"Though I man not be here with you, I urged you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I cal to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and non-violence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring."
-John Lewis, US House of Representatives
WHY DOES THE HEART MATTER?
Working on "The Flowers Are Burning" has been an endeavor from the heart. We want to emphasize the complexity of our meaning, as we are not speaking of heart as sentimental, romantic or overly emotional, but as the deepest ways of knowing a human being can draw from. Parker Palmer writes about heart in his book Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit, and we want to quote his eloquent description:
"the invisible powers of the heart...is always backstage directing the action......in everything that is human".
"The human heart is the first home of democracy. It is where we embrace our questions. Can we be equitable? Can we be generous? Can we listen with our whole beings, not just our minds, and offer our attention rather than our opinions? And do we have enough resolve in our hearts to act courageously, relentlessly, without giving up--ever--trusting our fellow citizens to join with us in our determined pursuit of a living democracy?"
Palmer saw the above quote as a wake up call during a time of despair over the politics of our country. He worries that "as citizens, we do not know how to frame and mount a civil debate...incivility and incompetence reigned on the left, in the center and on the right, or so it seemed to me....Terry Tempest Williams words about democracy uplifted me with the reminder that none of us is powerless: if the heart is democracy's first home, then each of us has a share of the power required to call democracy back to it's roots". However he realized that he had not "been holding the questions that Williams names--questions about my capacity for citizenship--with openness, honesty, trust and persistence. I had allowed my heart to harden and had lost faith in my fellow citizens."
Palmer states that "Williams is no romantic. She does not make the false claim that the human heart is irresistibly drawn toward democracy, because it is not: the heart is as responsible for fascism and genocide as it is for generosity and justice. Williams claims only that the heart is where we wrestle with the questions on which democracy hinges."
The heart is conflicted about the questions Willams ask: "can we be generous and equitable and listen with our whole beings to each other?" The use of the word "heart", according to Parker is to "refer to an integral way of knowing, the kind of knowing....where we can embrace democracy's complex and challenging questions."
We shouldn't simply reduce our meaning of heart to feelings only, but to "restore the heart to its rightful role as the integral core of our human capacities and it gives us a place of power in which to stand, along with the kind of knowledge we need to rebuild democracy's infrastructure from the inside out."
Lastly, Palmer wrote "When we learn to think with the mind descended into the heart--integrating cognition and emotion with other faculties like sensation, intuition and bodily knowledge--the result can be insight, wisdom and the courage to act on what we know".
Our initial pursuit as we worked on the project was to address the losses in nature of the things we loved. The meaning of the word "love" is also not romantic, sentimental or reduced to emotions. We are naming a power inside of us that springs forth from this place of deep knowing, of our "mind descended into the heart".
We understand that politics and differing opinions about climate change and can stall any forward movement. We support Parker Palmer's vision of using the power of our hearts to listen and pay attention to each other, acting generously and equitably as we work to protect what we love.
Whole heartedness takes courage: the courage to bridge our differences and in Palmer's words, "seek patches of common ground on the issues we care about the most. If we cannot reach a rough consensus on what most of us want, we have no way to hold our elected officials accountable to the will of the people."
In the creation of THE FLOWERS ARE BURNING, several other books and authors moved and inspired us. The heart is a central theme in all of these treasures listed. We hope to inspire others to take the time to read some (or ALL!) of these books...to indulge in the pleasure to deeply read and be taken away by real books, purchased, preferably at a local bookstore of your choice.
THE HEART OF TRAUMA: Healing the Embodied Brain in the Context of Relationships by Bonnie Badenoch The richest source of nourishment for truly understanding what trauma is, how it lives in our bellies, hearts, skull brain, muscles and body. This remarkable book gently teaches very complex ideas in a deceptively delicious manner, and the very act of reading is itself a healing journey. While written mainly for clinicians, it is a book for every one who is interested in becoming a therapeutic presence in the world. A life altering book.
THE GREAT WORK OF YOUR LIFE: A guide for the Journey to Your True Calling by Stephen Cope An extraordinary book about finding one's own purpose in life, drawing lessons from the Bhagavad Gita. Cope is a wonderful writer, and takes the reader on an inspirational journey through the lives of Jane Goodall, Susan B. Anthony, Beethoven, Walt Whitman as well as other famous and non-famous people, seeking stories of people finding and following their unique paths to their own dharma. This book provides much food for the soul.
THE MORE BEAUTIFUL WORLD OUR HEARTS KNOW IS POSSIBLE by Charles Eisenstein In a time of social and ecological crisis, what can we as individuals do to make the world a better place? This inspirational and thought-provoking book serves as an empowering antidote to the cynicism, frustration, paralysis, and overwhelm so many of us are feeling, replacing it with a grounding reminder of what’s true: we are all connected, and our small, personal choices bear unsuspected transformational power. By fully embracing and practicing this principle of interconnectedness—called interbeing—we become more effective agents of change and have a stronger positive influence on the world. This book brings to conscious awareness a deep wisdom that we all know: until we get our selves in order, any action we take-no matter how good our intentions-will ultimately be wrong-headed and wrong-hearted. Relating real-life stories throughout the book, Eisenstein shows how small acts of individual courage, kindness and self-trust can change our culture's guiding narrative of separation, which he shows, has generated the present planetary crisis. Above all, Eisenstein invites us to embrace a radically different understanding of cause and effect, sounding a clarion call to surrender our old worldview of separation, so that we can finally create the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible. this book is available as paperback or free as an e-book.
ACTIVE HOPE: How to Face the Mess We're in Without Going Crazy by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone. The authors' describe the book Active Hope as being about finding, and offering, our best response to the crisis of sustainability unfolding in our world. It offers tools that help us face the mess we’re in, as well as find and play our role in the collective transition, or Great Turning, to a life-sustaining society.
HEALING THE HEART OF DEMOCRACY: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit by Parker Palmer. "For those of us who want to see democracy survive and thrive--and we are legion--the heart is where everything begins; that grounded place in each of us where we an overcome fear, rediscover that we are members of one another, and embrace the conflicts that threaten democracy as openings to new life for us and for our nation." from the "Prelude" Parker has created the Center for Courage and Renewal., whose mission is "to create a more just, compassionate and healthy world by nurturing personal professional integrity and the courage to act on it."