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The end in the beginning

The end in the beginning

Dec 23, 2021

Dear Friends,

December 21st marks the solstice—the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and the longest in the South—that point where days cross over from shortening to lengthening, or vice versa, depending on where you stand in relationship to the sun and its shadows.

So much of life is like that—one person’s ending is another’s beginning, what occurs as a loss to one might feel like victory to someone else. This day of changing shadows reminds us, though, that our perspective is not the Truth. What we can see from where we stand is only one part of the story.

There’s been a lot of talk this year about how polarized we’ve become, how intractable our problems seem, but the differences that so often seem to divide us are not new, they are just rising to the surface and influencing the public conversation in a new way. Most days this gives me hope because as long as one set of views or values dominates the conversation, our chances of coming up with truly creative solutions to the challenges we face collectively are slim.

In most of the natural world, we recognize the value of polarities for holding things in balance and can readily see that the productive tension caused by differences in a system is the source of evolutionary change. Yet, as people, we too-often seem to feel that life would be better or easier if only more people looked, acted, believed, or felt “like us.” In fact, it is only when we come face-to-face with radically different views and experiences that we can break the hold of our own limited thinking and see pervasive challenges in a new light. It is that meaningful experience with otherness that helps us co-create truly innovative solutions together.

In this month’s newsletter, our team explores the joys and challenges of remembering and re-imagining. As many of us spend time this month in some form of celebration, we reflect on the ways that our traditions both help us to remember and allow us to redefine who we are. Twenty years ago, I rode my bicycle 675 miles in seven days from Missoula to Billings, Montana to raise money for AIDS vaccine research. At the time it seemed like an idea within reach, but a vaccine has continued to prove elusive. Even as treatment protocols have evolved and many more infected people are living full lives, we remember both the progress we’ve made and the distance we still have to go in fighting AIDS. And, as we wind down another year marked with moments of meaningful progress alongside painful backlash on the road to social justice, we examine how to do the weighty work of advancing the goals of Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion with joy in our hearts.

I hope the days ahead will afford you some time to reflect and refresh yourself as 2021 ends and we begin another New Year, still unsure of what the pandemic end game will look like. If you are looking for ideas and fresh perspectives to inspire new thinking during this slightly slower time of year, I encourage you to check out our resource library full of videos and articles to support you as we all work to build a brighter future that is better for us all.