Inviting Connectedness, Musings & Adventures

Cantus in memoriam

We all know the taste of our own tears
And your tears taste very much like mine
She held my hand so tightly that my fingers slept
Or maybe it was him, sitting on the other side
Who squeezed so hard
up, down, left, right, me, you, him, her, them
Somebody was singing Ave Maria
And in the echoes all those distinctions blurred with rainbow light

I stood at the podium and butchered a poem
While looking only at the coffin
My sobs rendered most words incoherent
But funerals are for grieving, not performances
To grieve forcefully, incoherently, is a potent invitation
Join me with your tears.

Two years earlier, when the spectre of death already loomed large
One composer’s contemplation of silence punctured me
With its persistent bell and an endless descent
One composer mourning a meeting that never happened
And in that moment I wondered if we ever truly meet
When all we ever hear are echoes.

Inviting Connectedness

Disconnection at Gay Pride

I’ve been going to gay pride festivals for almost 20 years.  In principle, these festivals are about celebrating community, rejoicing in all our true colors, and shining bright in the face of a society that wants us to feel ashamed.  After all, it’s all the same love. We’re all connected by our differences, right?  We’re not just in this boat together, we’re a community. Right?

Well, in principle that’s what’s supposed to happen.  To some extent it does, but I’ve got a confession.  For most of those 20 years, I’ve walked the grounds of those festivals feeling disconnected and isolated.

This year I went back to Minneapolis for the gay pride festivities.  At about 4:00pm on Saturday afternoon I stood at an intersection of two pathways in the middle of Loring Park, waiting while my friend Scotty chatted with a couple friends.  A woman walked past with the distinctive demeanor of a transgender woman who is only beginning to explore the experience of presenting as a woman in public.  She was middle-aged, tall, slightly awkward in pumps, holding her hands in a hesitant fashion that hovered just short of wringing.  Her wig was not doing well in the sun.  She wore big sunglasses, possibly to hide her identity.  Though it was hot out, her clothes covered almost all of her body, shielding her.

I wondered if she felt welcome there in the park.  Maybe this was one of the few places where she felt comfortable being herself in public.  Maybe she was both terrified and ecstatic about being there. I imagined her walking among the vendor tents and wondered if she felt as disconnected as I do.

Scotty’s conversation took a while.  By the time he finished chatting, that woman had passed us twice.  As we turned to depart, she passed us again.  In the time that we stood there, she had walked the circuit three times.  No stopping, no conversations.  The park had turned her into a daytime ghost.  She didn’t have anywhere to land.  She didn’t have a place where someone welcomed her, asked her to stay, and invited her to celebrate with them.  So few of us have places like that.

When I first saw her, I saw a person in search of connection, safety and belonging.  When I last saw her, I saw a vast rushing void growing between us, and that void was pouring forth from each of us who circled there in the park.  What are the wounds that leave this void bleeding out of us?

One life
But we’re not the same
We get to
Carry each other

Inviting Connectedness

Videos: From talking about vulnerability and shame to creating opportunities for young men of color

This series of videos, mostly TED Talks, traces one of the mental trajectories that I keep criss-crossing through lately while drawing a constellation of intuitive connections.  For me, the underlying topic is about recognizing goodness — recognizing your own goodness and recognizing the goodness of everyone you encounter.  Without that recognition, all we have is fear and shame. With that recognition, we can achieve great things in the face of today’s challenges — inequality, disconnectedness, crises of authority, isolation, etc.

It started with a conversation about vulnerability, which prompted a friend of mine to send me a link to this talk from 2010.

Brené Brown: The power of vulnerability

Then I checked out Brene Brown’s follow-up talk from two years later.

Brené Brown: Listening to shame

Brown brings up a lot about shame, self-worthiness and their connection to vulnerability.  That spurred a bunch of conversations about attachment theory and the role of self worth in one’s ability to recover from, or even risk, rejection or failure.  Since attachment theory is rooted in studies about parental love, this led to Andrew Solomon’s talk about unconditional love:

Andrew Solomon: Love, no matter what

From there, we can start talking about the hard stuff, like what prevents us from seeing other people’s goodness and worthiness of connection. Vernā Myers does a great job of opening the door to re-programming some of those habits.

Vernā Myers: How to overcome our biases? Walk boldly toward them

Our comfort with Vulnerability is directly connected to the level of shame that we feel.  Shame can be worded “I’m sorry I am that bad thing.” as opposed to guilt, which can be worded “I’m sorry I did that bad thing”.  That means recognition of your own goodness — recognizing that you are not bad/unworthy — is the opposite of shame; to believe that you are good and worthy of connection is to be unfettered by shame. All of us stand to benefit profoundly from recognizing that goodness.  Our ability (or inability) to recognize and relate with it is often tied to habits we learned from our parents, but it also comes from much broader social conditions.  We all get countless signals from the world that label us as incomplete and not good enough, but (here’s the final leap) young men of color get it way worse than most.  Hence, President Barack Obama’s Speech at the launch of My Brother’s Keeper Alliance.

I bet you’ll hear his words differently after listening to those other talks.

If you can’t get enough, here are two related playlists of TED talks.