The radical work of freedom; being present to humanity
Miscellanea #58: On moderation, discomfort, and empathy
As June came and went, I found myself wondering what solid things could I stand on and speak for — what could I add to the conversation that might be helpful?
Miscellanea began with a mission to promote thoughtfulness… which is often to celebrate moderation — to know that issues are often more complex than I give them credit for, and to show temperance in my contemplation and debate.
First and foremost, I must make regular stops at empathy stations, the little free libraries of joyful generosity dotting our neighborhoods. I must be the open book, humble and ready to learn and to teach. I must put an end to deflecting and defecting. In our collective diagnostic of societal ills, we must swallow the pill of the ineffectiveness of our hasty ambitions and rather be slow to our solutions, so that we don’t delay meaningful progress.
Patience, understanding, and compromise. Progress is almost always incremental — we’d best make those increments significant.
Spaces remain, however, in which moderation is not overdue but wasted on anyone not listening. Sometimes, in a fight for certain unalienable rights, you must scream until your voice is heard. It’s clear to me that reaching a point at which you must scream is unduly uncomfortable (in subjective retrospect, the rare moments I’ve reached that point myself seem emotionally justifiable – I can only imagine the same for others).
It all begs the question: What has given rise to the collective rage of the marginalized? The answer, to me, seems simple: oppression. But before I criticize the structures that enforce inequality, I feel compelled to look inward and scrutinize my own role in society’s power dynamics. Societal progress, as does personal growth, always starts with a look in the mirror.
The true work of self-evaluation is uncomfortable, and does not necessarily make for a happier life — but my hope is that it makes for a better human experience. We, not me. Us, not them. Humility, empathy, kindness.
Where am I in these words? How have I upheld injustice?
Performing Whiteness — The Paris Review
I Wanted to Know What White Men Thought About Their Privilege. So I Asked. — The New York Times
On the Confederacy:
You Want a Confederate Monument? My Body Is a Confederate Monument — The New York Times
Take the Confederate Names Off Our Army Bases — The Atlantic
On the abuse of power:
I’ve Stayed Silent for Way Too Long — Lauren Holiday for The Players Tribune
“There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal… I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge.” — Toni Morrison
One last note: If you’re interested in joining a small ‘book club’, an open learning community focused on the uncomfortable work of freedom, please reply to this email with a clear and thorough explanation of your interest.