We humans need each other in more ways than we'd like to admit, and last week I had a chance to experience "community" amongst my fellow humans in a couple of ways. And it felt good.
Last week I also attended my first district meeting of Sister District in San Francisco. This organization, started by two women lawyers following the last (shocking) election, is dedicated to changing the face of our congress by starting at the very local level: the state races. This grass roots organization is composed of teams of volunteers across the country, and a campaign of reaching out with informed opinion is in full swing. Listen to the name: Sister District. Conjures up a friendly, helpful feeling, right? The women of this country, no matter the color of their skin, their habits, beliefs and traditions, are sisters on this life journey, and so why not come together to bring about constructive, humane change in our dysfunctional political system? The issues are vast in number -- education, health care, human rights and immigration, infrastructure, and stopping the tide of gun violence, just to name a few. I sat in a cozy San Francisco living room, sipped a drink aptly entitled the "blue wave,"and listened to 8 or so women talk about how they could be of service in working for change. There was this distinct sense of hungering to make a difference in our sad world... And there was solidarity and even joy in the air. We feel better when we come together and share our thoughts, our vision. We all need our tribe, don't we? And, as the Women's March in 2017 showed us over a year ago, women are formidable when they organize themselves and speak out.
Yesterday I attended the monthly meeting of a Buddhist community I have belonged to for ten years now. On the first Sunday of the month we meet, sit in meditation, and then spend some hours reflecting on many aspects of Buddhist teaching. We talk about cultivating kindness, toward self and others, about letting go of that which we can't control, about facing the impermanent nature of our lives, about the challenges of being truly present in this life, and the difficulties of integrating a contemplative practice in daily non-monastic life. We eat good food together, we laugh, we cry ... we experience the intimacy of a community where everything we say to each other is heard with respect, where we are held by shared understanding and love, and the belief that we can rely on the Buddha's wise teachings to pursue lives of non-harming and compassion. Sadly it is rare to have this kind of refuge in life, since most of us live in a technologically driven world where our manic electronic devices, as well as distrust and fear, drive us ever forward, and there is little time to pause, reflect, and understand.
My time spent traveling in Africa on safari taught me a few profound truths. The most important of these is that human animals -- and we are indeed animals -- need one another to thrive, to take care of ourselves and our children, to experience safety and a sense of wellbeing. The herds of wildebeest, elephants, zebras, giraffes, and the family communities of the mountain gorillas all work together for the benefit of the whole. What emerges is a group intelligence, a collective game plan, that will enable all to benefit. Some of the creatures pursue lonelier paths, the lions, cheetahs, leopards -- all those magnificent and independent wild cats! Lions don't live in herds exactly, but they have their "pride," (what a great name for an organized group!) their family unit that dictates all that they do. The truth is: we are social creatures, most likely not meant to trek through life alone. Because humans are infinitesimal in the epic scheme of things, another truth I learned in the African landscape, we must come together to help each other survive with dignity and happiness.
I've been journeying alone much of the time in the last ten years, and today I see light being shone on our fractured and unhappy conditions by many grass roots efforts and small communities of worker bees; resources and visions for the larger good are pooled and people are listening carefully to one another. A moral imperative has surfaced. I want to walk in that light now, I want to make a difference in our human herd. It's about time...