Mystic Mondays January 30, 2017
“Drums, Dancing and Singing.”
Those were the words that a friend shared me with as we talked about how to survive this time. Both of us were feeling that the very foundation of what we thought was American was falling away like chunks of an iceberg during a spring thaw. I was sharing how the impact of the swift and brutal changes was leaving me alternating between a deep rage and numbness. At this she said, “You know the Native Americans, who have lived with centuries’ worth of national trauma, have a saying: ‘Every day drum, dance and sing–every day!'”
It didn’t take a doctor or advice from a friend to get me there. Already in recent weeks I had made it a goal to exercise daily, practice some therapeutic yoga, and pluck away on the guitar. Of course, the day often gets away from me, but more days than not I get to the gym to join others in a spinning class or take a walk through the cow and horse pastures near my home and get a few minutes of guitar practice. I never miss my yoga!
I always knew that these things were good for me. Doctors remind us to take care of ourselves–eat well and exercise regularly. Pastors remind their flocks that Christian living isn’t all serving, but also enjoying God’s creation. Exercise gurus remind us that we will live longer if our bodies are healthier.
But never have I felt the need to commit to these daily disciplines like I do now. This has to do with keeping my sanity. I wished I could say that I am offering that slightly tongue in cheek, but I am not. I am quite sure that I mean that in a clinical sense! I have to slip a handful of daily joys into my life or this madness will sweep me away.
I am baffled beyond comprehension by what is happening to our country: Precious presidential hours spent on crowd sizes, alternative facts (can those two words go together, really?), travel bans that serve to help in terrorist recruitment rather than to curb it, and confused, nonsensical jibberish-talk from the president. I have a spend my whole working life dealing with difficult people and situations and I have to admit, I presently don’t have the tools to deal with this.
I have a friend who is one of the brightest people I know who recently admitted, “There is a darkness emerging from me that I never knew was there. I have never felt such rage nor ever experienced such dark thoughts. How are people coping?” I told her she wasn’t alone and then shared that I have had to resort to a daily dose of goodness–cycling, walking, yoga, beer, chocolate, singing and guitar. Another friend who has been at the forefront of social justice work said he too was resorting to simple pleasures–time with family, fly fishing, a good bottle of wine, a day in the forest.
Of course we are saying the same thing that the Native American motto has long advised–“Drum, dance and sing–every day!” I used to think of those things as adding richness to my life. Now I think of them as survival tools. Now I think of them as holding on to what is good in a world that is rapidly slipping away.
But these reminders tell me something. They tell me that I am in for the long haul on this. This is not a retreat. This sudden commitment to carve out a portion of each day for joy and pleasure and goodness comes from the realization that recovering a compassionate politics and a just society isn’t going to happen with a single million-person march, or a seven-week series of inspiring sermons or a signed petition to our senator.
This battle will take years, maybe my whole working life, and possibly to my dying day. This isn’t going to be one of those endeavors that we put heart and soul and body and mind into and then rest and relax and enjoy when we are finally done. This is not one of those times we can sprint to finish line with one dedicated burst of energy. This will be a marathon. We will have to pace ourselves. We will have to even smell the roses along the way.
Drum, dance and sing now. Why? Because that’s how we’ll survive. Why? Because those are the things worth fighting for.