I was seated in a circle of my friends, one-by-one bemoaning the state of the world. The all-too-familiar "hell in a hand basket" kvetch went something like this: "Health Insurance Reform," to which we all responded "Oy." "Greed on Wall Street." "Oy." "Tiger Woods." "Oy." "Unemployment, terrorism, global warming." "Oy, oy, oy."
Despite the fact that we were seated beneath fluorescent lights, it was as if the room had suddenly gone dim. Then it was the turn for the eldest and wisest amongst us to speak. "Don't you get it?" she said. "An opportunity like this only happens two or three times a millennium -- and we're here and this is it!" Sandra was talking about no less than chaos -- the creative opportunities inherent in the breakdown of the status quo.
The women in the circle instinctively understood what our friend was telling us. You don't get to be 50 or 60 without something pretty big breaking down somewhere along the way. I looked around the circle. Here was one who had survived a divorce, another who was dealing with serious illness, several whose adult children were in trouble.
And yet, I saw only the beloved faces of my friends who have learned through our life experiences that we can become strong enough to face whatever our situations may be with renewed perspective and creativity. Having developed the capacity over time to dig deep, we find it possible to hope for something unexpected, something important, something miraculous even when the facts of our lives seem to indicate otherwise.
When it comes to our personal lives, we have come to embrace chaos not as an imperfection in the universe, but as part of the natural order. We vibrant women who have journeyed to the forest many times know that when fire rages, there is not only destruction. For, too, it is the heat of the flame that breaks open the pinecone to release its seed. We have come to appreciate not only the broad green canopy above, but the broken tree limbs and blackened stumps stricken by lightening beneath our feet. These, we have learned, are not imperfections in the forest, but the forest itself.
Now Sandra was challenging us to bring that same spirit we've honed through personal life experience to the world. I am reminded of a favorite story of mine, shared in the 1950s by anthropologist Margaret Mead about the role of the postmenopausal red-tailed deer. Margaret explained that in their advanced years, it was the females who carried the wisdom of the pack.
In times of drought, these old does could remember where once, long ago, under similar circumstances, water sources had been found. When spring came late, they recalled sunny slopes where the snows melted early. They knew how to find shelter, places where blizzards could be waited out. Under such circumstances, they took over the leadership of the herd.
And so it is that the five of us in the circle made a pledge, and I would ask you to join us, too. We have charged ourselves with the sacred mission of reframing our response to these challenging times. Instead of dimming the lights against the chaos, we must show the way to burning brighter still. We must point the way to where hope may yet be found. We must take a stand for the miraculous.
What we have already learned to do for ourselves, we must now do for the world.