...it starts when you say We
and know who you mean, and each
day you mean one more.
~ Marge Piercy, from The Low Road
Out of all our themes this year, resistance is among the most complex. But it also may be the most simple.
Let’s start with the complexity.
Sometimes resistance involves bravely picking up a picket sign; other times it asks us to courageously put down our masks and expose who we really are. Sometimes it involves defeating the enemy; other times it’s a matter of noticing that treating them as the enemy defeats us all.
Often the path of resistance asks us to stay in it for the long haul, but just as often it’s about taking that first tiny step. Most of the time it requires us to fight to the bitter end, and yet there are many moments when we need to stop resisting and let go.
Resistance certainly takes the form of speaking the truth to power, but often what the world needs even more is for us to speak the truth in love.
Bottom line: the path of resistance is tricky business and takes multiple, even contradictory, forms.
But beyond this complexity lies the simplicity of Marge Piercy’s words. In all cases, she reminds us, the path of resistance starts when we say “We!” For instance, the power of our picket sign resides in the fact that it hangs alongside those of others. Being who we are usually begins with another loving us for who we are. Both the long haul and our first courageous step are made possible by reaching out to receive a helping hand.
It’s all one big reminder that none of us resist alone.
Or maybe what really needs to be said this month is that none of us have to resist alone. Each and every path of resistance is daunting. But they are made even more daunting when we tell ourselves that we must travel those paths by ourselves.
So, yes, we certainly need pushed and prodded this month. But maybe what we need most is to be reassured. Reassured that - when the road gets too treacherous, when the forces against us grow too big, others will be by our side. Maybe it’s not more courage that is required, but more connection. Maybe what we really need to hear is not simply “Resist!” but “I will resist with you!” and “Let’s start with ‘WE’!”
Maybe it is as simple as that.
It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.
~ Wendell Berry
This month is a tricky one for us UUs. Let’s be honest. Berry’s celebration of vulnerability and limits is just not our thing. We are, after all, the religion of human potential, goodness and power! We don’t sing at impeded streams; we break through them. We don’t put up with confused minds; we keep at it until we become un-baffled. When we no longer know what to do, we just turn to each other and figure it out together.
There is something deeply inspiring about viewing ourselves so capable and strong. But there’s a shadow side too. In pursuit of being our best and most powerful selves, we often fear leaning into vulnerability.
It becomes a problem. The thing we need to protect ourselves from.
But it is a protection that betrays.
The theologian, C.S. Lewis, gets at this in his reflection on the vulnerability of love:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to keep it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”
In other words, there’s a big difference between breaking and being broken open. Yes, leaning into vulnerability is frightening. But often, it also unlocks a door, allowing grace to drift in.
For instance, a loved one dies and, to our surprise, our hearts aren’t just crushed, they are cracked open, illuminating beauty just a little more clearly. The absence we thought would haunt us, actually unveils how deeply we loved, and how lucky we are to have loved.
Or what about when we’re finally honest about the fears and burdens we hide? In that leap of courage, we discover that telling our truths doesn’t just make us feel weak or exposed; it opens our eyes. We become able to see that others hide their pain and fear too. And with that, the faceless crowd becomes a sea of fellow travelers. All of us connected. All of us aware how much kindness is needed, even when the other’s pain is not easy to see.
It’s all about understanding that vulnerability isn’t weakness but a softer form of strength.
Remembering that isn’t easy. But it is necessary. It’s maybe our most real work, as our friend Wendell Berry would say.