Thursday, January 11, 2024

Radical Be(com)ing

Millions of people in the United States are part of this organically evolving cultural revolution. Because we believe in combining spiritual growth and awakening with practical actions in our daily lives, we are having a profound effect on American culture. - Grace Lee Boggs, The Next American Revolution (2011)

Note: a tad longer than our usual quarterly updates, this is an abridged and edited version of a way-too-long end-of-the-year review Tommy wrote for the Radical Discipleship blog. 

Fifty-five years ago, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King warned that American society was in a spiritual death spiral and that we would not be able to come out of it without undergoing a radical revolution of values. That same American society assassinated him when his radical values led him to speak out clearly against the Vietnam war, and when he threw his support and efforts behind the mass-organization of sanitation workers in our country. 

Is it any wonder that same American society has been working hard ever since to demonize the notion of anything "radical," which simply means to get at the root? Root causes expose America's sins, so we are trained to fear, dismiss, and mistrust anything radical. Grace Lee Boggs was a Chinese-American with a PhD who moved to the eastside of Detroit with her spouse Jimmy Boggs to live in solidarity with low-income residents and labor organizers. She was fully committed to the spiritual and political revolution that Dr. King participated in. Grace used to say this:

We can transform the world if we transform ourselves – and we can transform ourselves if we transform the world.

Grace Lee Boggs believed that this two-sided transformation is rooted in an interconnected network of diverse and scattered partnerships and groups, most of them small and barely visible. These radical incubators can cultivate in us the kind of moral courage we need in order to openly break rank with the supremacy stories (like racism, materialism and militarism) that control every major American institution - and create new ways of being and living. When two or three are gathered in the name of a love supreme, the long arc of justice, a compassionate groan, the inconvenient truth and a whole-hearted humility, Something Else is present and working towards transformation (pictured above: the Nahar Family, beloveds we visited in Elkhart, IN just after the new year - they inspire and lead, in manifold ways, with their enduring and dynamic embodiment of Boggs' and King's vital visions for our times).

Monday, September 18, 2023


A few months ago, on a gray, thirty-five degree afternoon in Detroit, Tom was sipping on a Reds Rye IPA by the fire at Founders Brewery with his friend Bill Boyle, a former teacher and administrator who is now the executive director of a company that helps organizations (like schools) become more equitable, restorative spaces. When the topic shifted to spirituality, Bill flipped the script and said that he was “religious not spiritual.” Bill broke it all down to the basics. The Latin root of religion means “to be bound.” Bill said that he’s bound to his Zen Buddhist practice, a discipline that leads to love and liberation – for himself and others.

Bill was dropping some really compelling wisdom. In these chaotic, confusing times, we need to be bound and anchored to Something Else. Unfortunately, “organized religion” in America is often weighed down with so much traumatic, dramatic and dogmatic baggage. The guilt and obligation can be so oppressive. On the other hand, “spirituality” can feel like a slippery, vague, kind of non-committal concept. Our Buddhist brother Bill speaks a slightly different dialect, but we are bound together by core convictions. Above all else, we both pivot on a love paradox boldly proclaiming that the only thing we get to keep is what we give away. 

Monday, June 12, 2023

No Matter What

While we do our good works let us not forget that the real solution lies in a world in which charity will have become unnecessary. - Chinua Achebe 
Spring is a beautiful time of year to be in Detroit. The leaves and the flowers burst on the scene in fast forward. The red robin returned to our back deck to build another nest for her babies. We open the windows to feel the breeze and hear birdsong every morning and evening - and gunshots every once in a while. We see raccoons, groundhogs, pheasants and falcons. A few weeks ago, we encountered a coyote at dusk, just a block from our condo. On days off, we drive to the beach on Belle Isle (the 982-acre island in the middle of the Detroit River) or to Bishop Lake, a state park about fifty miles west of the city. 

Since our last quarterly blog update, Lindsay has taken blood tests, gotten her hormone levels checked and got a brain scan (on Easter Sunday!). Everything came out "normal." She's been taking heavy doses of Vitamin D and B-12, in addition to the Chinese herbal tea formula prescribed by her acupuncturist Annie. The next step in the referral process is to see an endocrinologist, as Lindsay and her team both suspected her particular Long Covid symptoms to be connected with her nervous system, potentially an onslaught that led to a severe adrenal insufficiency, among other things. Before seeing that specialist (her appointment isn't until 6/15!), Lindsay started following a regimen for adrenal repair on her own - continuing to avoid spiking her heart rate (no high impact cardio, very little social time, medical leave from work), and making some key adjustments around diet (cutting out coffee, alcohol and processed foods, but also upping her intake of electrolytes via a daily I.V. hydration powder, and eating more meals, more regularly - she even braved a stint of eating red meat every day for 3 weeks! Oh, and salt. Lots of salt.). Radical REST was also a key requirement and healer, and regular walking and meditation practices became not only integral medicine, but unexpected delight. 

In mid May, Lindsay asked her homeopath Carrie if this incapacitation of fog and fatigue would now become her new normal. A disability she would live with from here on out, having to remain vigilant and never push beyond her limits for risk of relapse, as has become the reality for far too many afflicted by Long Covid. Carrie was quick to shoot that down. She was extremely optimistic. Because Lindsay dove deep and took the healing process so seriously (and was able to take medical leave): the regimens, rest and remedies, and the ongoing emotional/spiritual work, Carrie affirmed it's all part of the same holistic path to healing. She was confident Lindsay would not only make a full recovery, but be restored to a state of health even deeper than before she became ill.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Spirit Strength

To hope is to gamble. It's to bet on the future, on your desires, on the possibility that an open heart and uncertainty is better than gloom and safety. To hope is dangerous, and yet it is the opposite of fear, for to live is to risk." - Rebecca Solnit

It has been a bit of a scary, exhausting and confusing season for us in Detroit. 
On the one hand, as we enter our second year putting down roots in this beloved city, we have been finding deep joy and grounding in more meaningful place-based work and opportunities to throw in with folks struggling for justice in our own neighborhood and beyond, as well as delighting in the slow weaving of new and old networks of support and kinship. This first quarter of 2023 has been a time of catching our breaths after the holidays and end-of-the-year grind, and returning to regular rhythms of Sabbath rest, rigorous AlAnon program and meetings, and restorative practices which have been composting deep wells of grief, lament, and pain into unexpected gifts of delight, promise, and new life.  

On the other hand, Lindsay has concurrently been suffering from an extreme blend of insomnia, brain fog and fatigue over the past couple of months, and has become increasingly debilitated over the past month. She is finally getting some clarity and comfort from diagnostic tests, including comprehensive blood panels, in addition to a brain scan coming soon. It could be Long Covid, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and/or other possibilities. Her B12 and iron are also low from 14 years of a pretty strict vegetarian diet. Lindsay is extremely grateful for the avenues of healing, treatment, and diagnosis she now has in place - both western medicine diagnostics (which she wouldn't have access to without our expanded statewide health care) + alternative healing practitioners, who are serving up more tools and medicine for addressing and treating root causes, rather than leaving her only to manage symptoms and live with such a dramatic decrease in functioning. 

Friday, January 6, 2023

Grassroots Gratitude

We touch this strength, our power, who we are in the world, when we are most fully in touch with one another and with the world. - Carter Heyward

On Christmas Eve, it was four degrees in Detroit. Our next door neighbor, Henry, was out grilling steaks in his backyard. He was wearing jeans, a leather jacket, work gloves and a Dodgers baseball hat. We opted to stay inside and enjoy the oven-roasted vegan sausages we bought earlier in the week at the Meijer on 8-Mile. You should have seen the line for the automated checkout. It was at least fifty deep at 11am. 98% of the customers were Black. This year, we’ve been to grocery stores in Mission Viejo (CA), San Clemente (CA), Laguna Beach (CA), Bend (OR), Lawrence (KS), Sacramento (CA), Lodi (CA), Vail (CO), Ypsilanti (MI), Gross Pointe (MI), Troy (MI) and Battle Creek (MI). We haven’t seen anything that remotely resembles the line at the Meijer on 8-Mile. 

A couple weeks ago, the Detroit board of water commissioners held their monthly zoom call. The women of We the People of Detroit rang the bell, recruiting people of conscience to make a public comment. The city-wide moratorium on water shut-offs was (and still is) set to expire at the end of 2022. This year, the water department instituted a “lifeline plan” to help long-time, low-income residents pay their water bills. That’s good news, but too many folks are still falling through the cracks and we are still stuck in a pandemic. The prospect of turning off anyone’s tap is a crisis of ethical proportions - and a public health fiasco too. 

Monday, October 31, 2022

Hope at a Crash Scene

The world is held together, really it is, held together, 
by the love and the passion 
of a very few people. - James Baldwin

Last Friday night, we walked to Fisheye - our neighborhood farm - to buy greens. When we got back to our place, there was a huge car crash at the intersection of Grand River and Rosa Parks, right around the corner from us. A silver Dodge Charger with a blue racing stripe raged around the corner and floored it down our street. It had a huge dent on the side and there was pot smoke coming out of the inside of the car. It was a hit-and-run. Another car came around the corner too. They were following him. 
We ran out to the car in the middle of the street, at the intersection of Grand River and Rosa Parks. The air bags had already deflated and the driver said his back was hurting. He seemed far more concerned about his car. A few young Black men pulled up to the intersection right next to us. They asked what happened. We told them a silver Dodge Charger did this damage and fled the scene. They asked which way. We pointed and they peeled off to hunt them down. 

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Turning the Toxic into the Tonic

"What's sad is that people claim that poor Black communities need policing the most - to protect them. But this is not quite true. Capitalists need policing the most - to protect their property, billions, businesses and borders by arresting the people whom they've exploited, excluded and extracted from the most." - Derecka Purnell, Becoming Abolitionists (2021) 

We woke up on the last Friday in June to find the red robin's nest removed from where it was resting underneath the roof of our back deck. When we went to bed the night before, three baby birdies were chirping. Now it was silent. It was a sign. The predator showed up just a few hours before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. 

We joined a mass of mad people marching in downtown Detroit later that day. The stories and statistics have been spilling out on social media ever since. About the 10-year old girl who was raped in Ohio but had to drive to Indiana to get treated. About how husbands and boyfriends use pregnancy to control the physical and social lives of women. About how Black women are three times more likely than white women to die during childbirth. 

Radical Be(com)ing

Millions of people in the United States are part of this organically evolving cultural revolution. Because we believe in combining spiritual...