Solitude

When I first came to Marsh Chapel during my freshman year, I became known by the staff for consistently cleaning the dishes after Monday night community dinner. At the time, I didn’t think anything remarkable of this. Cleaning serves as a meditative practice that I find enjoyable most of the time, ever since my mother taught me how to wash the dishes as a kid. It allows me to clear my thoughts and focus on the water rinsing out plates, bowls, and cups to reuse them again.

I only realized within the past few years that it provided me something else: time by myself. Time to think, to reflect, to simply be present in a moment. It can sometimes be hard to find this when living in a city and being surrounded by activity, distractions, and external demands. While I do love engaging with people on a regular basis, especially people I care about, I also need to balance that time with space and moments to be alone. Somehow it feels easier to be attuned to the world around me when I’m attuned to my own thoughts and emotions.

Right now, I haven’t had as much time recently to practice this kind of self-awareness or find such moments of quiet solace. As Thanksgiving approaches, I hope that I can make time to create that space for myself.

 

Sabbath Moments

I’ve recently taken to the idea of “Sabbath Moments”. Sabbath moments are those things that we do for ourselves, to slow down, to maintain our sanity, to notice the divine. In the past few weeks those moments have become even more important. The number of assignments steadily increased, the responsibilities to extra-curricular groups, family and friends piled up, and troubling news continued to pour in. In the midst of all this, it has been rather easy to start to feel overwhelm. When I look at all I have to do and my anxiety level rises and all I can think about is how tired I feel, that is when I know it is time for a Sabbath. Making time to put down my phone, read a book for fun, eat some comfort food, admire the sunset or watch a show for the billionth time has been so important to my stability. I’ve realized that these Sabbath moments are less about what I am doing, and more about how I approach that action. I am no longer result driven; I enter the moment seeking only rest and peace. I emerge from these moments renewed-ready to continue the work I have been given.

Life can be a lot sometimes, but I think it’s the Sabbath moments that get us through. Accepting the invitation to focus on something for ourselves for a moment is so important and allows us to lay down our burdens and notice something other than our to-do lists. In Hebrews chapter 4, the author speaks of the rest that God has promised saying “ a Sabbath rest still remains for the people of God…let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest”(Hebrew 4:9 and 11). As we prepare to enter the holiday, and finals season, I intend to take those Sabbath moments, resting my mind and soul.

Appreciation

As the weather gets colder and Thanksgiving nears it is important to reflect on the things that matter the most to us. Giving thanks is not just about trying to let others know you appreciate them, but it is also about showing them that you appreciate them. This does not involve going out and getting things for the people; nor does it involve any extravagant act of kindness. It can be the simplest act of just respect or kindness. Just showing people that they are appreciated and that they matter. I believe that is the essence of what Thanksgiving truly is.

I would like to thank all of my friends and family for helping me with every day of my life. I cannot tell you how much you mean to me and how much of an impact you have on who I am as a person.

I hope that everyone is able find someone to be thankful for. I hope that if you have someone you both let them and show them about how thankful you are. Show your appreciation not because its what’s expected, do it because you actually generally want to.

Although people may not be the only thing you are truly thankful for, they are the ones that will appreciate your thanks the most. I myself was not always the best at expressing my gratitude for others. That is definitely something that I have had to work on in my life. I want to thank all of you for being accepting of me and my opinion. Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Listen

Over the past week, I have sent a lot of my time listening—listening to concerns shared over social media; listening to the views, opinions, fears, and fragile hopes expressed in articles, op-eds, and blogs; listening to professors process right alongside me; listening to friends voice anxiety, outrage, terror, exhaustion; listening to people trying to find hope. I have listened to the names of Catherine Cortez Masto, Tammy Duckworth, Kamala Harris, Lisa Blunt Rochester, Stephanie Murphy, Ilhan Omar, Attica Scott, Kate Brown, and Pramila Jayapal repeated like a litany. I have also listened to the growing list of acts around the country that have attempted to discriminate, intimidate, and alienate. I have listened to the words of my fellow Marsh Associates as they voiced the things for which I couldn’t find words. And so, for my blog post this week, I would like to share some of the things I have heard from them through their own posts.

Nick: This week…felt like an explosion. But it didn’t really feel like an explosion at the same time. It felt like my perceptions of reality and identity caved inward and crumbled. It felt like an implosion.

Matt: Over the past 24 hours I have seen the entire mindset of a nation change. I have seen the markets crash. I have seen politicians, celebrities, and everyday people question what will happen next. I have seen people rejoice. I have seen people cry. I have seen people rationalize.

Denise: Today I am filled, not so much with a stinging pain as a deep deep aching. An aching in every fiber of my being and an uncertainty I can’t even begin to explain. As I walk through today, I feel unglued.

Devin: We didn’t do our job. I’m willing to live through this, I don’t have any other choice. But those brilliant and bright eyed children shouldn’t have to…they should grow up knowing that bigotry and racism is not American culture, and if it was, it no longer is. Sadly, I’m not confident that is our reality.

Ian: Hope is a complicated emotion. It can comfort as well as delude, blind as well as provide clarity. How do we discern a hope that brings us together and keeps us going from one that shelters us from facing difficult realities? How do we hold on to hope at all, when the world is changing and the future seems bleak? It may seem hollow to talk about hope right now, when the future feels so uncertain, so chaotic, so disrupted. And perhaps right now, for many it is. Sometimes the weight of a moment needs to be processed in its own time. But I believe that it is possible to look toward the future while acknowledging the messiness of the present.

Matt: Aggression is never defeated by aggression and anger only spawns more anger. We are in a world surrounded by other people. Just like you, they are people’s children, grandchildren, siblings, cousins, friends. Everyone’s life is in some way connected; whether it be the economy, war, or common beliefs. Bigotry and racism are not accepted. There is no exception to this. We are all living.

Devin: I sat for hours thinking, what do we do now? I realized we can’t lose hope. We have to keep going…It will be harder than we’ve ever known it to be, but we will get it done. I pray that we all stay strong, but more importantly that we stay hopeful.

Denise: Progress will be lost only if we stop marching, if we go silent. There is more work to be done here. Right now I’m hurting, but I know more certainly than I know anything today, that we cannot allow despair to stop us.

Nick: I can only hold fast and know that when things fall, the only direction often possible is forward and upward. Only broken things are capable of being fixed. I can tell myself that I can keep going, in spite of surprises, in spite of fragilities and in spite of implosions. And often in the randomness, in the fragilities, there are pockets of grace and hope.

Ian: Right now…I make my own resolution. I choose to affirm what I most strongly believe in: listening, compassion, and kindness.

In the midst of my listening, their words have buoyed me up. They have reminded me that we cannot face the world alone. Rather, we must listen to, support, and encourage one another because that is how we love one another—that is now we resist the forces of hatred and division and violence. As Martin Luther King, Jr said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” As we face a world that seems a little darker and a little more hateful, I pray that we are able to give ourselves over to love instead of hate, that we spread light instead of darkness, that we hold onto hope, that we continue to speak, and that we never stop listening.

Implosions

This week was full of surprises. I cannot say they were positive surprises. I cannot say that I was happy. I can say that I was surprised. Actually, it was a negative kind of surprise. It felt like an explosion.

But it didn’t really feel like an explosion at the same time. It felt like my perceptions of reality and identity caved inward and crumbled. It felt like an implosion.

Life is extremely messy sometimes. It is incredible: the fragilities, the tensions, the occasional event that is very disruptive and feels almost random. It is surprising. It is shattering. And it is especially disruptive and surprising and shattering for an optimist.

I feel like I am an optimist. I am optimistic about humanity, about our nation, about my life, and about existence in general. I think our world is full of good, and we are moving towards goodness. We are slowly bringing more and more heaven to earth.

Or at least I think we are.

This week was full of surprises, from elections to aspects of my personal, professional and social life that, if you were to ask me about them a week earlier, I would have been completely optimistic about. The general movement of life seemed as if it was to be okay. In fact, I thought everything was going to keep getting better. I was not expecting surprises on Tuesday or Friday, or this whole week in general. I was not expecting implosions.

I can only hold fast and know that when things fall, the only direction often possible is forward and upward. Only broken things are capable of being fixed. I can tell myself that I can keep going, in spite of surprises, in spite of fragilities and in spite of implosions.

And often in the randomness, in the fragilities, there are pockets of grace and hope. The number of heart to heart conversations I have had at the early hours of the morning this week have helped me in facing the implosions and the toppling of the structures in my life that I worked so hard to maintain.

I just hope these implosions don’t crumble the heart of an optimist.

Elpis

In light of the recent presidential election, the phrase “opening a Pandora’s box” seems rather apt right now. I remember reading the story behind this phrase as a kid, and wondering how all the evils of the world could be stuck with hope in one box (or jar, if you’re reading the Ancient Greek). Zeus was said to have given Pandora to humankind as punishment for receiving fire from Prometheus, along with a jar and an instruction never to open it. She did, though, unleashing all sorts of plagues on humankind, shutting it just in time so that Elpis, Hope, remained inside.

I do have certain reservations about this myth, the most prominent one being its implication that a woman unleashed all the evils known to humankind. But for this reflection, I’m turning my attention toward the figure of Elpis, the only one left inside the jar.

There are several ways you could interpret this aspect of the myth. One reading of it is rather pessimistic: that hope, perhaps the only thing that may have helped humankind bear its misfortunes, was withheld from it and kept trapped in a jar. Another reading is that Elpis was actually false hope, a hope that would deceive and mislead us, and so trapping it in a jar was actually a good thing. The last, most optimistic reading that I’ve heard, is that despite dealing with all kinds of misfortune, people still have hope because it was kept.

Over the past 24 hours, I’ve witnessed what has felt like an opening of Pandora’s jar. A multitude of emotions have emerged from friends, acquaintances, classmates, coworkers, and myself. Fear, apprehension, grief, anger, frustration, and disappointment are among the many reactions I have seen in response to last night. And yet, at the same time, I have also seen hope.

I spent last night watching the election with a group of friends. One friend, in particular, was optimistic about the results, even as the night went on and friends pleaded with him to stop expressing hope. Despite the outcome that night, I deeply admire his optimism–for the unfazed hope that he did not relinquish, no matter how dismaying the circumstances may have been.

Hope is a complicated emotion. It can comfort as well as delude, blind as well as provide clarity. How do we discern a hope that brings us together and keeps us going from one that shelters us from facing difficult realities? How do we hold on to hope at all, when the world is changing and the future seems bleak? It may seem hollow to talk about hope right now, when the future feels so uncertain, so chaotic, so disrupted. And perhaps right now, for many it is. Sometimes the weight of a moment needs to be processed in its own time. But I believe that it is possible to look toward the future while acknowledging the messiness of the present.

I will not pretend that the future will be easy, or pleasant. A large proportion of this country has resolved to elect a president that speaks to what they want and value. That choice will have consequences, and we will learn what those consequences are over the next four years. Right now, though, I make my own resolution. I choose to affirm what I most strongly believe in: listening, compassion, and kindness. I choose to do my part to maintain a hearth and home at BU, a hearth where I can support those around me.

This is the intention that I have made. I make it with a grim acknowledgment of what is to come, and I hold no illusions for myself about the future. But I believe that hope survives best where the hearth is. So in the meantime, I will tend to my own hearth and those around it as best I can.

Over 24 Hours

Usually I bring up things that regard American society that are not directly relate to politics. I believe that the nature of this forum, it being posted to Marsh Chapel’s blog, should not impose heavy political views. This is some of what we tackle during our Sunday Morning Book Study. However, with that being said. Today is the day after the election for the president. This could very well be a historic election in its own right. Although I do not want to delve into too much politics, I will reflect on what I saw happen over the past 24 hours.

Over the past 24 hours I have seen the entire mindset of a nation change. I have seen the markets crash. I have seen politicians, celebrities, and everyday people question what will happen next. I have seen people rejoice. I have seen people cry. I have seen people rationalize.

Over the past 24 hours I have thought a lot about what I have seen and how I feel. But, there is one thing that I know and that I hope everyone continues to think about: we must continue to keep our integrity. Whether you support or do not support the nomination moral character and a high set of moral values must still be upheld.

Respecting our brothers and sisters is something that we have had engrained in our brains; I know that this was drilled into my head ever since I can remember. But, words do not mean anything without action. And actions do not mean anything without proper planning and the use of high moral standard.

What is a high moral standard? These may differ from person to person. For me it is treating everyone as a human. Everyone is the same; no matter race, religion, language spoken, economic level. No human is greater or worse than any other. We are all flawed in certain ways. This needs to be accepted and expected. But this does not me we are flawed people. It is our duty to make sure that all people are accepted by others. That we work on our flaws. That we communicate our opinions and create bridges between differences.

Whoever the political nominee is should not dictate our own actions. Aggression is never defeated by aggression and anger only spawns more anger. We are in a world surrounded by other people. Just like you, they are people’s children, grandchildren, siblings, cousins, friends. Everyone’s life is in some way connected; whether it be the economy, war, or common beliefs. Bigotry and racism are not accepted. There is no exception to this. We are all living. All have the ability to think and reason. If we can all successfully maintain this ability. We must rationally maintain our moral high ground no matter who is the ‘figurehead’ of the nation is.

This election has been very divisive. It seems that no matter what outcome, half of the population is outraged. But, this outrage should not dictate actions. This outrage cannot cloud the moral character of the people in this nation. We are only as bad or well off as we want us to be. You decide what actions you take. You are responsible for maintaining basic human liberties. I hope that everyone stays true to proper moral character. I am hopeful peace will remain.

more to do

“[referencing Martin Luther King Jr] the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. But here’s the thing. It does not bend on its own. It bends because each of us, in our own way, put our hands on that arc and we bend it towards justice”-President Barack Obama

Last night hurt. It hurt to see people I love celebrating the election of a person that, I feel, calls my worth into question. It hurt to remember all that I had felt as a 12 year old biracial girl watching an energetic biracial man enter the white house with a message of hope and change. And it hurt to feel the hope that 2008 had instilled deep within me, begin to crack a little bit. Last night just hurt to watch. A sharp and painful jab with every passing moment.

Today I am filled, not so much with a stinging pain as a deep deep aching. An aching in every fiber of my being and an uncertainty I cant even begin to explain. As I walk through today, I feel unglued.

But despite my uncertainty, I know this. We did not reach the level of progress we have achieved in this society easily. It was hard fought, and as we cast our ballots yesterday we stood on the backs of women and men who refused to accept life as it was and fought so that we could have the privilege of voting for whichever candidate we chose. All of the people, who sacrificed so that their children might someday reach a promised land they knew they may never see. All of the saints, who envisioned a more just society. We are here because of their visions, and their callings, and their sacrifice. That progress cannot and will not disappear overnight. It will evaporate only if we become complacent. Only if we throw up our hands, stepping away from the arc and from one another. Progress will be lost only if we stop marching, if we go silent. There is more work to be done here. Right now I’m hurting, but I know more certainly than I know anything today, that we cannot allow despair to stop us from bending the arc.

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope”
-Martin Luther King Jr.

Last night felt like a sucker punch to the gut, and this morning I’m trying to remember how to breathe. As I catch my breath, all I can think is that we have so much still to do. If our ancestors have taught us anything, it’s that it is possible to march through pain and through darkness. And that we have a moral obligation to do so.

As I wrote, this teaching from the Talmud, based on Micah 6:8 was on my mind.

“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it”.

May it be so.

we must go on.

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Last night when reality begin to sink in, I thought of this quote. I lost hope around 2 AM, I spent all Wednesday morning hoping to find it. I thought about the country we had just created, the path we had placed it on. More importantly, I thought about my little cousins Jay and Jordyn. I thought about my God brothers, Aiden, Liam and Ethan. I thought about my beautiful Kendra, who only sees the good in life. I thought about the 5 children I teach every Sunday at Marsh Chapel. I was overwhelmed with the reality that we had failed them.

We were blinded by the hope that Barack Obama gave us. The belief in better that he made reality for 8 years. We didn’t do our job. I’m willing to live through this, I don’t have any other choice. But those brilliant and bright eyed children shouldn’t have to. They should feel what I’ve felt these past few years under the Obama administration. They should grow up knowing that bigotry and racism is not American culture, and if it was, it no longer is. Sadly, I’m not confident that is our reality.

Dr. King was right when he said that we’d remember the silence of our friends. I was willing to accept your silence in regards to the Black Lives Matter movement, maybe that was too complex for you to comprehend. I turned the other way when you didn’t acknowledge the murders of countless African American men. However, I thought this was a very clear decision. I thought this was rational. I thought you valued me. Clearly, I was wrong. I called you friend, some of you I expressed love towards, and when I needed you to speak you fell silent. You hid in the ambiguity of Hillary’s deleted emails, you clung on to the tradition that said, women can’t be president and that I can never forget.

I sat for hours thinking, what do we now? I  realized we can’t lose hope. We have to keep going. Not for us but for those names I mentioned earlier and countless more like them. Black, White, Latino, Hispanic, LGBTQ+, we have to let them know that we are better than this. It will be harder than we’ve ever known it to be, but we will get it done.

I pray that we all stay strong, but more importantly that we stay hopeful.

Take Care,

Devin Harvin

I ended my thoughts by saying the Lord’s Prayer, it is a reminder that my strength is found in someone that is not bound to earthly means.

Realizations, Rituals

Last week was a good week. Sure, I might have stressed a little bit too much about the midterms I have this week, I might have been very sick for several days, I might have struggled with some assignments, and it might have been a long week, but at the end of it all it was a good week.

It might have been a hard week, but it was another week. It was another week in the rhythms of life, in the heartbeats of my existence. As I have moved into the mid to late semester, I have developed structures, rhythms, rituals, and habits to help me navigate through the tensions of life. These rituals are like little fires and candles that warm me and light my path as I walk through the vast cold wilderness of the human experience; these rituals illuminate the beautiful landscape before me, and allow me to take a moment and take assessment of my travels.

On Mondays immediately after I finish my prelabs for computer organization, I hurry to Marsh Chapel to the community dinners. There, I participate in common rituals of friendship, fellowship and community. Each week I am reminded of the wonderful people around me.

On Thursdays, I go to SojournBU’s Cadre – meaning a group of people surrounding a revolutionary idea – and sit around close friends that I have known since I was a freshman here at Boston University. And every week, every Cadre, we laugh, we joke, and we discuss our thoughts surrounding various passages in scripture. Every week, we hear thoughts from various different perspectives and consider the themes in the passages. We then discuss a challenge that we should try for the week. I recall one week in my freshman year where for my challenge (I think it had to do with forgiveness or amending conflicts – I genuinely do not remember) I ended up buying an apple pie for a very unruly neighbor on my floor in Warren towers. I remember very well telling my neighbor that, yes we have our differences and, yes, I know I complain to him a lot about his disruptive behavior, but here is a pie and I hope we can settle our differences and that he’s a good guy. I remember he was happy with that. We shook hands. Honestly, looking back on that, he was a fine neighbor. I am glad I gave him that pie.

On Sundays, after church, I get lunch with Jen, and we talk about life, and then we relax for a few hours. We watch TV. We take it easy. A good end to a good week.

Overlaying this all are other, great rituals. Every few weekends, Jen and I will visit my brother and we will play board games and have dinner. Every few weekends, I will go and hangout with my friends at Northeastern and visit their board game club or we will watch a movie. Every few weekends, I will take communion.

Communion. Every few weekends, I will break the bread and drink the juice or wine. Every few weekends. For years. Sometimes, as I have walked up the aisles of the church to receive communion, it had been on weekends where I felt on top of life. Sometimes, it was on weekends in the lowest points of my life. Sometimes, it was a normal weekend. Sometimes I walked up exhausted and sometimes I walked up awake, confident, and courageous. Sometimes I walked up seeking peace. Sometimes I walked up thinking about forks in the roads of life. Sometimes I have walked up in celebration. Sometimes, I have walked up grieving. Sometimes I have walked up contemplating.

Sometimes I have walked up with Jen. Sometimes I have walked up with my parents. Sometimes the elements have been handed to me. Sometimes I have taken communion in a small group of people. Sometimes I have taken it outdoors on Marsh plaza, in a hotel ballroom, in a small church, in a large church, with friends, with family, with strangers. I have received communion sometimes kneeling, sometimes standing, and sometimes sitting.

Each time, this ritual has grounded me in the bigger picture of my life; meaning pours into my heart. I am reminded of the tensions and fragilities in my life that I must embrace. As Rob Bell puts it, “In the Eucharist the bread and wine are considered holy because all bread and wine are holy. You come to the table and take the bread and wine as an act of contemplation to remind yourself that all of life is holy. It’s not about coming in out of the world to experience God, it’s about being reminded in this ancient ritual of the divine who is present in all of life.” It is in those moments when I experience a connection to my community, to the Ground of my being, to God, to Christ, and to my existence as a whole.

It is in these rituals that I am reminded of the divine in my life: in Communion, which has been a part of my life for over ten years, in the Cadres of SojournBU, which has been a regular part of my weekly rhythms for almost three years now, in the lazy Sunday afternoon lunches with Jen after church that have become the norm since I have gone to college, in the board game weekends that became a norm after my brother graduated college two years ago, in the usual weekend board games and movies that my friends from Northeastern began to often host since last spring, and in the community dinners I have found this semester. It is in these long standing rituals and newly discovered ones that I continue forward, warm and with a field of view illuminated by the flames of my rituals, courageously embracing existence.