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The On Being Project

Image By Light Brigading/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).
Is America Possible? Our Responses to Charleston with Omid, Parker, and Courtney. Facing Fear with Sharon. And Deliverables of Dining Together.

Is America Possible? Our Responses to Charleston with Omid, Parker, and Courtney. Facing Fear with Sharon. And Deliverables of Dining Together.

Some of you asked about our silence regarding the Charleston shootings. We wanted to respond with the thoughtfulness and considered attention this tragedy deserves. Krista’s interview with john a. powell is a start, one attempt to bring fresh perspective. And, we’ve also been publishing worthy responses on our website. “Is America possible?” Vincent Harding once asked. Our columnists and readers explore this question in its fulness. Read on…

People mourn together in front of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church after a mass shooting at the church that killed nine people on June 19. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images.)

“We’re gonna stick with love, because hate is too heavy a burden to bear, because the alternative is to lose the very divine gift that makes us human. Even now. Especially now. The answer is still love. May love feature in this forgiveness, and may it always be linked to the insistence that love show up in the public space as the justice that will redeem our public square.”

We are in need of a new vision and visionaries, writes Omid Safi, who remind us not of the “greatness” of America, but of its unachieved goodness. A call for forgiveness, but one that’s rooted in love and justice — and for an America that is yet to be.

I am a bird now. (Toni Blay / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).)

“Grace comes from surprising places.”

Recent events in the life of the world have made it challenging to engage in trust and hope. Parker Palmer turns to another type of knowing that leads to grace and illuminating the darkness.

Visitors pay their respects during an open viewing for Rev. Clementa Pinckney at the South Carolina State House in Columbia, South Carolina. Pinckney was one of nine people killed during a Bible study inside Emanuel AME church in Charleston. (Win McNamee / Getty Images.)

“The good news is that transforming your fragility into courageous imperfection is the beginning of a lot more joy. It’s the beginning of a lot more connection. It’s the beginning of the end of racism.”

So much of import so often goes unsaid, Courtney Martin wrote to me this week. She’s right, and I’m thankful for her unwavering commitment to speak certain truths… like her passionate, grounded plea to recognize white privilege and the gut level pushback — the “white fragility” — that happens when talking about race.

A man jumps in the Black Sea. (Mikhail Mordasov / Getty Images.)

Two generous submissions helped us think about longings in our culture in two distinct and helpful ways this week! The collective experiences of African Americans can result in generational trauma that is “stored in the body.” Paul Singleton III calls for us to retrain our brains and break free from our limiting perceptions of one another to heal these divides:

“It took a couple centuries of violent repression for the caste system in America to be accepted as fact. As humanity is slowly waking up to shake off this ideology, it is up to each of us to retrain our brains so that we can break free from these attitudes and the limiting perceptions we have of one another.”

(Vieira da Silva / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).)


“Fear isn’t an easy feeling to allow, to take some time with, to face with clarity and compassion. I wonder sometimes how much destructive action takes place because we find we can’t easily just sit and know we feel afraid.”

The fear inside us presents itself in the most unlikely and perhaps unexpected ways. But how do we engage that feeling and let go? Sharon Salzberg with a clarifying column on when fear arises.

A family of four eats dinner together. (U.S. Department of Agriculture / Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).)

“Magic cannot be scheduled.” In nine out of ten family dinners, James McDeavitt testifies, little of consequence occurs. But, during the tenth mealtime, something sparks. A father’s case for the unscheduled magic — and power — of the family dinner and how doing so translates to stronger leadership skills.


I’m currently on vacation. I’ve toted several books to the cabin, including Rod Dreher’s latest, How Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life-Changing Wisdom of History’s Greatest Poem. I’m a devotee of The Divine Comedy and found myself enrapt in Dreher’s column in The American Conservative about his late discovery. Other things I’ve been reading:

  • On Racism and Injustice. The hip-hop artist Lecrae crafts a compelling commentary for Billboard magazine on ways to think through the Charleston shootings and be a thoughtful Christian: “There is a great antagonist, and it does not have black or white skin. It is the brokenness of humanity. May a love that miraculously mends our brokenness be the protagonist.”
  • “Eight Things Every Person Should Do Before 8 A.M.” Yes, another list… and I fail miserably at the first five of Benjamin Hardy’s to-dos! But, besides eating right, sleeping well, and exercising properly, Hardy throws in a few curve balls: taking a cold shower (stimulates neuro-boosting chemicals that stave off depression and encourage weight loss) and listen to or read “uplifting content” (I think I know a podcast just tailored to this goal).
  • Who Can Use the N-Word? That’s the Wrong Question.” With President Obama’s recent use of the word, a moment to revisit Gene Demby’s examination of its use at NPR’s Code Switch: “But there are no rules. There are only contexts and consequences.”
  • “The Mood of Laudato Si: A Reply.” Is Pope Francis’ latest encyclical a downer? Hopeful? Pessimistic? Nathan Schneider examines the many interpretations of its mood for America magazine.

I am grateful for the many kind words I received last week in response to my query. Thank you! The feedback loop is much appreciated. My email address is [email protected] and my Twitter handle is @trentgilliss.

May the wind always be at your back.

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