Today’s love letter is inspired by encouragement from one of our comrades, Karly, who asked me to write about what is born in the dark.
I am thinking of Hanukkah, the days of fear, even despair that light would go out, but instead being offered a miracle of faithfulness and trust in turning toward the Oneness the Jewish people honored in their restored Temple. (It’s a relatively minor holiday in the course of the Jewish calendar, but it comes to mind in these days of darkness and secular-Christmas, nonetheless.)
I am thinking of Yule, the winter solstice, when we can feel as though hope alone is what brings the sun back—although even in despondence, we know that Earth will keep turning, that we can trust the sun to return, even if slowly.
I am thinking about Christmas, when of all the people in all the world, a largely unremarkable child is brought to birth by a couple shut out of every shelter and so a young mother labors in a stable (with or without the help of St. Bridget, depending on how you read your Irish lore), laid in the animals’ feeding place, and becomes a refugee, fleeing from his birthplace because of brutal threats. Yet stories of his life would turn the world on its head in part because he was killed for arguing against Empire and for a world order of love and peace and care for the poor.
These are stories of courage, of persistence in the face of sure destruction.
“Do not be afraid,” over and over again we hear in the Abrahamic religions, God or the angels saying to Hagar, to Mary the mother of Jesus, to lowlife shepherds, to Mary of Magdala. But how can we follow that maxim
Do not be afraid?
Do not be afraid in the face of the rising tide of Fascism in the world?
Do not be afraid of the climate crisis the Anthropocene Era has brought us through our own and our ancestors’ actions?
Do not be afraid when a rapist is appointed to the highest court in the United States?
Do not be afraid when Black trans women are killed over and over in the streets of cities around the country?
It seems the answer is yes.
After all, when the angel came to Hagar, Hagar had been sent into the desert to die and feared for the life of her tiny son.
When Gabriel came to Mary and said she would have a child not fathered by her husband, but by the Most High, the young woman (before she sings her triumphant and prophetic song, the Magnificat) must have been terrified of being punished, even killed for adultery.
When darkness got deeper and deeper and darker, and days and nights passed in darkness for the people of the frozen North, how could one avoid the creeping fear that darkness would never end?
When the women among Jesus’ followers came to his tomb with spices and fine linen to do that most holy of unclean actions—to tend to a corpse, someone who can never pay back the gift—and they were met by a person blindingly radiant, what were they to think, in their grief and fear?
Love in the moment we have
Of course we’re afraid. People have always been afraid. Empire has always been oppressive. We enslave one another. We rape one another. We torture one another. And of course, we murder one another.
And, horrifyingly, we always have.
But, as Joanna Macy, the brilliant and kind Buddhist environmentalist says of our fear for the future, we can love one another now.
Now is the only moment we have. Now is the only time we know. This is the moment I have to think and write and to know that my words may matter only to a very few, but that I can be faithful to those few.
We must not allow few to stop us in our tracks, my loves. We must now. Empire is stronger in most ways than it ever has been, but its destruction looms as surely as the fall of the Roman edifices of power did.
The birth throes of hope, though, are found in the words of an autistic teenager from Scandinavia, Greta Thunberg. Who is she to have begun a simmering revolution among young people, simply by sitting outside her school every Friday?
The travails of a new birth are found in the often-despised young, public-service attorneys who fight and fight and fight to hold corporations accountable for their astonishing lack of care for Earth.
The Mother of All the Gods is laboring with us to save our habitat, our selves, and our souls.
So let us not be afraid, my friends. Or at least let us not allow fear to have the last word. After all, the sun will return, the myths tell us over and over again that we are not Alone on this Earth. They tell us that in small places, in low places, in the mouths of young people and the tireless work of civil servants, we may find inspiration for our own courage.
Can we can find ways to be kind? Small ways that matter though no one knows you have done them? Can we can find ways to interrupt the harm done by racist, ableist, classist policies, commentary, and environments? If we’re privileged by birth, education, wealth, or all three, can we risk our own comfort, riches, and supremacy by working to dismantle the very systems that have put us in our high place?
The December holidays, you see, can en-courage us to dismantle systems of supremacy. They discourage supporting Empire. They demand persistence and fortitude.
We need not be afraid, but we must love one another (including loving Earth) now if we are to have any hope for our imagined world of justice and peace.
We must love courageously. Love fiercely. Love boldly. Love loudly. Love justly.
Blessings friends, and for those of you who are celebrating, may the gifts of the midwinter holidays shower you with love.