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The Possibility of Unity

The Possibility of Unity

By Martha E. Fagan, RN, BSN

Again, this week my intention was to write about the fresh start of a new year—beginning the year strong, discussing ways to replace rote resolutions with energizing practices—helping us live into our best selves.

And again, this week, that path doesn’t feel right.  As we face such discontent and unrest in our country, standing on opposite sides of so many issues, writing about individual pursuits seems out of touch with the reality of the moment.

Krista Tippett, host of the weekly podcast, On Being, wrote the following this week in her newsletter, The Pause.  Her words resonated with me as she identified the hesitation of saying anything right now…words have such power. Maybe the best thing we can do is ask probing questions about how we’ve come to this place and how we can slowly gently begin to bridge the divide.

She writes… 

“I’ve always called myself a lover of language and of the limits of language. But this week I take no pleasure in how tongue-tied I feel, standing before the disarray and fragility of our life together. It’s hard to put words out into the world right now for so many reasons. That they’re not big enough. That they never tell the whole truth. That we live in a moment so on edge and reactive that someone will take offense, or be wounded by my words, and that feels harder than ever before to risk and to bear.

There is an insanity to our life together right now that is directly related to the tenuous hold on sanity so many of us feel after surviving this past year.  

That does not justify hatred or violence.

It does mean that we’re called to be as gentle with ourselves and others as we can possibly, reasonably muster. That sounds like such a modest contribution to the tumult all around and on our screens, but it is not.

We cannot conjure up something so aspirational as “unity” by wishing it, and we are in fact impoverished when it comes to “common ground” between our societal trenches. 

But if I’ve heard one thing most insistently, with an infinite variety of circumstance and struggle, from absolutely every beautiful and wise human I’ve ever met, it is this: We are creatures made, again and again, by what would break us. Yet only if we open to the fullness of the reality of what goes wrong for us, and walk ourselves with and through it, are we able to integrate it into a new kind of wholeness on the other side.

Our collective need for a new kind of wholeness might be the only aspiration we can share across all of our chasms right now.

Longings, too, can be common ground. A shared desire not to be lost to bitterness. A clear-eyed commitment that what divides us now does not have to define what can become possible between us. Questions, honestly asked, about how to make that real.”

As we honor the great Martin Luther King, Jr. and his commitment to pursuing equal rights through non-violent means, may we too find ways to make it through this week and the transfer of power peacefully.  We must let the democratic process and traditions that have served us for generations serve us now.  And we must earn back trust in one another believing that we want what is best for all Americans regardless of race or religion.

May we remember our shared humanity, and may we come through this next week peacefully, walking next to one another as we move toward unity.


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