The most swinging, dinging DING! of Sunday’s WOW realizations arrived during that evening’s Civil Conversations event, sponsored by my birth faith, held in the church’s beautiful social hall, a place dear to my heart. I mention that because the room was full of memories for me, as well as a host of people who have been part of my life spanning back to my youngest days. From our moment of arrival, the gathering had a weirdly wonderful funkalicious feel.
The Civil Conversations Project, “planting relationship and conversation around subjects we fight about intensely,” is the brain child of the great Krista Tippett, a major influence over the last year. The opportunity to be connected with it through the church that nurtured me seemed beyond wondrous.
All of which is to say I was super psyched Sunday night to be uplifted & inspired. I did not expect to be shocked.
All week, I’d looked forward to hearing “fresh language to approach each other.” To reviewing the six “grounding virtues” of the Project – – words that matter, generous listening, adventurous civility, humility, patience & hospitality.
It meant the world to me that my once tradition-bound church has loosened up enough to embrace that “change come about at the margins,” that “people in the center are not going to be the big change makers,” as Frances Kissling shared with Krista & is quoted in the Project’s Better Conversations – a starter guide.
John & I walked up to the church building with anticipation & excitement. I’d chewed the poor man’s ear off over the past year, hauling him onto The Retreat or barging into his studio to read this passage or pages, to have him take a listen to an interview. So much of what I love hearing on Krista’s radio program, On Being, and in her book – thoroughly underlined, pages turned down, sticky notes throughout – Becoming Wise has become part of my spiritual fiber. And now I was about to hear people I deeply care about & wildly respect channeling her in my own birth church. The blue bird of happiness, nesting in my own back yard!
With all those expectations, all the deeply held affection for Krista’s messages about tender-hearted communication, connection, community building, I had not, for a moment, wondered, “What if they go off track, as I understand those rails to be?” That is what, to my stunned shock, happened.
The evening’s large & small conversations were rooted consideration of the terms TOLERATE, TOLERANCE. My dropped jaw was not over the fact that tolerance is NOT one of the Project’s grounding virtues, but because in everything that I have read & heard, it is a concept that Krista had openly & decisively rejected as too small, too flat, too unfeeling to be more than “a civic tool, but is not big enough in human, ethical spiritual terms.” In what I’ve read, heard, she holds that hospitality, that love are the concepts we need to bring into play to bridge differences with respect, compassion, shared humanity.
There I sat, in ths social hall & later in a small group, at first swept with an all-too-familiar feeling of “Gee, I surely bungled that – got an upside-down message from Krista. What Chuck & Bronwen & Pauline are saying is NOT what I understood. Once again, am out of the loop, woefully out of step.”
It was important to fully feel that, if only for an instant, because it WAS how I all too often felt until a few years back, when an observation by the great Jane Kerschner – life coach par excellence- snapped me out of it. But there that old limitation was, in full, last night, making me feel for an instant like crawling into a hole & pulling the dirt over me.
Except THIS time, that feeling dissipated almost as soon as it was felt. This time, I knew that either Krista has seriously changed her tune over the past year or the presenters had chosen an off-kilter topic as the guiding intention for the introductory evening.
My experiences on Sunday night were not what I expected entering that beloved building, but they were about as ring-a-ding DING! as they come. I came to appreciate that we tolerate & have tolerance for behaviors -and- love & respect people. That I can respect another’s right to different opinions, even when anathema to me; that even when someone makes my heart sink & my skin crawl, I am honor-bound to recognize our shared humanity.
And I find myself wondering about all those other times across the years, from childhood to last night, when I felt terminally out of the loop, out of step – maybe I wasn’t hopelessly clueless, intellectually whackadoodle. Maybe I just saw things differently, maybe I was one on the right track. There’s a lot of liberation & unleashing in those maybes.
I did not come away from last night’s event with even a smidgen of what I’d expected, but the greatest, most glorious DING! DING! DING! of my day was precisely what I needed.
Looking forward to the next three New Church LIVE Sunday services, building on last night with conversations on discovering “our voice, as we search for the words that created worlds,” to the Civil Conversation facilitator training on 02/27 & 04/29, to exploring the Passport to Understanding from Interfaith Philadelphia. To nurturing what Brene Brown, in a treasured Krista interview, describes as a strong back, soft front & wild heart. To using tolerance as a civic tool for moving past behaviors, while leaning toward conversation with love.