A Possible Jubilee in 2022

Mast General Store Valle Crucis, NC
Copyright 2022 JRobin Whitley

For the past few months, the dog and I have been moving from Beech Mountain to Boone. On the way to and from Beech Mountain, there were banks of snow where everyone has been trying to dig out from 12 or more inches of snow in the High Country. Driving down Hwy 105, a flicker at the side of the road caught my eye. As I drove by, there was a book laying on the side of the road open as if asking the passersby to consider its pages. As a book lover, I was indeed tempted to stop and see which book had been cast aside on a snowy day.

Returning to Boone, I sit in the comfort of Heather’s home with Birdie and her two dogs, Luna and Ginger. The clock ticks quietly on the wall keeping its own weird time. Though the battery and second hand still work properly, the hands that count the minutes and hours have fallen

Birdie loving a sunbeam.

and won’t hold up. Somehow, in this time of wild weather and still COVID worldwide, weird time seems appropriate. There’s an end-of-the-world clock somewhere. I keep trying to forget it exists as it measures humanity’s disregard of the earth and our atmosphere. Maybe my own clock is simply a reminder of how fleeting our lives are as humans – that in each second, let us choose love instead of harm. More likely, the move simply wore the clock out. She’s had enough of hard times and wants to do as she pleases. That’s okay too…even if it’s a bit maddening to look up and be confused by the time of day versus what that clock says.

Birds are still searching our porches for every seed we’ve cast into the snow or added to our planters. Blue jays huge and blue send intelligent looks over the front porch as if assessing its width and length. Sparrows and cardinals dance in and out between the blue jay visits. We’ve had gorgeous Eastern towhees and of course, the sweet juncos and chickadee.

Looking out the window, the sky promises more snow. The news, well, it is rarely “good” anymore, is it? Like most during the times of COVID, fatigue from all the deaths and illness have worn me to a fray. Yet, there is also an exquisite beauty in my life now; though the world often feels like its falling apart around me. At my center however is peace. Ever since the chaos worsened, I’ve floundered about wondering if I should change how I engage in the world – to be more “active” as an activist. The challenge has been how to keep my health balanced if trying to do more. Then, last week I had the same reminder from two different groups. The reminder is that music, love, and peace DO change the world if only in my immediate space.

Last Thursday morning, I joined Central Synagogue’s conversation with the leaders of Exodus Transitional Community, Inc.* In particular, the leaders of the synagogue and the community are talking about the power of the year of Jubilee where prisoners are set free. The work is large and exhausting. Hearing of the power of the work and the leaders’ dedication in some ways made me feel even less empowered as a 60-year-old musician. Then, one of the leaders of Exodus pointed out that music is not only something we all need in such hard times but also that music has its own power to transform. Though I’ve believed this in my life, at times, it feels like I’m much more of a “David wannabe” in a world of Goliaths. However, the leader’s reminder was a powerful one. Then, later that night, after a different conversation and with different people, we were talking about Eknath Eswaran’s understanding of the Bhagavad Gita. Picking a line that best summarizes the conversation is challenging but this resonates today:

[During contemplation] “In practical terms, you become aware that you are not a separate creature; the sense of separateness characteristic of physical awareness has disappeared…Beyond and beneath the world of change, there is only direct awareness of a world that is one and indivisible, infinite, radiant.”[1]

Or, in my own simple words, by bringing peace to myself, my community, family, friends, I bring and give that peace to the entire world. That doesn’t mean I can’t continue to support movements dedicated to Social Justice, only that at this age, I don’t have to become someone else. Standing up for those in need, getting out to vote, working to assure that others can vote and have basic human rights is still an important part of the life of a person of faith. I love how Reform Judaism talks about the importance of ’repairing the world’. There is so much to love about our natural world. Each of us humans has gifts but also faults. We can learn to listen, work together, create more beauty together. Perhaps we too can claim a year of Jubilee where we free ourselves from hatred, divisiveness, and fear. These are things we CAN do regardless of our financial or physical abilities. I’m not saying it’s easy because I know from trying to choose love time and again that it is often frightening and hurts. But if I can free myself from these harmful ways of being, who knows what can happen?

“I think that if we can move our work, whatever work we’re up to, whatever kind of desire that we have for our own development in life, to be willing to face discomfort and receive it as opportunity for growth and expansion and a commentary about what is now more available to us, rather than what it is that is limiting us and taking something away from us, that we will — in no time at all, we will be a society that enhances the lives of all our species. We will be in a society that thrives and knows that the planet must thrive with us. We will be in a society that knows that no one that is suffering serves the greater community, and that no one that is suffering is not an indicator of the ways in which the society itself is suffering.” ~Rev. Kyoto Williams from On Being

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[1] Easwaran, Eknath. Essence of the Bhagavad Gita: A Contemporary Guide to Yoga, Meditation, & Indian Philosophy. Nilgiri Press 2011, pg. 39.

*Also, check out exodus ministries that empowers incarcerated women.

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