How to Find Your Voice

By Reverend Leslie Kee

Recently, there’s been a tremendous human-caused disturbance within the ‘force’ – that web of material, cosmic, living energy in which all life on earth participates. For those of us who have a heightened awareness of this phenomenon, it’s become a matter of managing all the inundations of garbled frequencies and energy streams which are surging and ebbing through our very being.

For those of us who are more comfortable in a less mystical context, and prefer a more objective, quantifiable perspective — we all are still experiencing the same thing – a complex, disturbing, inundation of garbled voices, messages, and urgencies coming from, in particular, the larger American community in which we live.

Today’s nexus can be described as a point in time directly linked to the traumatic and egregious wounds created by the institution of slavery and which were woven into the fabric of our fledgling democracy. The institution of slavery was an acute injury inflicted on our collective spirit; and its legacy is like a festering wound which has not been allowed to heal properly; and so a state of spiritual health for all the American people has not been attained.  

And this is why it still hurts. I’m sure I’m not the only one who prays the death of George Floyd will be the last of its kind – that we have reached a tipping point where this public surge of  assertive love combined with the increments of progress we have made toward learning how to actually value diversity – will push the tides of change further along, so our collective health – our big, bustling, busy, and beautiful American community’s spiritual health, will continue to improve; growing more diverse, smarter, compassionate, and more spiritually resilient than ever before.

 It seems there are as many ways to think about, analyze, question, debate, and articulate the issue, as there are stars in the universe. And for every slogan, explanation, criticism, and opinion, the tendency to essentialize causes a glitch in the objective analysis and we end up with too much simplistic thinking, for example, ‘if you are black, you are a criminal; or if you wear a blue uniform, you are a racist cop.’  Obviously, the flaw in this thought-process is that it conveniently skips over the inconvenient truth: not all black folks are criminals, not all law enforcement personnel are racist. Not all LGBTQ folks are sexual predators. Not all women are hysterically-emotional. Not all white men are …. You get the picture.

When we start from here, a place of truth, then all the other problems and conditions associated with racism become exposed for what they are: symptoms of an unhealthy strand of moral fiber intentionally woven into America’s cultural fabric the day the Europeans ‘discovered’ the new world. And so what we are witnessing today is the continuation of this original thread of racism unraveling. The Civil War, the Civil Rights Movement, and now Black Lives Matter – these are the implements the people are using to pull this corrupt fiber out of our social fabric.

For those of us who are not black, our job is to be an ally. We are responsible for educating ourselves on all the dimensions of racism and the struggle for racial justice. No matter how many friends of color you have, they are not responsible for your racial education.

Once we, who are not black, learn to be political allies, then we will understand why, yes, all lives matter, but this is about black lives right now, and it is disrespectful to try and make it about something else. Racial violence against African Americans in this country is not our story to tell, it a story we must listen to and respond to with compassion and humility, and most of all we must not interrupt!

The machinations of activism are pretty straightforward and many of us, especially the younger white generation, get it and are competent in our role as ally. But the place from where the most effective power is rising is the spiritual dimension.

One of my Native American teachers, the Dakota Elder, Floyd Red Crow Westerman** shares with us his understanding,

Time evolves and then comes to a place when it renews again. There is first a purification time, then there is a renewal time. We are getting very close to this time now. In the Hopi prophecy, they say the storms and floods will become greater. To me its not a negative thing to know there will be great changes – it’s not negative – it’s evolution – it’s time. Nothing stays the same.

We are told we would see America come and go, and in a sense, America is dying from within because they forgot the instructions on how to live on earth …  humans’ ability to live on earth is a spiritual way (and so humans) will come to a crossroad of great problems.  It is the Hopi belief that if you’re not spiritually connected to the earth and you don’t understand the spiritual reality of how to live on earth, it’s likely you will not make it.

Everything is spiritual. Everything has a spirit. Everything was brought to us by the creator – some people call him god, some people call him Allah, (some call it Mother Nature or creation) we call him Tonkashila – grandfather.

We are here on earth only a few winters, then we go to the spirit world. The spirit world is more real than most of us believe. The spirit world is everything.

You should learn how to plant something. That is the first connection. You should treat all things as spirit and realize that (in the spiritual way) we are one family. It’s never something like the end, it’s like life, there is no end to life.

When I was a young adult, I was given the gift of understanding the spiritual nature of the world. This is an ancient wisdom which was kept alive by the traditional people who whispered the stories to the children and so kept the truth in the words alive. For me, my Native American teachers gifted me with an invitation, and some pointers, on how to travel a path toward inner enlightenment and eventual spiritual health.

To this day, my spiritual outlook and practice help maintain a state of ease between my mind, body and spirit, therefor all dis-ease, or unwellness, is transitory. I am thankful every day that my aliveness is healthy and thriving, and I am always humbled by this blessing.

When the Europeans came to this land, they came for many reasons, all of which contributed to the weaving of the social fabric we live within today.

But more important than the society they created, was the fact, first and foremost, each of them was a human being. No single human is perfect and certainly no group of humans is perfect, but being human transcends the material societies humans build in order to go about the business of daily living.

And so this is why, in my head, I understand the material, tangible, and essential dimensions of democracy in action. I also know why I cry so easily these days, and why my heart is painfully heavy with all the deep sadness I am sharing with so many fellow human beings. I also know this specific incident is one more with the potential to be relegated into a larger pool of symptoms, all of which are indicative of the spiritual malaise which has plagued America since the beginning.

The truth is demanding to be set free from the bonds of ignorance, fear, and violence because truth serves the flourishing of life – no matter how inconvenient and difficult it may be for humans to embrace its beautiful complexity.

As human beings, our spiritual integrity is no more worthy than any other of the earth’s forms of life – Mitakye Oasin, All My Relation – this is the spiritual reality of life on earth; and so it is possible to heal ourselves by bringing the power of the human spirit to bear on the spiritual illness we have inflicted upon ourselves.

Life always finds a way to break free, and so we must do everything we can to contribute to this struggle so our collective spirit will heal, because real lasting change happens one child at a time.   

**Source: Notes from a talk given by F. Westerman

From the UUA Worship Web, used with permission:

Circle ‘Round for Freedom” (by Linda Hirschhorn; #155 in Singing the Living Tradition) by Dr. Glen Thomas and Allison Halerz. Editing by Mike Halerz.

Adam and Matt Podd’s arrangement of “My Life Flows on in Endless Song” (“How Can I Keep From Singing”), featuring musicans and singers from Grace Chorale of Brooklyn, First Unitarian Congregational Society in Brooklyn, and First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn. (Quaker text; melody by American Baptist minister Robert Wadsworth Lowry; #108 in Singing the Living Tradition).