Three months ago I wrote about wanting to shut up. As it turns out, shutting up happened, and only now am I starting, maybe, to figure out why.
It was never intentional. Since my Black Lives Matter post on June 26 (the “shut up” post), I’ve written two pieces for this blog. Both are OK. Both may be useful to others. But something held me back from publishing them.
Then yesterday I posted an angry comment to a friend’s political post about the Supreme Court nominations. (I sharply refuted my friend’s premise and called Mitch McConnell a hypocrite.) I believe the word hypocrite is accurate. I saw, and still see, value in countering the argument (made in the original post) that “both sides are guilty.” Yet something else hit me too: my comment might alienate friends, and it will change nothing.
Which got me thinking that posting to social media in 2020—especially opinions and perspectives about the state of the world—is pointless. At least for me.
It’s pointless because of a saying attributed to Jesus: those who have ears, let them hear. As a group, as a nation, as a culture in 2020, America no longer has ears. If you want evidence, visit some of the more contentious corners of social media. You won’t have to look far.
I wonder if this is feeding my heart’s desire to shut up. Why share a thought in the American public square (of which social media has become a central part) when America has no ears to hear?
It’s not all this way, of course. A few of my most amazing friends are managing to have honest, tough, openhearted, and/or respectful conversations on social media. May they do so forever. I have to find another way.
To date I’ve found several activities that look like “another way,” and maybe they are. Not long ago, one of those amazing friends said this to me: in a culture where no one’s listening to one another, the saving grace might be art. To oversimplify, comments and opinions try to tell people what things mean; art invites people to make their own meaning. So I’m writing personal essays as a way of saying to readers, “Here’s something I learned/wrestled with in my life. See what you can make of it.”
There’s also prayer. Wouldn’t you know it, today’s email brings a message from Richard Rohr, ecumenical teacher and mystic, quoting 20th-century teacher Bede Griffiths: It is only in prayer that we can communicate with one another at the deepest level of our being. The idea that we can connect with one another by going inward—via God, through the vehicle of prayer—is classic contemplative thinking.
All of this is in the early stages, and I’m sure there might be other “other ways” to connect and communicate as well. What do you think? What in this post, if anything, resonates with you? What new ideas does it spark?