It is eery to smell, inhale, and see the smoky haze and realize you are literally breathing in the ashes of people’s lives– their homes, their dreams…even their loved ones. I think back to the book I was reading last winter by Northern California writer Rebecca Solnit, Paradise Built in Hell. It helped me a great deal those months after the election. I refer back to this book often, because it tells the stories of how the very best in people come out in crisis– neighbors take care of each other, take risks for each other, in ways we often do not do in regular life. In Solnit’s words:
“But what if paradise flashed up among us from time to time—at the worst of times? What if we glimpsed it in the jaws of hell? These flashes give us, as the long ago and far away do not, a glimpse of who else we ourselves may be and what else our society could become. This is a paradise of rising to the occasion that points out by contrast how the rest of the time most of us fall down from the heights of possibility, down into diminished selves and dismal societies. Many now do not even hope for a better society, but they recognize it when they encounter it…[Disasters] are a crack in the walls that ordinarily hem us in, and what floods in can be enormously destructive—or creative.”
Sadly, there are too many opportunities these days to turn to Solnit’s words, to remind myself of the possibility of paradise rising up from the (literal) ashes. And yet, I absolutely have no doubt in the possibility of this paradise. As we bear witness to yet more death and destruction, as we take in our family and friends, as we mourn and grieve for all that has been lost, let us not forget the possibility of Solnit’s paradise. At least, that is what I am working on these days as I walk through our hazy, smoke filled streets.
This Sunday, I look forward to worshipping with you all: Engaging with White Supremacy–Unitarian Universalists of color have asked UU congregations around the country to dedicate this Sunday to addressing issues of white supremacy, inside and outside our congregations. Worship leaders this week are Rev. Darcy, Matthew Mason, and Sabine Klein. (Learn more about the UU White Supremacy Teach-In.)