Possibility of Paradise in Hell

I experienced such joy when I participated in the Women’s March in Modesto two week ago– yelling and waving signs of love, getting cars to honk as they zoomed by on McHenry. The crowd was so much larger than we expected and SO many cars honked in support.  I felt hopeful, energized, and purposeful.


UUFSCers at the Women’s March

There is a funny thing about disasters  (yes, I am calling the Trump administration a disaster): it is not unusual for people to describe the aftermath of the disaster (assuming they survive it) with a sense of nostalgia and joy.  In Rebecca Solnit’s book “Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster,” she shares numerous stories of people coming together to take care of elders, rescue pets, feed each other, diaper children. In fact, decades of sociological research reveals that “in the wake of earthquakes, bombings, and major storms, people act altruistically, urgently engaged in caring for themselves and those around them, strangers and neighbors, as well as friends and loved ones.”

Solnit says:

When all the ordinary divides and patterns are shattered, people step up—not all, but the great preponderance—to become their brothers’ keepers. And that purposefulness and connectedness bring joy even amid death, chaos, fear, and loss. Were we to know and believe this, our sense of what is possible at any time might change. We speak of self-fulfilling prophesies, but any belief that is acted on makes the world in its image. Beliefs matter. And so do the facts behind them. The astonishing gap between common beliefs and actualities about disaster behavior limits the possibilities, and changing beliefs could fundamentally change much more. Horrible in itself, disaster is sometimes a door back into paradise, the paradise at least in which we are who we hope to be, do the work we desire, and are each our sister’s and brother’s keeper.

While marching down McHenry Ave, I carried a “I Love My Muslim Neighbor” sign and a “Black Lives Matter” sign.  A man jogged out of a store front, asking if he could take a picture with me.  I didn’t know why– maybe it was the clerical collar?  As he put his arm around my shoulder, he said “I’m Muslim.”  In that moment, I was exactly who I most wanted to be.

Friends, we are in middle of a disaster.  Already some of our UUFSC members have been threatened with hate and violence. Our bodies, voices, and spirits are needed–in marches, on phone calls to your representatives, cooking meals for meetings, taking care of children…..let us not waste this disaster to be exactly who we most want to be.

This Sunday: Resistance and Resilience–These words have been circulating around a lot but what do they mean for us, as we go through our daily lives, in a time that is both new and not new? What are our spiritual tools in these times of resilience and resistance? Worship leaders this week are Rev Darcy, Avonelle Tomlinson, and Sabine Klein.




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