Risk and Wordlessness: Learning Love and Justice

For the most part, I write when I feel compelled to write. And I have spent a lot of time feeling compelled to write, working with words to distill and dispel; to shape the stuff of my deep convictions into communicable bursts of meaning.

So it’s with some reluctance that I have been giving myself to a kind of unknowing that has meant fewer words in the last several months than I am used to inflicting on the world.

I’d like to say that it has something to do with playing more. Or something to do with praying with my body on a boat, afloat and pressed by wind, back and forth across the waters of Puget Sound. And that is true. I think it also has something to do with being soul-quieted by profound experiences of love.

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There is so much that needs to be said about the world around us. But more than words, we need deep, abiding experiences of love.

Loving, grieving, and risking, are three sides of the same coin. The love-grief-risk act is one done with our bodies. It is kindled in the tender power of our flesh. And this action is played out when we make/believe—daring to risk our bodies on the imagination of meaningful connection with others. To move towards love is to pray the prayer of our bodily vulnerability.

We constitute justice and reconciliation, healing self and world, when we accept the invitation to participate in the playful re-creation of the world through a social imagination based on loving attachment to those who are other than what we know and expect. That is to say, we change the world when we let ourselves be loved and, in so doing, learn to love.

But to love and be loved, we must grieve the loss of what we wanted and didn’t get, what we had that died, and what we never believed we could really have. And to love, we must risk saying yes to falling head over heels for something that we know will eventually end in one way or another. To love is to say yes to the invitation to play each time the invitation is extended.


In the wordless places of the last few months, I have been shocked—nay, flabbergasted—by the capacity of my body to hold such sorrow and pleasure. Deep belonging and grieving go hand-in-hand, each opening up more space for the other. We can never explore these vast spaces on our own.

In ways I could never imagine, I am become brother and lover in the arms and hearts of those who love me well. And this expansion of my heart is opening space in me that makes room for more creative peace-making justice than mere indignation or sorrow ever could. Such opening precedes language—unfolding room within me and for me in the world, in ways for which I am still acquiring language.

One way that this imagination is beginning to emerge, and that I hope to write more about in coming months, is that I am growing into a sense of identity rooted more in belonging than in the narratives of ownership that dominate what it means to be a white male in this culture. As I am listening to where I belong in conversations about being human and humane, I don’t have to define the terms of the conversation (an explicit strategy of debate, legislation, and legal ownership), and can, instead, listen to the pattern language happening around me and then playfully engage with where my experiences of hope and love are inviting me to grow my piece of the dialogue.

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I don’t expect this post to make a whole lot of sense to most folks. Like I said, I’m playing on the edge of the capacity of my words right now. What I can say is that I feel personally happy and loved, profoundly grieved at the state of our world, and persistently hopeful that we can, by loving/grieving/risking, grow our capacity to say yes to the kind of play that repairs the world.

Right now I know these things mostly through the feel of the pull of wind against sails straining the till in my hands, through the tender touch of lips and strong hands, and through the joy of falteringly chorded songs sung with those who have become my family.

And words too, are a bodily experience, existing first in throats, and lips, and tongues before landing in ink or pixels. I believe that the words will continue to grow, I feel them in the way my body is learning how to love.

To write about justice, I must first allow experiences of love to open space in my life where I can risk loving deeply, with my whole self, so that my words belong to my bodily life, bearing wit(h)ness to grief and hope. Only then can words lead to any kind of justice.

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