Thursday, December 20, 2007

Right Relationship

Sometimes, I find myself waking up at the end of a dream that I want to have ended differently. That happened this morning and, while the events of the dream have elements that are related to my waking world, as a whole they are fictional and dreamish.

The situation was that I was participating in a workshop at my church. There was a large group of people, both my fellow parishioners and visiting people, UUs all, including several ministers. We filed into a large hall set with rows of long folding tables and sat on both sides of the first three rows. We couldn't all see each other and groups (cliques) formed based on personal prior relationships (ministers sat together, board members sat together, etc.). The workshop was something yarn-related (don't ask me!, clearly something related to the fact that both my daughters are knitting and crocheting Solstice presents but, otherwise not relevant).

We hadn't formally started, yet, or checked in but some were already talking about the subject of the workshop. One person (not a real person as far as I know but definitely an archetype) was quite animated, a little too boisterous with a puppyish enthusiasm for the subject and who didn't seem to be in touch with the decorum of the group. One of the visiting ministers (again, not someone real) said something to the group which embarrassed this person (intentionally) and in the awkward moments that followed the person and one of the people that was with him got up and left.

In the stunned silence that followed it was clear that quite a few people were happy that the disruptive person was gone and that others were aghast! It was this discomfort that started to wake me up and took me to the partially awake state where I tried to "fix" the dream. As usual with this sort of thing (for me), I wasn't trying to fix the original situation but to fix my response to it. The final revision is that I stood up and said something to the effect that I was surprised and disappointed by the callous disregard and disrespect shown to a member of the group and that I felt that the group and, specifically, people that we look up to as leaders were no longer in "right relationship" and that I couldn't attend the workshop while that cloud was hanging over it.

There are aspects of this dream that have real-world components. I am on the board of my church and have been dealing with a situation involving a conflict between the professional staff and some people in our congregation. I deal with people that deal with other people and crowds in - shall we say - less than people-wise ways (an aside: when I talk about this sort of behavior, why is it almost inevitable that the diagnosis "Asperger's Syndrome" comes up?).

That's not the point, though. First, it seems to me that this kind of dream is talking more about me and my reactions (and actions or lack thereof) than it is about whatever real-life seeds germinated in my dream world. In this case, I am usually someone who, in a crowd, lets someone else call "bullshit" and take others to task. Alone, I usually let it slide though it is getting more uncomfortable for me to do so. I am getting more comfortable speaking out in defense of my principles (Hmmm... What are they? New post idea!); in situations where I know and trust the people involved and soon, hopefully, in situations where I need to push out of my comfort zone.

Second, it is becoming more clear that the concept of "right relationship" and reconciliation is very important to me. I am inspired by the personal example of one of my church's interim ministers several years ago and by the efforts of a retired minister in my congregation, now.

Right relationship is clearly an important idea and tool for achieving an anti-racist, anti-oppressive community. Right relationship also has spiritual and ecological overtones. One way I see it is that if you are not in right relationship (with another person, a community, or the whole society) then that relationship contains oppressive elements.

So, on to Taarna's question; What do I value most? I value being in, and working for, right relationship.

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