BOS 04 30 2021 doublesize
Learning costs. Not learning to multiply or spell but learning how to change ourselves and our society. Mistakes come from inside. My mistakes are mine. Mistakes belong to me. They are real. They reveal to others, but even more to myself, what gaps, what fractures, what leanings, what beliefs are in me. Most surprising is when the words that come out show bias that I absorbed but intend to disagree with.

Fixing mistakes means learning who I am. And that can hurt. Learning a new way means changing and that takes effort, takes giving up patterns that don't work, developing new ways to be. Learning costs.

But I would not unlearn what I know now. Making mistakes is like a mirror that shows us who we are. Saying the wrong thing reveals ideas we wish we did not hold. I still remember some of the words that have come out of my mouth that I would take back if I could.

But hearing myself speak is what showed me the biases, prejudices, blindnesses that were in me. If I had never said those things, I would not have changed.

I came across a quote from Jan Richardson. It's from the introduction to her book, Sparrow. She said, "The act of repair asks us to keep remaking what is perpetually at risk of falling apart. It is the remaking by which a home and a life may come, not in spite of what has gone before but because of it."

An over-used shelf in the laundry room came down Monday night. The screws pulled from the drywall. My first thought was that I would have to find the studs in order to put it back up. A second look showed that the spacing of the supports is predetermined. The repair will require a different kind of support for the shelf, one that can be moved to where the studs are.

Repairs on a car normally require replacing a used part with a new one the same. Repairs in life are more like my shelf: they require a re-think, adjustments, shifts.

Repairs in a relationship are required because one person hurt the other by their actions or words. Forgiveness is required, but so is an understanding of why the thing happened. The problem will just repeat unless there is an effort to uncover the cause, to adjust behaviour.

When we think about the big changes that are needed in our world, our carbon footprint for example, the word repair does not seem right. We don't want to rehang the same shelf, make sure the brakes still work. We need to change ingrained patterns, shift the way we live. We need to update our homes to make them more energy efficient. That costs money. But there are also shifts in attitude and practice. It means giving up our wonderful gas stove. It means shopping less, flying less. A whole new thought process is required, and that can feel costly to who we thought we were. The benefits if we can slow global warming are huge, but they can feel distant. The cost is up close.

I have been thinking a lot about systemic racism. Recently, Michael Blair, the general secretary of the United Church, said that if one more person said they want to be an ally, he would scream. Why? Because the ally has privilege and power, wants to "help." What needs to happen is for power to be shared. The person who wants to take apart the system that keeps racism in place has to give up their position and take apart the systems that give it to them.

Change costs. Personal change can require a kind of intellectual surgery. Social change requires giving up patterns and position. That does make change and learning and growth harder. But as I look back at the mistakes I made, I would not rewind the tape. I know what I know because I worked through those errors, found a different way forward.

Cathy Hird lives on the traditional territory of the Saugeen Ojibway


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