By Rev. Anna Blaedel
Sink into these words of poetry, dear ones, from Rupi Kaur:
the universe took its time on you
crafted you to offer the world
something different from everyone else
when you doubt
how you were created
you doubt an energy greater than us both
As we transition from 2017 toward 2018, I’ve found myself captivated by a single word: imagination. Imagine: you are irreplaceable. Imagine: you are crafted to offer the world something different from everyone else. Imagine: you are an irreplaceable part of this interconnected, interdependent web of precarious, precious life. (Which of course means, so too is each and every one of a wildly expansive “us.”) If you can’t quite proclaim that definitively yet, practice imagining it to be true.
Imagination is wrapped up in dreaming. Visioning. Longing. Listening and leaning into possibilities for our collective living and loving that we can barely being to imagine possible. Possibilities like: tenderness and compassion and justice seeping into our political structures and reflected in our economic and immigration policies; abundant resources for community initiatives that foster creativity, and encourage creating art, meaning, community, beauty, & connection; honoring and centering the wisdoms and needs of the most vulnerable, the most marginalized; tending tenderly to each and every life and love as cherished, valued, honored, sacred, irreplaceable.
In his powerful book Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination, Robin D. G. Kelley writes, “Sometimes I think the conditions of daily life, of everyday oppressions, of survival, not to mention the temporary pleasures accessible to most of us, render much of our imagination inert. We are constantly putting out fires, responding to emergencies, finding temporary refuge, all of which make it difficult to see anything other than the present.” Kelley is not suggesting we ignore urgent matters of survival, here and now. Wars raging and threatened; daily bread and food insecurity; political manipulations meant to enhance fear, hate, and despair; police brutality and ecological devastation; violence against black people, brown people, immigrants, refugees, trans folk, poor folk, queer folk, all those treated as disposable rather than irreplaceable. What he is saying: “Without new visions we don’t know what to build, only what to knock down. We not only end up confused, rudderless, and cynical, but we forget that making a revolution is not a series of clever maneuvers and tactics but a process that can and must transform us…Struggle is par for the course when our dreams go into action. But unless we have the space to imagine and a vision of what it means fully to realize our humanity, all the protests and demonstrations in the world won’t bring about our liberation.”
Imagine liberation. Envision justice mingling with delight. How do justice, liberation, and delight feel, sound, taste, & look, enfleshed? Dream of those possibilities that emerge out of our deepest longings. The barely imaginable possibilities that urge us to lean in, inspire us to reach out, compel us to dig deep, enable us to dream big, motivate us to roll up our sleeves and open our hearts and do the transformative work of enfleshing these dreams.
I’m imagining how I might make space to imagine, and vision, and dream.
Slowing down. Taking time. Practicing mindfulness. Practicing Sabbath. Turning away from screens. Turning off my phone. Listening to music. Making music. Lighting candles. Burning incense. Walking in the woods. Sitting in silence. Breathing deep. Gathering strangers and beloveds at table. (All ways of saying: praying. In whatever ways work for you.)
Seeking the wisdom of poets and prophets and activists and revolutionaries who have gone before. And, those who are coming up, now. Those who have experience staying tender in terrifying times. Those who have fought fascism and fear-mongering with fierce passion and compassion. Those who love deeply and live vibrantly when powers and principalities wielding death and destruction seem insurmountable. This means centering, especially, black and brown women and queer people who have been fighting for their lives and loves when no one else would. Those who have been finding and making and sharing beauty and connection and joy when doing so requires courage, and creative persistence. Audre Lorde. Grace Lee Boggs. Barbara Smith. Jayne Cortez. Angela Davis. Demita Frazier. June Jordan. Toni Cade Bambara. Bessie Smith. Sonia Sanchez. Ntozake Shange. Miss Major Griffin-Gracy. Octavia Butler. Marsha P. Johnson. Lourdes Ashely Hunter. Gloria Anzaldúa. Nina Simone. CeCe McDonald. Alicia Garza. Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor. Ijeoma Oluo. Roxane Gay. Reina Gossett. Patrisse Khan-Cullors. (Keep adding to the list, and expanding the canon.)
Lingering in the telling of truths that matter. Lingering in stories that tell truths that matter. Listening to and lingering in and sharing stories and songs and poems of revolution, collective action, political resistance, creative resistance. This lingering takes time, and can itself feel impossible when schedules are packed and demands are pressing and capitalism tells us faster and more is better. But. But. But. And. Kelley reminds us, “Yes, jobs are valuable and necessary in a world where everything—even food, shelter, and clothing—is a commodity. But now is the time to think like poets, to envision and make visible a new society, a peaceful, cooperative, loving world without poverty and oppression, limited only by our imaginations.”
May it be so.