship Church. Something already abode within – a commitment to the common ground of existence. "His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot” (Jeremiah 20:9, NIV) There was something within Fannie Lou Hamer that caused her to leap into community and grassroots leadership. Something within Dorothy Day caused her to leap into forming the Catholic Workers movement, to create a newspaper inspired by someone who had come her way, disheveled, out of the blue. Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta pained by the circumstances under which farmers workers worked leaped to establish the farm workers movement.
Your world is as big as you make it.
I know, for I used to abide
In the narrowest nest in a corner,
My wings pressing close to my side.
But I sighted the distant horizon
Where the skyline encircled the sea
And I throbbed with a burning desire
To travel this immensity.
I battered the cordons around me
And cradled my wings on the breeze,
Then soared to the uttermost reaches
With rapture, with power, with ease!
The inward journey and its outward manifestation should cohere in the creative journey according to Dr. Howard Thurman’s The Creative Encounter. Is it a leap of faith from the corner to the wall, from where one is to where one needs to be, to allow the within to come without? What is on the altar within is meant to be outside also. What glory inside each of us longs to be spread outside? "Seek God’s realm and goodness and all you need and more will be provided." (Matthew 6:33) Seek authenticity and inner authority. Leap to incarnate God’s design in your life, and you won’t have to worry about what you shall eat, drink, or wear. The lilies don’t worry and look at how fabulously they are dressed.
I am often amazed by the students at Pacific School of Religion who have taken a leap of faith, of trust to leave where they were to journey into religious leadership. And how many of you have taken a leap of faith to follow your dream, to implement your vision?
The spider is an arthropod, not a human being. We cannot say the spider has courage, heart. Can we? Does the spider consciously move from a settled place to another where its design can be implemented, to where what it is called to do can be implemented?
It does this instinctually. It’s automatic. What about you, me, and courage? We decide with mind and soul to leap from the familiar to where we need to be to unfold what we are meant to unfold.
Is the spider audacious, bold, and unintimidated in its journey to a new place? Can it think? What about you and me? Can we be audacious, bold, and unintimidated in leaping and pursuing the unfolding of the great mystery within?
Can we say that the spider trusts that its work will be manifested, achieved, and accomplished? Trust is an emotion. Can the spider trust, does it have emotions? What about us?
A conviction was expressed: “One thing’s for sure. We must learn to live together.” A question was raised: Can we, can we get along?”
The spider has faith that what it needs to design will be designed. Can the spider have such profound and essential characteristics and we have none?
Can we say that the spider trusts life, despite having serious setbacks like having its work destroyed by a natural or unnatural force, such as a broom? It’s all instinctual we say, the spider does not make decisions. It is programmed to do what it must do. Surely, if the spider without our intellectual and spiritual endowment can continue to persevere despite setbacks and malicious broom attacks, we with our enormous intellectual and spiritual gifts, given by the giver of Life, must do no less. When what we have built in terms of friendlessness and common ground is torn asunder and humanity no longer seems human, can we move forward to dismantle the obstacles on our journey to create a web of life? Can the mysticism and wisdom of the spider lead us in incorporating, and incarnating what is innate in Indigenous cultures? Can we provide nourishment for all, that honors our interdependence and the cosmic web where we are responsible to and for responsible each other?
Can we do this? We must!
We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there “is” such a thing as being too late. This may well be mankind’s last chance to choose between chaos or community.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
Then I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being. And I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy.
– Black Elk