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.

Home Away From Home

As part of my involvement with the Lutheran Ministry in the Fenway, the organization that oversees the Lutheran campus ministries at Boston University and Northeastern University, I was asked to write a reflection on what campus ministry means to me. I thought I would share what I wrote as my blog post for this week:

To me, community is at the core of what campus ministry is—a group of people from various backgrounds, each with their own struggles and beliefs and joys who are able to come together to share meals, engage in fellowship and prayer, wrestle with difficult questions, or just take a few minutes or a few hours to lay on the floor with some crayons and a coloring book engaging in mindfulness and meditation together. These experiences through this ministry have kept me grounded and centered. It doesn’t matter what else has been going on in my life—academic stresses, personal struggles, confusion or yearning for discernment—I always know that I have a community around me that that will listen to my doubts and fears without judgment, that will struggle with me and challenge me, that will support me and grow with me. The home that I’ve found here in Boston is centered around this community—this community of wanderers and questioners, of believers and thinkers, of friends that have become like family. Through my involvement with this ministry, I have found a deeper understanding of my faith and of God’s call for me. I have found a community to challenge and support me. I have found a home away from home.

I Opened My Ears

I heard the T tracks whistling for the first time in a long time. I went an entire day without headphones. Music is what grounds me throughout the day. It’s a common reminder that everything will be okay. It is like my portable bible. A personal connection to God at every moment. I went without them for 24 hours, I went without music. I couldn’t put on my headphones and ignore the various conversations and people that I might encounter. Most of the time I use them as a shield from being social. I’ve realized when I’m constantly putting myself out in the world as a social creature, I’ve left little time for self-reflection. Putting my headphones on is my way of taking some time to be in my head. Today I didn’t. I forced myself to listen to each environment I was in, hear the conversations, and be present. I’m torn if this time of being present is beneficial for me and I should go without headphones more often or is ignoring the world needed sometimes.

I honestly turn to Jesus (no I am not comparing myself to Jesus) and think what would he do. I doubt he would ignore the world, history tells us something drastically different in fact. But what if Jesus was in introvert? I think he would still care, I think he would still sacrifice himself for us. I think it goes deeper than  being social.

Working in ministry, even at entry-level, you put others first a majority of the time. You try to practice self-care, but you care so much it becomes secondary. How do you balance that? How can you justify being isolated from the world even for two minutes with your headphones on, when you don’t know who you just ignored. I think the biggest obstacle in leadership is how to maintain your own sanity. Jesus is an example that seems so impossible to us. To put others first constantly. Is that how we should live?

First Teaching Experience

This afternoon I had my first experience actively teaching a class. It was in a discussion section for a neuroscience course, where I’ve been a teaching assistant (TA) for about half a semester. A few weeks ago, my teaching fellow (TF) and I were talking about observations for an education class I was taking with another TA, when he made the suggestion that we observe each other actively teaching. At the time, I had no idea how idea how nervous I would be in the days leading up to it.

It was only when I realized that I had to cover four different systems in 50 minutes that a mild nervousness began to set in. I suddenly began to doubt my memory of learning this material last year, when I took the same course as a student. It didn’t help that I had an exam the next day that I had spent all weekend studying for, or that I only received the questions to go over in the section the night before.

So when it finally came time to enter the classroom and begin, it was surprising how calm I felt. Perhaps I was just trying to hold it together and not let the nervousness show. Or perhaps I genuinely was calm. I can’t quite remember which one it was. But when I began to write on the board and talk to the students I had seen weekly for half a semester, it felt okay. The nervousness slowly subsided My TF had told me that most students who had done this felt incredibly nervous the first time, but in the end they did fine. Luckily, my experience was very similar.

I learned a few things from this first teaching experience. One was that I had to learn to be comfortable with silence. I don’t mean the silence that comes with being alone; I’m already pretty comfortable with that. I’m referring to the silence that settles over the classroom when you’ve just asked a question, and it feels like the entire class is waiting for an answer. The other thing I learned was that it’s okay to try things that ultimately don’t work. Learning is an iterative process, and mistakes allow room for growth and improvement.

My next section will be on Friday morning. While I don’t know how it will go, I have a feeling that in the end, no matter how nervous I may feel leading up to it, or how many awkward pauses I have to encounter, I will pull through. Hopefully, the students will be able to as well.

 

This I Believe

I love books. Reading has always been a way for me to recharge. Whenever I am feeling overwhelmed or upset. Whenever I have time to spare or am having a really good day, I usually end up at Half Price Books. This summer, on one of my many trips there, I found a book titled This I Believe. Which is based on a segment in NPR’s All Things Considered. The book contains short essays from eighty people, in which they state their personal philosophies. It is one of the best books I have stumbled upon in my random bookstore browsing.

As I began to flip through the essays, I was immediately struck by the wide array of beliefs expresed within those pages. People took this opportunity to explain their belief in good deeds or silent walks or as Sarah Adams said, that we should “Be cool to the pizza dude”. I spent the summer reading what people believed to be at the core of who they are and how they try to live, and their explanations for how they came to believe what they do. I was fascinated by the exercise. The process of whittling all of the pieces and events that make you who you are and have shaped your worldview down to one belief statement. The assertion that this belief is the foundation for every interaction that you have. That this belief is at the center of who you are.

This book has been in the back of mind ever since I picked it up. I have been wondering if I were to make a belief statement. As far as I can figure, there are two interconnected beliefs at the core of my being. First, I believe in presence. I believe in being where you are. That sometimes the most profound act of service and love we can ever do is to be present with someone. I believe that when I am fully here, not only can I see others more clearly; I can clearly see God moving. I also believe in appreciation. In appreciating the moment. Appreciating the ride. In appreciating those in my life for the many ways that they bless me on my journey each and everyday. Appreciating the quiet moments of refuge in a cluttered bookstore and the books that change everything. This I believe.