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We are in the Middle

We are in the middle.  I have been known to say that if it is not the end, it’s the middle. If it’s the middle, that means we are not finished yet. There is still room for mystery, artistry, discovery, and even surprise, if we allow ourselves the opportunity to simply “BE” in the middle.

In this season, where there seems to be so much to grappled with, wrestle with, solve and literally “re-solve,” as resolve in its truest sense seems more and more elusive–complications and layers lapsing, even as they are intersecting, making everything so hard to pin down and so difficult to be definitive about.  It feels as though any attempt at binary approaches to anything: conversations, decision-making, or even strategies as ways forward, feels thwarted.  Our prior access to “either this or that,” “yes or no,” or  even “you’re either in or you’re out,” are all too often stopping short of addressing the complexities accompanying today’s challenges in ways that honor the very real counter cultural conditions we are facing. These new challenges scoff at our “tried and true” practices, policies, and protocols, and complicate if not completely rail against the status quo.

The reality is that if we can locate ourselves between only two considerations these days, it is quite probable that a) we have not devoted the time and energy toward the consideration that the decision deserves in order to discover a more innovative, creative, and inclusive response; b) we are rooting and grounding ourselves in some “knee jerk” response, lackluster in comparison to the real gift of innovation and newer ways forward; or c) we are probably neglecting some nuanced but no less significant aspect of the challenge, and down the line, that element will illuminate itself, bearing the regret that often accompanies simple and staunch decision making that is rooted in the binary.

So how do we avoid the inadvertent impact of binary decision-making?  The first commitment is to safe-harbor the time it takes to suspend the instant response that comes instinctively and seemingly naturally.  These first solutions are often rooted in all we’ve ever known and practiced, and as such, can be a sure-fire path to mobilizing our own implicit biases and the proclivities that are most frequently steeped in what we privilege, neglecting the consideration of  our decision’s impact on historically intentionally and traditionally marginalized people groups and their circumstances in ways that we are otherwise unaware.  

Giving ourselves the time and space to consider what we dare not consider, making room to literally toy with the possibilities and play with notions that only come when creating the time and space to dream the impossible–to play the game, “But…what if we did?” with ourselves, leaves margin for ideas to emerge that will never arrive in the closed parameters of the binary space.  On the “playground” of multiple possibilities is exactly where third, fifth, and seventh ways of thinking, leading, and visioning reside.  It is here that we can find the strategies to move toward what we could otherwise never do or think about.  It is in this space that new models emerge, and not for nothin’, it is where the joyful spirit of collaboration with co-conspirators resides!  New models and ways of doing things that are more inclusive and invite the fullness of more members of humanity are born in this space of freedom to speak the unreasonable until it becomes wildly possible!  This space is dreamy!  And the only thing that makes it better, is to cover it in love!  Yes, I said it–the L word! 

The Road Less Traveled, by M. Scott Peck, defines love as “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.”  This is also the definition that bell hooks espouses to, making it all the more poignant for me!  So, imagine: we come together as a community, suspending the time necessary for the work at hand, to consider all of the possibilities, refusing the binary, in ways that are intentionally grounded in a collective commitment to growing each other from the inside out.  Wow!  How much more differently would our lives and organizations look and feel if this was the commitment?

As we do our work at Kehrein Center for the Arts, this commitment is what we have been fostering and nurturing, even as we have worked to develop our mission, vision, values, and strategy in our becoming a community arts hub on the West side of Chicago.  And while we know today that we won’t always get it right, having this commitment as a foundation in both identity and function serves as a powerful compass for how to get back to ourselves when we feel lost or unsure.  In these trying and uncertain times, what we need most is a compass for rediscovering our way.  Our commitment to “multiplicity in love” is one we trust to guide us back to good ground as we are in our own season of becoming.  Join us in the middle.  Selah.  

Reesheda Graham Washington, Executive Director

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