The world is on fire…

“The world was on fire and no one could save me but you

It’s strange what desire will make foolish people do…”

Chris Issak‘s prophetic opening lyrics to 1989’s Wicked Game (which for me was a haunting, lovelorn anthem of the 90s, alongside Mazzy Star‘s 1993 Fade Into You) have me thinking about all my loved ones on the U.S. West Coast enduring a dizzying array of seemingly-infinite wildfires.

Millions of acres — gone.

Thousands of homes — lost.

Countless lives — displaced.

As I reflect on our ongoing runaway climate emergency, America’s long hot summer of racial reckoning, and a global pandemic that’s finding an especially fertile ground among our perceptual divides, I’m acutely aware of all the many painful permutations of the simple phrase:

“I can’t breathe.”

‘Wicked Game’ continues with a protest to the high cost of vulnerable engagement:

“No, I don’t wanna fall in love (this world is only gonna break your heart)…”

Have we lost the root of our salvation?

The Psalmist, read in this past week’s lectionary text by faith communities across the planet, invites a counterpoint to life’s lament:

“Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise the Holy Name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all God’s benefits—
who releases all your trespass
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.”
(from Psalm 108)

I no longer think of ‘salvation’ as something extrinsic to my willingness to plainly confront reality; it’s not a Deus ex Machina that undoes all the consequences of actions, individual or collective.

But as I walk out Metanoia — a renovation of seeing and habit often translated ‘repentance’ in traditional spiritual teaching — I realize that part of what I need to let go of is a sense of heroic individualism that says I’m going to bear all things, figure out all things, and change all things, all by myself.

Little by little, I’m letting myself sense the real nature of things — Interbeing.

In our consequences and our liberation, we’re all in this together.

I don’t pretend to know how the Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed, nor whether my desire for a more beautiful world is ultimately foolish or satisfied with good things.

But I’m willing to let this world break my heart, and for Divine love to mend it.

I know I can’t do this alone.

So, West Coast beloveds, all those who can’t breathe — I’m holding you in my heart today.

May we expand our collective heart to take in both pain and joy without flinching, so we can receive Reconciling Force without measure.

PS: Friends, if you’d like to contribute to ongoing on-the-ground relief work for communities impacted by these devastating fires, please consider contributing funds or time to these mutual-aid efforts.
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