August Practice: Standing in the Tragic Gap

Practice | nonviolence, mindfulness

August 01, 2016

It’s easy to react to each day’s news and events (personal and public) with raw emotion, adding to waves of anger, grief, and even calls for retribution well before the facts are in. Social media can make this even more intense. 

If we mean to cultivate nonviolence and peace, we need to practice another way, says author Parker Palmer. Instead of responding with corrosive cynicism or irrelevant idealism, Palmer says we need to stand in the “tragic gap” between these two poles.

“The insight at the heart of nonviolence is that we live in a tragic gap--a gap between the way things are and the way we know they might be,” he writes in A Hidden Wholeness. “It is a gap that never has been and never will be closed. If we want to live nonviolent lives, we must learn to stand in the tragic gap, faithfully holding the tension between reality and possibility.”

How do we do that? In this brief video he invites us “to practice the powers that open the heart, that open the mind, that invite the soul into being…” He stresses, too, the importance of doing this inner work in community because we’re “so gifted at self delusion, of hearing only certain voices within ourselves.”

Parker Palmer - Between What Is

This month, let’s find and/or practice our own unique way of standing in the tragic gap. What does that look like for you? We invite you to share your own practices, rituals, techniques for doing this in your life, your work, your community. Sharing and learning from each other is part of how we will “build the spiritual foundation for a loving world.”