AN ANNIVERSARY

Hi friends - One year ago last week, politics took a surprising turn. And the burden of the last twelve months has taken a toll. Anxiety, depression, and a sense of disorientation have visited us all, it seems.

Whether we like the political agendas of those in power, or dread them, lots of us feel thwarted in our agendas, hemmed in, as if unable to hope for a better future. 

But if we keep thinking that way, three years from now, we'll all be ten years older.

A year ago last week politics took a surprising turn. But there are two other anniversaries we want to mark this week too.

A year ago last week Leonard Cohen, one of the sanest, wisest, transcendent poets, died. Sane because he faced reality even when it frightened him, wise because he admitted it. Transcendent because he invited us to go beyond the narrow circle of self, and to cease always defining our present in terms of what has gone before.

And a year ago last week The Porch came into being.

Since then, beautiful things have happened, and terrible things have happened, and to paraphrase our brilliant friend the Kiwi writer Mike Riddell, the broken world will go on saving the broken world, because it's full of people who have been captivated by the idea that the failing stories we're telling can be transcended by a better one.

Not a story of separation, but union.

Not a story of avoiding suffering, but of accepting suffering as part of what it means to love.

Not us versus them, but some of us for all of us.


A story that drinks deeply from the well of life - the one whose water we all know has very little to do with hydrating  "success" or dominating others, or selfish ambition, or who has the most "things". 

A story that laughs at bad jokes and admires beautiful butterflies and dances in the moonlight and gives glasses of water to thirsty people and bunches of flowers to random strangers, and puts itself on the line for the sake of the vulnerable. A story that helps us stop taking ourselves too seriously, for the sake of the most serious thing: love.

That's the story we're trying to learn on The Porch, and on our first birthday, we invite you to step further into that story too.  There’s a new issue of the magazine available to subscribers, we’re taking a group of bridge-builders on a trip (click here to see how you can join us), our local community circles are growing, and we host storytelling nights a couple times a month (make sure you subscribe to our newsletter to keep up to date with when we're going to be near you). If you want to create your own local circle, or are inspired to follow anything we’re doing at The Porch, just let us know how we can help. We’ll do our best.

Because here's the thing: in three years from now, we could all be ten years older, or we could have decided to pick ourselves up, go to the porch, and tell a story that shapes the common good. We could let the exhaustion of the last year remain the characteristic of the next, or take some simple steps toward the kind of action that is so full of life that it perpetuates its own renewal. We could seek out conversation with everyone we meet and ask one simple question: Tell me about yourself, and how can we help each other?

Thank you for your friendship.

And may the better story guide us.

See you next time.

FIVE THINGS WE CAN DO

I have no idea what will happen with the gun laws. But I believe there are at least five things we *can* do, today: 

1: Build closer ties across communities - high rates of gun homicide seem to correlate with weak community bonds. 

2: Work to address economic inequality - high rates of gun homicide seem to correlate with high economic disparity. 

3: Men, share power, or step aside. Let women lead. High rates of women in leadership seem to correlate with reduced violence. 

4: Men, ask for help. The dehumanizing way in which guns are used in this society is a symptom of toxic masculinity. Shame and aggression are related. Developing emotional, spiritual, psychological strength/vulnerability is the task of a lifetime. None of us can do it alone. 

5: Speak, write, and post in ways that embody empathy with the vulnerable; and when you're angry, speak, write and post in ways that tell the truth without dehumanizing your opponent. Situations of escalating empathy correlate with reduced violence; situations of escalating dehumanization correlate with potential for more violence. The peace we will ultimately make will have to be made with our enemies, not our friends. Dehumanizing them now will only make the task take longer. 

This is hard. But it is true. 

And then, go back to 1: Build stronger bonds across and within communities. Offered with love and the humility of knowing I don't have a monopoly on how to get this one right.

LESSONS FROM ELSEWHERE

The greatest misunderstanding that people have about the USA until they live here is that it’s a country. I’ve been here for ten years, and the most surprising shift in my perception has been that the place might be better seen as really fifty nations, each with their own culture and laws, connected with their neighbors only as tightly as they want to be. This fact carries tension, of course, if you value coherence; but the liberating consequence is that if the first step to healing a place is knowing it, it may be much easier to know a state than the nation. The handful of key cities and rural communities that make up a state are conceivably knowable by a handful of people who care enough to steward the earth, nurture the people, and imagine “the next stage of good.” That phrase, coined by Bob Woodward to refer to the role of US American Presidents, is spacious and inviting. It’s a way to live. Looking out my window, seeing trees, but imagining the neighborhood and the city behind them, and the region behind those is a beginning of knowing. That knowing is vital to rootedness, and rootedness is the beginning of hospitality, and hospitality will save the world. 

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TRIGGERED INTO THE PRESENT

On the Camino in Spain recently, I saw a piece of graffiti, written in French by a delicate hand. What it said loosely translates to:

There are flowers everywhere, for those willing to look for them. 

This is a difficult moment, if the moment only includes politics. It’s also a beautiful one, if we know where to look. It’s also just a moment - not an era, or an epoch, or a generation. Just a moment. Some of us are suffering terribly. Some of us are working hard for the common good. Some of us are realizing that we have lots of opportunities, right now, to devote ourselves to love - of the transcendent, of ourselves, of our neighbors, no matter who they may be?

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THE HOPE OF PERMANENT BEGINNINGS

I just returned from walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Humans have been walking the Camino for hundreds of years. My people. Your people. Our people. Five hundred miles, from St Jean Pied de Port in the French Pyrenees to Santiago in Northern Spain. Three hundred thousand people walk the road every year, or at least the final seventy miles or so, the distance required to cover if you want to get an official certificate at the end. But the imprinting on the soul that occurs on the Camino means more than a piece of paper.

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