angel Kyodo williams

I haven’t written here in a long time for many different reasons. But I felt compelled to post a few excerpts from angel Kyodo williams and her interview with On Being’s Krista Tippet. Her words resonate strongly with me and my vision of staying in trouble. Maybe someday I’ll write more about all of this, but today I want her words to fill up this space with their love and possibility.

on the value of queerness

a language and a lens — because it was happening at the same time — through which to turn the dharma over, turn my Buddhist practice over and over so that it didn’t exist for me as a “not-this,” meaning, it was just not-Christianity, it was not-the-Baptist-church that I was trying to get away — it wasn’t solely that. It was all of these other possibilities and permutations that lived on a much wider spectrum than, I think, many of us that have grown up very firmly in some kind of a religious orientation, then we move or convert to Buddhism, and it becomes a new fixation; it becomes a new “I am this, now.” “I am not heterosexual; I am lesbian. I am not Jewish; I am now Buddhist.” And I lived in a fascinating and wonderful and I-would-never-trade-it time that said, there are spectrums, there are permutations, there are aspects of me that I can continue to claim that are clearly of their Christian background and Baptist upbringing, my Episcopalian time. I can claim all of it, and it doesn’t have to diminish any other aspect of my identity. Queerness gave me the language for everything I know about liberation and freedom.

being undone as a goal

without this particular place and location of a willingness to be flexible, open, soft-bellied enough to be moved by the truth of the other in whatever given situation, then it is not transformative. It’s change, maybe; it can be moved backwards again, as we can see — the stroke of a pen.

But for us to transform as a society, we have to allow ourselves to be transformed as individuals. And for us to be transformed as individuals, we have to allow for the incompleteness of any of our truths and a real forgiveness for the complexity of human beings and what we’re trapped inside of, so that we’re both able to respond to the oppression, the aggression that we’re confronted with, but we’re able to do that with a deep and abiding sense of “and there are people, human beings, that are at the other end of that baton, that stick, that policy, that are also trapped in something. They’re also trapped in a suffering.” And for sure, we can witness that there are ways in which they’re benefiting from it, but there’s also ways, if one trusts the human heart, that they must be suffering. And holding that at the core of who you are when responding to things, I think, is the way — the only way we really have forward; to not just replicate systems of oppression for the sake of our own cause….

it’s actually uncomfortably un-knowing ourselves. [laughs] It is this willingness to keep being willing to come undone — to do what we can to understand the world around us and how we operate and what is impacting who we are and how we are, and to allow that to keep coming undone. That’s what I think is really the paradox in what is possible, from a liberatory standpoint, is to recognize, oh, we’re not trying to become something, we’re trying to un-become. We’re trying to undo ourselves.

And that is really what is most challenging for us, because we want to be known to ourselves. We want to be known to others. But the moment we try to do that, we’re actually fixating in a way that traps us, so we feel both safe, but it’s also confining.

love as space

It is developing our own capacity for spaciousness within ourselves to allow others to be as they are — that that is love. And that doesn’t mean that we don’t have hopes or wishes that things are changed or shifted, but that to come from a place of love is to be in acceptance of what is, even in the face of moving it towards something that is more whole, more just, more spacious for all of us. It’s bigness. It’s allowance. It’s flexibility. It’s saying the thing that we talked about earlier, of “Oh, those police officers are trapped inside of a system, as well. They are subject to an enormous amount of suffering, as well.”

I think that those things are missed when we shortcut talking about King, or we shortcut talking about Gandhi, or we shortcut talking about what Aung San Suu Kyi was doing at some point. We leave out the aspects of their underlying motivation for moving things, and we make it about policies and advocacy, when really it is about expanding our capacity for love, as a species.