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It's not a privilege to be disconnected from your heart...

I was hosting a discernment-circle with two colleagues-friends who have shaped my life deeply these last years. Both African-American, one woman, one man. We were discussing the need for intersectionality to be part of the frame of our collaborations—a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw over thirty years ago to note “where power comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects.” (Columbia Law School review essay.) Or her summary from a 2020 Time article: “It’s basically a lens, a prism, for seeing the way in which various forms of inequality often operate together and exacerbate each other. We tend to talk about race inequality as separate from inequality based on gender, class, sexuality or immigrant status. What’s often missing is how some people are subject to all of these, and the experience is not just the sum of its parts.” ( The invitation between us in our circle-listening was how each of us was learning to honor our privileges and the intersection of identities that predict oppression(s).

It’s not a privilege to be disconnected from your heart, she said. My paraphrase of her wisdom: Our sense of privilege, therefore sense of oppression, is determined by a yardstick of white and male. When you change the yardstick, privilege is redefined, so is oppression.

This has been cooking me for a while, longer than when it was spoken here. I know so many colleagues who are disconnected from their hearts. I work in 'higher' theological education. One can pretty much assume the truth of such a statement. And yet the world of expertise, the world of accredited leaders with credentials earned, requires objective proof. How do you invite often masculinized colleagues to value deep feeling, particularly in systems hostile to it? (Long been my question, for myself, others).

One cheap ‘out’ is simply to invite us to read the morning news. Human beings being inhumane to one another, all marketed to sell products, as what bleeds, leads, and fear is a strong motivator for market economies. Clearly human heart disconnection, writ large.

But bring it in a little closer. You are disconnected from your heart. Said aloud, to just one person, it’s a judgment. An accusation, even. Immediately, defenses and cries of injustice arise.

I’m learning that it matters who speaks the words too. If I say it, to a friend (or a husband, for instance), it’s automatically received amidst the stories and narratives I’ve been living these last years. It’s a woman, speaking to a man, telling him he’s not emotionally sensitive enough, that he can’t “meet me where I most need to be met,” as a man. An African-American woman, speaking it to an African-American man, with a white woman companion in the mix? It lands with a provocative and inviting surprise. It points to the assumed yardstick of white and male, which all three of us are attempting to unlearn, to relearn a new yardstick…

One honoring interconnection, collective wisdom, and a love that trusts the other to do his/her/their own work, to save themselves so to BE WITH others in truth, goodness, beauty.

Maybe all spiritual maturation is simply learning to reconnect with one's own heart... All of us. Each day.

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