This letter is written by Krista.
I hope that the turn of the year was peaceful for you and those you love. I am ever so glad to have landed in 2022.
My heart is very full as we offer up our remembrance of Archbishop Desmond Tutu this week. He passed in Cape Town the day after Christmas. For years he was at the top of my list of people I most longed to interview. The interview was elusive. Then in 2010, I was able not just to speak with him, but to sit with him while he was on private spiritual retreat at the Fetzer Institute, our longtime friend, partner, and kindred place.
And there was Tutu: at rest, yet vibrating with energy and laughter and wit. There was a fierceness to his presence, as large as the life he’d lived, the history he’d helped to shape. But at the center of it all, as he liked to say of our beautiful hurting world, there was “a heart beating with love.”
I love people who remind me, remind us, that love is not the softest force but often the fiercest. And thus it is, in fact, able to shift the world on its axis from time to time.
As I spoke with Demond Tutu, the long work of truth, forgiveness, and reconciliation that he helped set in motion in South Africa was complicated like every arc of history and transformation — not immune from the complexity of the human condition. He understood that history is like this, that change is like this. His pragmatic imagination about digging in for the long work of transformation, of wholeness, has walked with me ever since, and has never felt more relevant than now. He embodied the seemingly contradictory qualities we must bring even to the hardest and most heartbreaking of circumstances. The healing depths of attention and compassion that he was able to bring to the horrific suffering of his country, in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, were made possible yes by wisdom, yes by courage, yes by brilliance — but also, as we experience in the conversation I had with him, by a wicked sense of humor and an alertness to the exhilaration — “the fun” — that can be wrested amidst the hardest of struggles.
I newly appreciate that synergy of qualities as part of my own learning out of these past two terrible, strange, revelatory years. I’m examining how I’d been living before the ground shook beneath all of our feet and sent us inside in every way. I’m determined not to live constantly on the edge of exhaustion as I did before. I’m aware of the magnitude of transformation that is before us if we are to meet the vast challenges of our world in the most life-giving ways, with the best capacities of our humanity. That’s language you may have heard me use many times before. What has changed is the fierceness with which I intend to honor that the best of my capacities include and require restoration, and laughter, and joy, and “fun” as the Archbishop said, if they are to be life-giving and grounded and sustainable. They require replenishment.
This is a confessional offering. Case in point: last summer we invited you, our Pause community, on a very new and ambitious adventure, the Wisdom app. The most restorative creative thing I did before Christmas was break up our lengthy inaugural course, Hope Is a Muscle, into three shorter, more manageable, livable experiences — and create a new foundational course on Finding Replenishment. We all need that now. I need that now. (And I welcome your companionship through this new platform!) Our need for replenishment is renewable, not something to be scheduled in from time to time, but something we must learn to fold into the everyday, into the sweep and granularity of experiences of our lives. The word “replenishment” itself begins to revive me. And what a delightful truth that it is actually a pre-requisite and necessary companion for flexing that muscle of hope which is essential for the remaking of our world ahead.
I’m orienting, too, at the start of this new year, towards a gentle shift that Desmond Tutu and others teach as a move of character: a readiness to be surprised. We inhabit this world of so much uncertainty, so much reasonable fear. This activates our bodies and minds towards rigid views of enemies and threats and obstacles — and possibilities. Desmond Tutu believed in a world in which improbably surprising turns of event are a given, indeed his faith was in “a God of Surprises.” And take it from me, when Desmond Tutu tells you something about God — whatever and whoever you imagine God to be — you believe him.
Join me if you will, if you can, in learning how to lighten our own loads with a new seriousness of sorts about laughter, fun, joy, replenishment, and the moral potential of surprise.