There is a river in this heart of mine
With a knowingness of my highest good
The lyrics don’t appear until verse three, and it is only in verse three, that all the voices are heard. It is a favourite of the choir I sing in and the lines are followed by a Hallejuah as that is the name of the song, the Hebrew hallĕlūyāh ‘praise ye the Lord. Praise is both noun and verb and when I experience the sound we make together, the sound itself is noun and verb, a declaration and an invitation. I can’t get the song out of my head this week, amidst the fallout from Christchurch, each day I am drawn into the leadership of a woman that is an expression of her country’s culture yearning to wholeness, and my own that created the product who executed the terrorism. I am taken back by the time Prime Minister Ardern is taking, to be in the grief, and not be in a hurry to move on, and encouraged by the world media who astonished by her behaviour continue to reflect on her. She is leaving no stone unturned, methodically she is going from place to place, school, hospital, family, mosque, park and playground. She is open, vulnerable, sad. She is a mother and a leader, a tigress protecting her nation with hope and humility, courage and strength. This is a new expression of leadership. She is redefining what it means to tap into the highest good of a nation. I am reminded of the best speech Kim Beazley ever gave – when he lost what I call the Tampa election in 2001. He recalled this in a conversation with Geraldine Doogue some years later
Like any nation there are bleak angels in our nature, but there are also good angels as well. And the task and challenge for those of us in politics is to bring out the generosity that resides in the soul of the ordinary Australia, that generosity of heart, so that we as a nation turn to each other and not against each other in the circumstances which we face.
Ardern has been able to actually do this – show us all how a politician can lead a nation in turning to one another and not against each other.
I am deeply disturbed by the results in the NSW election last night – a community of voters elected Mark Latham to One Nation and another community electing Jenny Leong as Greens member. There could be no bigger gap in a parliament between these two elected representatives. Together they demonstrate the polarities defining our nation – white and non-white, male and female, inner city and regional. We are dangerously closer to the US in our political landscape than our friends across the Tasman.
In the NZ PM we are being invited to a transfiguration, an invitation to a complete change of form into a more beautiful or spiritual state, where politics is a reflection of our best selves and not a reduction to the lowest common denominator. We are being invited into leadership to transcend polarities by rising to our higher selves, by tapping into the river in our hearts, that yearns and knows what is good and great, graceful and gritty. We are arrive at this invitation on the threshold of our own Alleluia and with the question on our lips, are we the ones who knowingly and intentionally rise to the occasion and embrace those grieving by setting aside our own analysis, perspective, fear of the other.
This is a time to call on the good angels, the ones who will feed our spirits and souls and fill us up with courage and light, carry us through sad times and bring us deeper humanity. Leaving people behind will breed bleak terrorist angels. It will have dogs being whistled by their masters, starving, in a dry river bed. We need to fill each other up.
In no time at all we will be heading to the national ballot box, where we can express how we feel with the rather blunt instrument of a vote. We are being called to turn to each other in our common heartache and broken-ness and this feels like an easter story in the making. It feels both like the last embers of a fire glowing in the dark and the promise of a new fire to light up a new way for generosity to show up in Australia. All kinds of sparks might fly.
AUGURIES OF INNOCENCE
by William Blake
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour
A Robin Red breast in a Cage
Puts all Heaven in a Rage
A Dove house filld with doves & Pigeons
Shudders Hell thro all its regions
A dog starvd at his Masters Gate
Predicts the ruin of the State …