This, from poet and conflict resolution facilitator and peace activist, Padraig O’Tuama, has been resonating with me this week:
“There was a Polish rabbi in the 19th century, Rabbi Simcha Bunim, who urged his followers to write ‘The world was created for me’ on one piece of paper and keep it in their pocket. He suggested they should place a different piece of paper in the opposite pocket, with ‘I am but dust and ashes’ written on it. This, he proposed, is a necessary tension.
Sometimes I think of what else I could write on pieces of paper, things to remind me of the human condition: ‘I am capable of kindness on one piece of paper’ and ‘I am capable of cruelty on another’. There is only strength in community on one piece of paper and I must learn to be alone on the other. Carry my joy on my left / Carry my pain on my right is how Björk put it.
This is not about finding a balance, but rather knowing how to hold ourselves in tension. Praise can cover over the failures of human nature, and sole awareness of the failures of human nature can plunder the heart of hope. We need both, held tight. One in each pocket.”
I’ve basically watched a natural disaster pass through my backyard twice, over the past two weeks. AND then gone back inside to a house on high ground, while others have been evacuated. So, am taking some comfort in this encouragement to hold the tension of feeling as though the world is collapsing, and yet having a little bubble of safety within that, two feelings that should cancel each other out, yet maybe can both be acknowledged.
I heard in a talk yesterday, this idea, from the incredible Melanie Goodchild of Turtle Island Institute, that, if we can dance with two opposing ideas, without having to choose a side, the presence of a third idea/way of seeing will show up, or emerge, birthed out of that well-held tension.
Is this not, too, how we might navigate genuine reconciliation?
What might you carry in each of your pockets this week? My friend has been carrying grief in one, and gratitude in the other. Every time she goes for a walk, she’s finding the balance between the two.