How Can We All Win?
Regardless of how you felt about Saturday’s election results, can you remember how the other half of America feels? In a stunning performance, the fearless and sometimes off-the-rails comedian Dave Chappelle posed this question in his brilliant and edgy monologue on Saturday Night Live.
Chappelle leads by remembering his great-grandfather who was born into slavery in South Carolina. He was freed at age 10 and dedicated his life to three essentials: education, the freedom of Black people, and Jesus Christ. He ended up being the president of Allen University, one of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) as well as the 37th Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. (Another HBCU grad, Kamala Harris, is our Vice President-Elect!)
In his routine, Chappelle doesn’t entertain, he challenges. You can feel the discomfort in the studio audience, which probably leans left and wanted a big feel-good monologue about the Democratic win. Instead, they got provoked and called to their edge.
Chappelle likened President Donald Trump contracting COVID-19 and receiving state-of-the-art treatment to taking a bag of hamburgers into a homeless shelter and eating them in front of the homeless while saying that hunger shouldn’t dictate their life. Chappelle highlighted the pain and anguish for White Americans whose life expectancy for the first time has been on the downturn in recent years fueled by “deaths of despair” from drug overdoses, alcoholism, liver disease, and suicides. Chappelle asked us to consider the pain and anguish in the White community over these deaths and the feeling that nobody cares. He also asks us to feel what police officers feel putting on their uniforms: “that they have a target on their backs.”
The key moment is when Chappelle says he knows this anguish of being a target and of feeling no one cares, and he hates the FEELING, but that he doesn’t hate ANYONE. This is a radical and critical distinction. In our world, we currently face fearsome challenges: the unraveling of our ecosystem as it tries to support an expanding population; rapid-fire changes in technology and the expansion of Artificial Intelligence (AI); growing economic disparities with our unequal playing field and more. But if we insist on focusing our trauma onto others instead of working within ourselves to create Ahisma (nonviolence towards ourselves and all beings), we increase our own suffering as well as the suffering of others.
Chappelle can be repugnant, but like all prophets, he is edgy. We talk a lot about “The Edge” in yoga, and mostly it’s been applied to the physical sensations in a pose like a hip opener. But the physical practice is exactly that: practice for sitting with our edge mentally and emotionally. Can we stay on that edge of not knowing – what we call in meditation taking on “Beginner’s Mind” – and be curious and ready to listen to those with opposing views? One tool I’ve been teaching in workshops and that I use in my own life is called Active Love (see more under “Recommended Reading” at end of this email), where you send active love energy from your physical heart space to another person, disengaging from the particulars (you can imagine NOT seeing their face if that helps). It is our love and compassion for all human beings that is critical. We NEED each other. Yoga invites us to awaken from the illusion of separation and be yoked to each other and to all that is throughout time and space.
This heart opening is not about arching our spines; we know we have too much of that in yoga anyway! It’s about offering compassion to ourselves and then to see if we can sit with the difficult emotions that arise when we encounter those who challenge us, but still send them love – or at least a little kindness.
Dave Chappell’s Monologue – You’re Forewarned!
Wishing you peace and, as John Lewis would say, a Little Good Trouble!
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