Listening Season: Nearly Political

William Stafford, "The Way It Is"
William Stafford,
“The Way It Is”

Listening, in a loud election cycle

When I formatted the subheading above, it was huge. Really huge. I dropped it down, one level, then another. I looked at it, took away the “bold” setting, then returned it again because I wanted to be sure it still stood out as a subheading but didn’t look as though I was yelling. It’s hard to tell on the internet, sometimes.

Especially now, in the heat of the summer and the national election, it’s hard for me to suss out yelling and sarcasm online. I’m especially bad at sarcasm. Someone called me “snarky” in a real life conversation not long ago. They meant it as a compliment, and I took it as such because of the context and the company.

The truth is, though, I try not to be snarky in my writing. I went that route for a while, and it worked out fine I guess, but in the long run I thought, “do I want to be known for the sarcasm in my written words?” Ever since I discovered that the root of the word means, “to tear flesh,” I have been put off by sarcasm. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love hearing comedians or actors in movies with their snarky, sarcastic remarks. I have long-standing, well-documented crush on Jon Stewart. Done well and in the right context, I enjoy some sarcasm.

But not here, not now in the heat of the summer, and the national election. There is too much at stake. I miss the important things when I’m distracted by all the yelling and sarcasm.

I’ve said recently that I’m in a “listening season” and I am, or I try to be, at least. I fail, more often than I succeed, but I am aware, keenly aware, of my motivations, my tendencies, my hopes and my fears. I would wager that what I would say scares me about this election may not be exactly what you say scares you. And I put it this way on purpose, because at the end of the day what scares us all is probably going to boil down to be the same thing– loss.

No matter how we slice it, we don’t want to lose anything–
liberties, rights, lives
status, position, comfort

How awful it feels to have things slip away. Even things in non-election years that usually feel small and inconsequential we find ourselves snatching up, clutching to our chests, or hiding away. We drown ourselves in “what if” as though that makes any difference at all. We claw at our friends and our family members, at perfect strangers online, at distant relatives who have the gall to support the evil “other” candidate. It’s all about the perception of what we might lose. It’s understandable, I suppose.

But where is the hope? The wonder? The charity? I mean, what a terrible state we’re in if we cannot afford charity here, and I say that for you and me and everyone. I just think that if I am operating from a place of despair and fear, it’s time to lay that aside. If I am judgmental and unjustly angry, it’s time to lay that aside. If I am nasty and demeaning and sarcastic, it’s time to lay that aside. I have to be willing to lay aside my earthly cares in the midst of the frenzy of this time. And all of these, no matter how presently they may affect us, are indeed still earthly cares. That’s where I want to be, laying aside the earthly cares in favor of offering some charity and yes, being true to this listening season.

Everyone is talking, but nobody hears.

Between now and November I’m making an effort to listen and to hear, to find moments of hope, wonder, and charity. I’m going to read a lot of poetry, and words of the desert fathers and mothers, and I’m going to pray, because there’s no shortage of need there for any of us.
How ’bout it? Are you with me?

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