Reflecting on Endings

Our minds like patterns and predictability, so we seek to establish routines and rituals to bring order and meaning to our lives. We use words to frame our understanding, but our vocabulary, like our understanding, is limited. We pretend our days start at a given time, or that our activities are finite and fit within a contained temporal boundary. It’s a story we tell ourselves: Our lives are contained, the universe is small and manageable, the illusion I build is real and solid and reliable. Things start and come to a reasonable conclusion. But what we call endings are moments of transformation. We are always in the middle of something, preparing for changes to come. An ending is really the emergence of what is next as part of a continuum of growth and change. Sometimes evolution is radical, quick, sharp, and sudden, and sometimes it’s gradual like the slow work of erosion on bedrock.

Endings aren’t what we think they are. Our memories and imaginations can bring someone or something back even after they are gone. Stories train us to expect a beginning, middle, and end to all things. But my experience teaches me that life isn’t a story, because my work is constantly changing. I’m involved in education and community renewal, and I can think of no more radical project than building a caring environment for love, learning, and advocacy. I get to repurpose social tools once used to isolate and separate people from each other into instruments of integration, discovery, and empowerment.

The work needs to be done, but it takes time. Wholeness of being, renewal, and community building: these aren’t fragmented industrial assembly-line processes. They take a lifetime of reaching out, connecting, finding and offering healing, learning, and teaching. Small grains of sand build a mountain, and single drops of water fill an ocean. Each one is important and impactful to Creation. Eventually, new ways of being together in the gift of the world emerge from our mistakes and successes, and the humbling process of learning together.

The world works the way it does because we largely agree to it. Nothing changes until a critical mass of people are uncomfortable enough to make changes. Systems don’t work without people willing to participate in them. By adhering to the operational rules, we bring about the outcomes those systems are set up for, whether we agree with the outcomes or not. Social change comes when we let go of the things that hold each other down. We must find work in systems that let us lift each other up and re-make systems that don’t into systems that do. We are empowered to make and change the world. We have a choice in every moment of what that world will be.

We, the body of Christ, are engaged in a project to recognize and spread love throughout Creation. This is the 2020th year of the common era. That’s two millennia of seeking to build social structures founded in unconditional love, inclusion, and compassion. If it were easy, we’d have done it by now, but we have lots of work left to do.

Truthfully, I’m not much interested in endings. I prefer to ask, Where has this world come from? or What is this based in? I want to hear more about unconditional love, the feeling that accepts us wholly as who we are and grows us into who we are becoming. Where do I find a thing like that? The systems I inhabit and perpetuate need a critical re-examination. If I’m not meeting people in the place of love and growth because the system I’m in forbids or prevents that from happening, then I need to become a subversive radical.

I wish I could say it’s a purely altruistic endeavour, but I know when I work with another person to improve their own life, mine improves too. So does everyone else’s. That’s because we are all connected. We are all part of the massive super-organism we call society. Like a murmuration of starlings, we flock all over the Earth, urged to fill creation. Recent and historic events show us how we react to stimuli, good and bad. Rapid global communication spreads messages faster than we can imagine.

Endings are not real. We experience transformation and call it a completion, but what was before is not gone. What is now will change, and yet there is no moment when a line can be definitively drawn and one can say, “There is the conclusion.” Creation was made with and in love. In faith there is no end to that beautiful journey, no bottom to that well, and no top to that mountain. It’s not coming, it is here.

Alex Jackson is a writer, teacher, learner, father, husband, amateur philosopher, and beginner martial artist. He feels called to work in reconciliation.

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