Research for, Shrew This!, the eleventh of The Mex Mysteries in my ongoing series has led me to discover the luscious Rebecca Solnit and her illuminating cultural prose. I had never come across her work, but now that I have, I cannot get enough of her brand of hopeful activism.
One of the things Ms. Solnit cautions us about is declaring victory. Victory, she says, implies completion. We won, we’re done, if you will.
But we’re not done, not by a long shot, Beloved.
Not done what?
Not done changing the world.
But we can recognize that things are changing without declaring the finality of victory. Ms. Solnit recommends celebrating successes along the pathways to change. That’s what keeps hope alive. I agree with her.
So it made me smile when I opened Instagram this morning to do my usual post of a spiritual haiku (go here to follow if you like) to see the tkts post — from the TKTS booth in Times Square — read: Hope has no expiration date, and neither do TKTS gift certificates!
No, they don’t. In fact, none of the intangibles of life have an expiration date.
You know, hope, sure. Faith. Joy. Passion. Love, Beauty, Truth, Honor, Freedom, Justice, Life. Peace. Pick-your-own-favorite Intangible.
The thing I like about Ms. Solnit’s ideas is her both/and approach to change. Yes, we want to create change, and sure, we’d love to have already changed, but change itself is a process, and we ought to celebrate our small steps and successes along the way.
We don’t do enough of that celebrating the good stuff along the way, Beloved. In fact, I think we take the focus on the end results too far — typical Westerners — and forget to enjoy ourselves on the way to the end results.
One of the ways to do that is to use Ms. Solnit’s both/and.
Economist and Opinion Columnist Thomas L. Friedman writes a similar theme in this morning’s New York Times. “There is a warning light flashing for Democrats from this election: They can’t rely on demographics. They need to make sure that every voter believes that the Democratic Party is a ‘both/and’ party, not an ‘either/or’ party. And they need to do it before a smarter, less crude Trump comes along to advance Trumpism.
“They need every American to believe that Democrats are for BOTH redividing the pie AND growing the pie, for both reforming police departments and strengthening law and order, for both saving lives in a pandemic and saving jobs, for both demanding equity in education and demanding excellence, for both strengthening safety nets and strengthening capitalism, for both celebrating diversity and celebrating patriotism, for both making college cheaper and making the work of noncollege-educated Americans more respected, for both building a high border wall and incorporating a big gate, for both high-fiving the people who start companies and supporting the people who regulate them.
“And they need to demand less political correctness and offer more tolerance for those who want to change with the times but need to get there their own ways — without feeling shamed into it.
“We need our next presidential election to be fought between a principled center-right Republican Party and a ‘both/and’ Democratic Party. Great countries are led from a healthy center. Weak countries don’t have one.”
Neither, Beloved, do weak individuals.
Mr. Friedman names the requisite for the ability to celebrate as we go along a healthy center. And if he means a political center, I don’t.
A healthy center is what causes us to stop and be grateful on the way to the end results. A healthy center (often) takes the long view, not the short-term gain. A healthy center holds onto the vision of a new world, takes the small, daily actions required to get there, and celebrates the small successes.
Small successes are what fuel hope, just like kindling fuels fire enough to burn solid wood.
We might heed the rich ancestral wisdom of the Indigenous peoples, the First Peoples, from all over the world.
In an article today about the tragic, real story of Thanksgiving in the U.S., I read: “Dana Thompson and her partner, Sean Sherman, an award-winning chef, are co-owners of the Sioux Chef, an organization in the Twin Cities devoted to revitalizing Native American cuisine. In the period between Indigenous People’s Day and Thanksgiving, she said she is ‘inundated with people who might have some awareness with the pain over the characterizations that comes with this time.’
“She urges anyone who asks to focus on ‘the true Indigenous wisdom that is behind the philosophy of Thanksgiving — it’s about not taking, but about giving back.’”
It seems to me that the core of the conflict in the U.S. is about just that — who wants to take and who wants to give — and those lines are not partisan. Those from whom much has been taken naturally want to take. Those to whom much has been given naturally want to give.
We desperately need to meet in the middle where hope itself lives. Let the takers give a little, and the givers take a little. And let us celebrate both together.
Halifax, Nova Scotia-based journalist Stephanie Nolen concludes her essay in this morning’s Times thusly: “At my dinner party last week, my friends and I raised a glass to our good fortune, and to Dr. Strang. Our freedom feels precious and fragile. It has not come cheap. But it’s a steadying thing, the knowledge that we will make hard choices for each other, and that sometimes when we do, the reward is a life we recognize.”
Hope, Beloved, is the magic ingredient that will, over time, return us all to a new life, one that we recognize, as we grow, heal, and change. Together.
Dr. Susan Corso is a spiritual teacher, the founder of iAmpersand, and the author of The Mex Mysteries, the Boots & Boas Books, and spiritual nonfiction. Her website is susancorso.com.