SUNLIGHT AND SHADOW: Really? It Has to Be This Way?
To Dwell in the Oasis of the Human Spirit
Welcome to the early March light of Sunlight and Shadow.
As winter persists, I am still feeling much of the dark and cold being cast by our political and social divides.
Divisiveness as a whole is always worth dwelling on, as it is antithetical to goals and operations to a healing and light-giving entity like OCCC, to the care needed for protecting our life-giving planet, to communities’ abilities to feed all members with resources and respect, and to the ever challenging path of wisdom and science.
Much is at stake here for all of us. The point: togetherness. We are present to our time and to our place together. We all dwell in the here and now. This capacity for togetherness will define the amount of light or shadow in our children’s future and the well-being of the 7th generation of the 7th generation.
Where and how can such a gathering occur that allows for a brighter “dwelling” together? It is a place and a method I will call the well and oasis of the human spirit!
Yes, oasis can have a mystery and dream-like quality about it. The problem then is to define and describe the life-giving promise of such a place so it can truly hold us together.
To dwell in the oasis of the human spirit. I am calling up the better spirits of Martin Heidegger who used the word “dwell” in a new philosophical sense in the twentieth century to help us out here. It is our human condition that we “dwell in the House of Being”. Being is where we humans find ourselves (almost by magic) in a big world and wide universe.
Heidegger gave us a word for this: dasein. “To be there”. To be there at that place we happen to find ourselves and have the human consciousness to question Being, to order Being, and to be present to Being.
How life often works. Things just happen, and there we are: Oklahoma October ice storms, deep, long winter freezes, political insurrection, and global pandemics! Flat tires, missed appointments, and tight bank accounts! The capital “B” Being house we all find ourselves in is our planet earth and all of its people and species, and the little ”b” being house is our particular abode and presence.
Like the home we hope is safe for us or like OCCC being a nurturing place for all of us who are here and present to its needs and promises and mission. And like each of us, these abodes of being cast their own spirit shadow/light into the world.
Must spirit shadows be an umbra of exclusion, or as I would like to argue, a penumbra and luminosity of inclusion?
This oasis of finding our deepest well of human kind, this Rumi’s field of the richness and overwhelming awe of just being alive and aware, this place for us to work together, is right there in each of us. It is only up to each of us to take the journey to find it.
When we do, as through self-reflection or through education or through the support of others, we find life-giving companionship. What a place for the human spirit to spring forth!
In both the big Being and in the little being, housework is always called for. Thus, caring and planning and organizing and political principles and house-cleaning are all in order to live in some kind of harmony or, at least, with a social contract of a Rousseau or Hobbes or Locke or American Constitution. (I’m still a Rousseau guy all the way!)
My point here is that politics and the Humanities and the human spirit dwell in the same oasis: our human homeland.
Like it or not, we are all family in Being. To dwell anywhere is a given and a responsibility.
So what is spirit? Easy-peazy: spirit is what happens when you are feeling down in traffic, but that one song comes on and sends you to your happy place. A total surprise, but there you are!
When a mother or father come home from deployment and hugs follow and tears flow! When you simply smile at someone on the street and see an immediate bounce in her step.
For me, when I hear a Johann Strauss waltz. My spirit lights up no matter where I am at! When you pick up the heavy load of a cause worth fighting for and move forward with others.
Those end of a news show feel-good pieces. These are the realities of the human spirit.
What if news began there and not ended there?
Our great caretakers and minds and hearts and souls of history have always wanted that for us. But that is for another story about education and what we deem valuable to teach and practice.
To the divide! Into the breach! Divides are real: totalitarianism vs democracy, poor vs wealth, race bias vs human respect, conservative vs progressive, etc. and etc.!
I get tired and sad just listing them! Sad because divisions are only one way of Being in the world together.
And as the world grows closer together in communication and travel and technology, divisions are not even a rational or intelligent way to be in Being any longer.
The argument is, “Well, the world is dangerous, we are tribal, and we need to protect our own”. I exclaim, with King and Rumi and with so many others, the world is something else, too!
It is our beautiful planet, a day after day story of people loving each other, of hopeful breakthroughs in science and new beauties in art! New spirits of freedom around the world! There is an old battle (division) in Philosophy: first the egg or first the chicken?
Does life precede from our human consciousness or does our consciousness and understanding proceed form our life? Idealism or realism? Liberalism or Conservatism?
I say the contest has dragged on long enough. Stalemate.
Rather, like Alexander’s wisdom, loosen the Gordian Knot. Allow the plowshare that once was the sword to till new land.
Work and be and reach out from the home of our better human spirit. Be those better angels who Lincoln still calls upon every day for our sake in order to be a better country and a better people. Deep breath, deep hope, and appreciate the beauty that is our home planet and our greater family. And always to support our young persons and students and graduates who will seed our better future.
For less shadow and more light! Go Humanities