Five things Friday roundup: “To see the world like a poet”

Spring Awakens by David Augsburger. Spring Awakens by David Augsburger.

The first week of Spring is accompanied by welcome feelings of hope, nudged forward by vaccinations, drawn by the possibilities of more time with friends, nourished by promises of a waning of the pandemic that since last spring sharply curtailed work, play and interaction with others in accustomed ways. We talk with friends about their comfort zone for venturing out in the community and cautiously move beyond virtual to actual conversations.

1) This Lent, I want to learn to see the world like a poet,

We discussed this lectionary text in worship, drawing on Stephanie Paulsell’s meditation in the Christian Century. Each participant brought a poem that they would use to see life in the week ahead. Then we invited Larry Dunn, Fresno Pacific University, to share selections from his forthcoming book of poems on love and loss. A service where all had wet eyes and incandescent souls. We can’t stop emailing each other and Larry in appreciation for “deep calling to deep,” as the Psalmist says it poetically. The poetic opens our vision as a moment caught in vivid words explodes in imagination and empathy.

2) The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett

This book is being passed around and those who have read her latest novel are sorting out family patterns and relating it to family pathology we have known. Anything that helps us understand how families repeat injustices, return to places that haunted their childhood, replicate patterns of abuse or avoidance is a gift to broaden our insight into how humankind can be unkind to our own kind, and awaken us to be truly kind. Spoiler warning, say nothing more than “Add this book to your list and when you read it, find someone you love to talk it over.”

3) Nomadland

“I am not homeless, I am temporarily houseless,” the lead character says defiantly, drawing us into a world of people who live without a permanent address, some without a roof and all that entails. This Academy Award nominee film (for six Oscars) by director Chloe Zhao offers the privilege of joining a community of nomad’s living on the margins of American society. It redefines “haves and have nots.” As our categories get confused, we can begin to comprehend an alternate way of being that is not defined by “stuff.” It may take a second viewing to move beyond primal survival feelings to discover the spirituality of simplicity.  Again, spoiler alert, ask for no summary, read no reviews, just see the film, and let it do its work in the inner hiding places of your soul.

4) Racial fetishism. Dreadful words.

They suddenly appear in headlines on our screens or in our reading. We learn new vocabulary to define hate, racism and gross ethnic pride. Xenophobia and particularly Sinophobia, or anti-Chinese sentiment is showing its face again and hate has focused rage about COVID on the innocent. The anti-Asian psychosis, is a thought disorder that needs treatment. We are talking with each other about how to be neighbor to all our neighbors, how to respect all our diversity, how to love all those who cross our paths each day. Approaching 4000 documented attacks on people of Asian heritage in the last year. God help us, how we need that help!

5) Surprise!  

Each morning upon awakening we feel a moment of surprise. Surprise at a new normal. No circus! No fabricated news. No fabric of lies to tease out possible meaning and motivation. No headlines of prevarication and mendacity. Each day we note the absence of the political vaudeville of elected officials, and the surprising presence of unmistakable signs of hard work being done to care about the physical and social needs of our fellow citizens. And we listen to those who loved the chaos of the last four years. Empathy is demanding, co-perception is exhausting, but caring about people calling to us from parallel universes and talking in what sounds like “the language of Q” is absolutely necessary. Only partly possible, but necessary.

David and Leann Augsburger

David and Leann Augsburger

David and Leann Augsburger are two semiretired people (CA school psychologist, Fuller Seminary professor) who co-lead a home-based church (Peace Mennonite Church,Claremont, California) and volunteer to welcome, care and connect people in the San Gabriel valley. Read More

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