This past year has been one of the most intense I've ever had; constantly tight-roping a kind of matrix described by none other than...Donald Rumsfeld, his words useful, despite their manipulative context: "There are known knowns. These are things we know we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. These are things we don't know we don't know."
This past year, I've watched, listened, learned, and felt--a lot--all along that spectrum of "knowing." Knowing how beautiful and life-giving this world can be, through the kinds of joy that can only come from seeing loved ones get married or pursue new experiences; dancing to music with people from across political divides; wandering the streets of fascinating places; making new friends and reconnecting with old ones; empowering myself to leave an unfulfilling situation; and much, much more.
And there's been another kind of knowing: that of how violent and painful this world is--an awake-ness that builds through the relentless onslaught of a binaried media, and that calcifies into a kind of sadness and sometimes despair that comes from recognizing explicit and also deeply insidious racism hurt people I know, and murder people I don't; watching the human-made profound catastrophe of Syria unfold; tracking the ongoing political resistance to do anything that might prevent impending, existential climate disaster; and witnessing this disorientingly surreal election both knock the bar for public decency and human dignity lower day by day, and transform what once might have been "fact" or "truth" into what-ever whom-ever says, loudest or most convincingly.
In that way, I think the realm of "unknown unknowns" is expanding--and it's fucking terrifying. What is real, and what is reliable? I vacillate--daily, it seems--between excitement and awe for our collective power and potential, and near-panic attacks from all amongst us that is shameful.
And leading up to this 30th birthday, especially given its intersection with Rosh Hashanah, I've (kind of dramatically) kept thinking about a poem Jews say during the high holidays, Unetaneh Tokef:
"On Rosh Hashanah it is written, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed.
How many will pass and how many will be created?
Who will live and who will die?
Who in their time, and who not in their time?
Who by fire and who by water?
Who by sword and who by beast?
Who by hunger and who by thirst?
Who by earthquake and who by drowning?
Who by strangling and who by stoning?
Who will rest and who will wander?
Who will be safe and who will be torn?
Who will be calm and who will be tormented?
Who will become poor and who will get rich?
Who will be made humble and who will be raised up?
But teshuvah and tefillah and tzedakah (return and prayer and righteous acts) deflect the evil of the decree."
What WILL happen in the weeks, and months, and years ahead as this world navigates more interconnected complexities than ever before? What forms of human goodness will become elevated and wider-spread? And, what (and who) will be sacrificed as we collectively wade through the muck, still trying to discover our potential and capacities for that goodness? Rabbi Sharon Brous' remarks on Rosh Hashanah were exactly the antidote I needed to this strangling awareness of "knowing," https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDmZ6oIg4co; please watch it if any of this resonates with you.
As she says -- and as it fitting to remember on #IndigenousPeoplesDay: "WE are the ones we have been waiting for" (Hopi Elder). So, as I embark on the next decade of my life, and as I think about the gifts, and strengths, and resources that have been invested in me over the past 30 years...and also as we go into #YomKippur, this is my public commitment for the year ahead, and for as long as I walk this earth: I will do everything I can to live with integrity; I will do everything I can to pay attention to people's thoughts, ideas, and experiences; I will do everything I can to live out the kinds of values that could contribute to safety and peace for everyone; and I will do everything I can do be in "right relationship" with YOU towards these goals.
My mom once joked that this photo shows "early leadership skills." May whatever strength was in my little arm draw me forward, arm in arm with you.