Transforming Difference into Possibility: June 2020

A mural in Minneapolis by Xena Goldman, Cadex Herrera, Greta McLain, Niko Alexander, and Pablo Hernandez

Difference holds potential energy. Springs stretch; water flows; objects fall; cities burn. The potential energy of difference is experienced as tension, and it is released as a flood of emotion or action. Sometimes the flood is of learning and love, and sometimes it is rage and destruction.

If these were more simple times, it might be enough to see the differences that drive us today as:

  • Black vs white
  • Civil society vs police
  • White supremacists vs the rest of us
  • Military intervention vs community care
  • Infected vs healthy
  • Violent vs peaceful
  • Conservative vs Progressive

The tensions held in these differences may terrify or frustrate us, but at least we can name them. We can find people who are on our side. We can find answers and tell stories.

But these are not such simple times. As I talk with friends in the neighborhoods of the Twin Cities, the tensions they hold are not simple. Deeper, more ambiguous, more nuanced differences lie  below and drive all of these. The tensions I hear are:

These are not resolved in a simple “either/or,” because each person experiences both ends of the paradox. They are not even “both/and,” because none of us is strong enough to hold the two at the same moment. What I hear from the most resilient and wise ones is the ability to find “how much of which/when.” They have the capacity to experience any of these contradictory ideals, and they are wise enough to move between the two as demands and opportunities arise.

  • After many nights of neighborhood watch, one friend asked for a full night’s sleep.
  • In the midst of anger and frustration, an elder restrained a youth who was beyond control.
  • At the memorial for George Floyd, his family speaks of a better tomorrow.
  • People don their masks, grab their hand sanitizer, and step into a crowd in the time of COVID-19.
  • Many choose to wipe away the old, as they hope  to make way for the new.

It is never easy, and it isn’t always done with grace, but it is done. The difference is navigated, the energy is released, and something new is created. I feel deep gratitude to those who hold these tensions in this not-so-simple time. They are holding these tensions for all of us.

At 11:00 AM (CDT) June 4, I will host a reflection and dialogue to explore how we can find the grace and wisdom to see and transform these differences for ourselves and our community. Register HERE to join us. If you can’t, the recording will be added to our Resources under Virtual Workshops within 24 hours.

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