This has been yet another week where my Facebook feed has exploded with the rage and disappointment of those who feel that their government is not working for them and not working for us all and perhaps not working at all.
I understand the rage, but I still find it exhausting.
This week, too, I've been exchanging writing with my Sociology friend, and we've had an e-mail conversation about all the ways that education has changed. She feels rage about the ways that the educational structure has been given to the administrators, especially the HR folks and the Compliance people and all the ones in charge of Institutional Effectiveness. This sadness and rage, too, I understand. Life in Higher Ed is not what most of us expected when we were in grad school. I feel a bit less betrayed, since when I was in grad school, it was beginning to be clear that we were being prepared for academic lives that were disappearing out from under us all.
This morning, in my Internet ramblings, I came across a quote from Thomas Merton, in this post from the ever-wonderful Parker Palmer:
“…we can no longer rely on being supported by structures that may be destroyed at any moment by a political power or a political force. You cannot rely on structures. They are good and they should help us, and we should do the best we can with them. But they may be taken away, and if everything is taken away, what do you do next?”
This quote is from a speech that he gave to a conference of monks in Bangkok a few hours before he died in 1968. Quoting a Tibetan lama who was forced to flee his monastery and his homeland, Merton advised the monks, “From now on, Brother, everybody stands on his own feet.”
I find it an odd comfort that a spiritual giant like Thomas Merton wrestled with many of these same feelings that so many of the rest of us face these days.
Parker Palmer has written eloquently about the idea that Merton expresses, that there is a hidden wholeness beneath it all, if we just open our eyes to see. Palmer reminds us that we will be judged differently than how the world tells us we will be judged:
"As long as we are wedded to 'effectiveness' we will take on smaller and smaller tasks, for they are the only ones with which we can get results. If we want to witness to important but impossible values like love, truth and justice, there must be a standard that trumps effectiveness. The name of that standard is 'faithfulness.' At the end of the road, I will not be asking about outcomes. I’ll be asking if I was faithful to my gifts, to the needs I saw around me, to the ways in which my gifts might meet those needs, to 'the truth of the work itself.'”
May we find the strength to be true to our gifts and faithful to the true work.
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