Having spent the past 3 years becoming more aware, and then raising awareness about land justice, this song really hit home to me, the great imbalance we face today.
Something all the great poets and mystics have in common, is their awareness of the connectedness of all things. I think Johnny Cash was having a very heartfelt, human moment, and a very mystical moment, when he wrote this song.
Hildegard of Bingen said, "God has arranged all things in the world, in consideration of everything else."
And Black Elk famously said, "Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves."
We are at a critical point in the human story, and in turn, because of our impact on it, we are at a critical point in the story of the earth.
The tantrum throwing that we do, as the Great Turning asks us to (playfully) grow up, is possibly reaching its dystopian peak. And many of us mistake getting a wee bit uncomfortable, for suffering. Many of us think that what we hold as central, IS the center, and that our joy depends upon this center. But if Bonaventure was onto something - that God's circumference is nowhere, and God's center is everywhere, (Deus est sphaera intelligibilis cuius centrum ubique circumferential nusquam), then our idea of what is at the center, is simply our own paradigm.
The issues that we often blame postmodernism on (ie, cancel culture, free speech under threat, etc), are actually a result of unchecked white supremacy, and continuing domination, and land hoarding.
We are hardwired for seasons. These "postmodern" issues, which certainly have the potential to become very mutated, are a result of the blindspot that people in the dominant culture, (the center) have... and this blindspot thinks that any change is a slap in the face.
When was the last time any of us thought about that fact that many people are born canceled. That many people are born without the protection of mercy. And that we're all entrained to care, or give our pity, to those who have the highest place to fall from (when in fact, to fall from a great height, is often a hidden mercy).
If we were closer to our own initiatory backgrounds, we would see that dying to things, and passing them on, is part of the healthy human journey. Dying to one thing, opens another path, and if we're lucky, we get to die many times, until we're Elders.
I'm all about the radical forgiveness of Jesus... and/but... it's important to remember that a healthy human has seasons that ebb and flow. The death of something isn't necessarily something to pity. It could be transformational.
Do I pray for restorative justice? You bet I do. Do I like cancel culture? Not really. I don't think it is restorative. And I think it potentially threatens great art, where the Muses happened to visit a particular channel, who needed healing, and who hurt others.
Do I think victims need to put themselves at risk with their abuser in some twisted form of forgiveness? No. I don't.
I also believe that our very life is a Grace.
But maybe it's not about liking cancel culture for me... maybe it's about observing its roots, and why it is here in our midst. And... maybe it is about me trying to see where I am blind to the default cancelations our society sets up for many people, the minute they're born.
Until restoration begins to become normal, extended to everyone, instead of old Jim Crow, or old Colonial dude, sneaking around, making living life such a desperate thing, you're going to see a collective force, that will continue to cancel, because the tears are running dry. Women are tired of the pity being extended to rich boys who rape, whose lives "could be ruined" if they are punished. The kind of pity offered is not a grace to that young man. It is a curse. And the lack of care about the girl's future, after this has happened to her, is one of the various things the #metoo movement is trying to convey. She is inadvertently "canceled" by virtue of no one really caring about what happens to her. And if he gets her pregnant, well, watch out then. No mercy for that girl.
Instead of making restorative justice the waters we swim in... what we still have is this damnable ladder up against the wrong wall, and this disastrously tired template for who ought to get to climb it. And there's no room for dying, for sharing, for redistribution, for trusting... and so the divide ever widens. And if anyone "important" falls off the ladder, because of how many people they've hurt, we're supposed to invoke radical forgiveness for them, which is fine, but we certainly don't make a point of extending radical forgiveness to people for being poor. Imagine if we could grow up enough to stop saying "mine!", and collectively invoke the joy of Jubilee!
Today, I meditate on the parallel universe people can live in, even in the same town. If you're black in America, for instance, you essentially wake up every morning, living in a Police State. If you're a black farmer in America, odds are you don't own your own land because of so many "cancelations" built right into legislation. Here in Canada, the incarceration rate of black, brown, and indigenous people is deeply imbalanced, and the baked in assumption that the "white way" is the best way, is still holding on for dear life. It is still "central". And of course, the "white way" is usually deemed as the only way to be successful, but there are so many ways to be and live.
So how do we act in ways that can invoke the sentiment in this song? It reminds me again, of the Ark of the Covenant. The Mercy Seat sits atop this heavy symbol the Israelites carry around with them in the desert. And it is to "go before" the whole group. What this means is, that warriors, small children, pregnant women, elders, runners, able-bodied people, all travel at the pace of the covenant. It reminds them they are connected to each other, and to go on ahead and leave others out of the story is to break the covenant. It doesn't mean "don't shine". Shine!!! It doesn't mean, "don't be playful"! Play!!! It DOES mean, "don't dominate". It does mean, the Merciful Beloved is at the center... everywhere... including in you.
But you are not the center.
I am not the center.
I recorded this song, sensing that it is its own symbol of the Mercy Seat that goes before us, asking us to remember that what we do to each other, and to this earth, we do to ourselves.
Mercy will continue to be a theme in the coming weeks.
We must allow ourselves to be very disturbed.
Alana Levandoski is a song and chant writer, recording artist and music producer, in the Christian tradition, who lives with her family on a regenerative farm on the Canadian prairies.