This morning I hugged my daughter. Several times. Before I climbed into the “car service” car to go to JFK. Before I left her standing alone on the sidewalk in front of her hip industrial-style loft in a beginning-to-gentrify neighborhood, where Ridgewood meets Bushwick.
There is still all the old stuff — auto body and parts shops, minimalist (from low-budgets, not in a Zen way) mom & pop bodegas, lots of graffiti and broken bits of old everything. In between all that there’s a somewhat upscale Italian restaurant that looks a cross between back lot industrial, hippie, European, and tropical, a few hip cafes, and one open-air “beer garden” with lots of picnic tables painted bright pink, sky blue, or lime green with assorted mix-and-match umbrellas, and a jazz-y metal door with brightly-colored triangles. The energy entirely happy.
My daughter and her fiancé could not afford their apartment were it in most Brooklyn neighborhoods. So I’m happy for them. Also happy for their sense of adventure and youthful energy to explore the new and unfamiliar. In their neighborhood it’s pretty easy to tell who the newcomers are. Soon enough there will be displacement of the poor and working middle. Which might eventually be them. I try to hold these contradictions and try not to hold my breath.
At the end of my week in Brooklyn, I was beyond grateful for the good time I’d gotten to share — with my daughter and her fiancé. With his parents. With my cousin Neil and his fabulous wife (artist and jewelry maker Robin Sulkes) and their great kids Hana and Andre. I loved going to 54 Below with Neil, Robin, and Hana and getting to see Anna and her girl group perform. I was particularly happy meeting the wonderfully talented and lovely Melanie Brook, a friend of Anna’s and a singer/actress I have admired at a 3,000 mile distance since the two of them started singing mash-ups together a year ago (before a third girl Kerri George joined and they became “The Mashup Project” — now re-incarnated into the band “Shanley”).
Even the weather shined its good graces on this little trip, a much needed respite from San Francisco summer cold and grey.
There was however a back story that played like a funeral dirge (and included too many real-life ones) the entire time, reminding me of the greater picture. Reminding me of this present-moment time of crisis and opportunity. Reminding me that we can make choices, that in a sense we are obligated to make choices.
A choice. It takes a lot more energy to untangle knots and find the non-linear complexity of our interconnectedness than to just grab hold of some ancient knotted story of suspicion and hatred, who is us and who is them in the first two sentences and the vanquishing of the other by the end.
It takes energy to remember to keep looking at our own unconscious biases that leak epigenetically and parentally-programmed fear, suspicion, and blame from long-hidden, ancient wells of conditioned thinking.
I was SO happy to be in New York. I was also SO sad to see that two more innocent Black men had been shot by police. The videos of the shootings were beyond upsetting. To fully comprehend #BlackLivesMatter is vital.
I also get why some people feel drawn to the phrase #AllLivesMatter. It’s complicated.
Richmond Chief of Police Chris Magnus stands with demonstrators along Macdonald Ave. to protest the Michael Brown and Eric Garner deaths during a peaceful demonstration in Richmond, Calif., on Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014. (Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group)
I know for sure that #BlackLivesMatter is somehow key, essential, critical to our understanding of the hugeness of racism and its ongoing impact in our country. And separate but connected, the murder of the Dallas police officers is also tragic and wholly unjustifiable. And then there was the compassionate, open-hearted response of the community.
What to do?
For one thing, for inspiration, check out the Richmond Police Department’s official website.
Speaking up can be a rough and bumpy road. It can feel like a big risk, sometimes ill-rewarded. A little like this plane I am writing in, where the “fasten your seat belts” signs keep going on and off. Turbulence happens. Like conflict, we try to avoid it. In a plane we fasten our seat belts. Close our eyes. Pray. Whatever your thing is. On the ground, we keep quiet, hide out, or speak aggressively. It’s pure amygdala-based fight or flight. In a highly charged debate, to engage conversationally in a problem-solving fashion (utilizing our pre-frontal cortex) is a skill most of us never got taught.
If you’ve been listening, but not speaking up, now is a good time to practice speaking up. For those who speak a lot and don’t listen well or deeply, try that. We all need to strengthen our abilities with deep listening and wise speech. It’s not easy, but it for sure won’t happen if we don’t practice.
Holding paradox, sadness and happiness at the same time takes some mental and emotional agility. For the most part, we weren’t raised with it. So we need to practice.
This week I practiced a lot. I had a great time in New York and I’m sad to be leaving. I’m sad about how our human confusions and delusions too often cause grave harm and I’m happy that so many humans have been sharing a lot of wisdom and kindness.
I’m glad people have been speaking up, recording, videoing and sharing some deep truths and realities and generosity of spirit. We can do this. People speaking up and out gives me hope as I continue to cross the Great Divide, now flying over South Dakota, which surely must hold a deep metaphor for our time and place. Probably Indigenous Peoples’ wisdom. Probably about stewardship rather than ownership. Probably about protecting the Earth, Oceans, and Skies, sharing with each other and all species, and expressing gratitude. Probably something like that, radiating out from South Dakota in all directions across the Great Divide.