Breathe On

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“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”

Rachel Carson

My daughter and I traveled to Chicago this past weekend for a quick visit to see my brother. We were greeted with a cold that sinks into the bones. A cold that delivers to the layers of down and wool a knowing wink as it passes straight to the marrow. Huddling and chattering around paper cups of hot cocoa, we shivered our way through the city, including the architectural boat tour. The stunning Chicago riverfront a respite from the freeze. Autumn was in full display – crunchy leaves and overcast skies lent our visit a warm hue to color our memories.

On the return flight, I learned my window seat companion was en route to Montana to meet up with buddies for a hunting trip. He, a resident of Pennsylvania, had never been west of Ohio. I tend to be one of those people on the airplane. I like to pass the flight, chatting about this and that, learning and listening to stories. Mike’s and my time together was entertaining as we perused the flight map and traced the arced line to determine our general location. I’m not much help in these situations. I guessed we were somewhere over Iowa, Kansas, or Nebraska.

Anticipating his first view of the Rockies, he inquired about each and every dirt hill across the patchwork of farmland. I answered with expertise that the mountains would be obvious.

Once the peaks came into view his excitement was uncontainable, for this was his first time in twenty-seven years to witness snow covered peaks. He asked why I didn’t tell him they were so amazing. I shrugged. Words can do no justice, I said

The wonder upon his discovery was infectious. For me, flying into Denver, the view is nice but the mountains are small and distant and everything is brown this time of year. It was nice to try on his lens for awhile, to view the landscape from his perspective.

I needed his wonder for I am finding myself desensitized. As a person who seeks information and understanding, striving to respond, I realize with our current news cycle that wonder, awe, expectation have become collateral damage. This is a tragedy.

Tuesday’s attack on Manhattan barely shocked me. I was sad and hurting for the community, but the news wasn’t surprising. Has this level of violence become commonplace? Are we supposed to now accept trucks running down pedestrians and high-powered rifles spraying crowds?

I asked my daughter for her thoughts. She shrugged and said: This is the world we live in. It’s been going on my whole life. True.This is her life. This is all of our lives.

But I’m not ready to accept this as reality. I’m not ready for this to be my normal. I’m not okay with ignorance.

Just as I want to be awed by season changes and beauty in nature and snowcapped peaks, I want to remain shocked by events such as this.

But it’s every day. And I’m tired. My body, mind, and heart are not designed to consume this much information. The news is unrelenting, but I will not claim ignorance. I cannot claim ignorance.

As a teenager and college student I participated in choir and band. One of the techniques we employed to collectively carry a long tone, longer than our lungs allowed, was staggered breathing. Through negotiation and planning, my neighboring musicians and I would consult one another to determine where we could each breathe without disrupting the larger sound. This accomplished two things. One, I didn’t faint in my attempt to support the greater good. And two, the tone remained strong and healthy, aware, uninterrupted.

We have to learn how to stagger our breath. We have to protect our souls, our minds, our relationships, our communities. We protect by working together, by employing our neighbors to be on when we need to be off. We have to protect our shock and outrage, reacting as needed to injustice, abuse, and lies. We have to protect our wonder, our hope, and our generosity toward our neighbors, supporting the larger community through our wholeness.

The fight against cynicism and nihilism and numbing is real. These days are overloaded – a new crisis, a new normal, a new baseline all clamoring for our apathy. I don’t want to settle for this. My faith and my conscience won’t let me. But the fatigue is ever-present and we are being asked as a decent and loving people to endure more than we are capable.

Who are our trusted friends? Who are our fellow travelers and breath staggerers in this resistance movement for decency and hope?

We cannot afford apathy.

We must persist for joy and goodness.

Mike, my airplane neighbor, upon witnessing the snow capped Rocky Mountain peaks for the first time was reverent and grateful. He could not contain his excitement as his infectious awe melted my accustomed heart. His wonder drew a tear to my eye, a reminder of my tremendous need to claim hope.

The goodness of the world demands our rest and our fight, our outrage and our peace. Through renewal, we can stand firm and refreshed in our convictions. Through sharing the load by staggering our breathing, we can protect wonder and awe and beauty.

Breathe on friends.

2 thoughts on “Breathe On

  1. Jennifer, I just read this post. I probably skimmed it when it came around the first time on my email, but I’m glad. This morning I actually had time to read it. Thank you for this. I too am/was a choir person. Also as a soloist, I know it’s a lot easier to breathe in a group when others help carry the tones and tune. I forget that small fact as I try to carry the world’s ills on my shoulders, as I try to right everything with my singular voice. As a former conservative Christian (and a serious one!), I never ev.er thought I would be one of those people who “used to go to church”…. but at 63 years old, my hubby and I find ourselves just.that. After two of our four daughters came out as gay in 2000, and after 10 long years of loving our sinner, hating the sin, we finally realized we were the wrong ones. The church, in our humble opinion was wrong. Of course, in coming to that conclusion, it cost us. But we wouldn’t go back. We are slowly repairing relationship with one daughter (the other one stood with us all along saying “mom, we all love each other. That’s the most important part…”). We miss community with other believers (we still consider ourselves believers, but differently…), but the cost was too high. The political climate is indicative of that. There is no.way I could agree with what is going on right now… Well my dear, I didn’t mean to pour all of that out to you! Lol! Just wanted to say Thanks, and you aren’t alone! P.s. our oldest (44) lives in Fort Collins on her little farm. You two remind me soooo much of each other!! She blogs also. You can read some of hers at deblinne.com if you get an itch! Again, thanks!

    1. Loretta, Thank you for your generous comment. I love everything you said, and your bravery to leave your conservative faith so you could fully love your girls and others. What good news. I believe full healing will be yours. These are tough times as Christians – as we seek so hard to not be THOSE Christians. Please come visit our church in Longmont. We will be full time up and running in March 2018 – Left Hand Community Church (www.lefthandchurch.org). When you’re out for a visit, I’d love to meet you! Thank you for your daughter’s link too – I’ll check it out. Take care of yourself today!

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