Post-election Healing Ceremonies from Julian of Norwich & Kurt Vonnegut

Elections are efforts at making community and choosing directions and leadership for community.  Sometimes they can be very bruising to the soul. 

“Election Protection” On Election Night 2020, a small army of volunteers spread out to post signs at polling places all across the United States to ensure voters had the legal resources they needed to protect their rights. Photo by JoLynne Martinez on Flickr.

I offer here two practices or ceremonies to assist one from pain of loss or disappointment.  One comes from the front page of my new book on Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic—and Beyond.  The book arrived at my front door on election day and a friend told me that he felt the poem I created from Julian’s words were a welcome salve to the pain he was feeling this election season. 

I share it here:

Wisdom is the mother of all good things.
—Wisdom 7:10-11

The mix of joy and grief: “Love Gives, Love Takes!” Photo by ☼☼Jo Zimny☼☼ on Flickr.

The first good thing is the goodness of nature.
God is the same thing as nature.
The goodness in nature is God.
God feels great delight to be our Father.
God feels great delight to be our Mother.
We experience a wondrous mix of well and woe.
The mingling of both well and distress in us
is so astonishing
that we can hardly tell which state
we or our neighbor are in—
that’s how astonishing it is!

—Julian of Norwich

A second proposed ritual comes from Kurt Vonnegut, and I share it here. 

Kurt Vonnegut in a 1990 portrait (Yousuf Karsh / National Portrait Gallery). Uploaded to Flickr by Rashawerakh

In 2006 a high school English teacher asked students to write a famous author and ask for advice. Kurt Vonnegut responded this way:  “Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don’t make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.

What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula.

“Peasant and Peasant Woman Planting Potatoes.” Painting by Vincent van Gogh, left behind as rubbish in Antwerp. On Wikimedia Commons.

Here’s an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. Don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?

Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash receptacles. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.

God bless you all!

Kurt Vonnegut

See Matthew Fox, The A.W.E. Project: Reinventing Education, Reinventing Humanity, pp. 136-138, 111-115;

Also see Matthew Fox, Creativity: Where the Divine and the Human Meet. 

Banner Image: “Breakfast doodle 1. Before Mom passed away, I would visit her and have breakfast each day and I’d doodle on the back of the Word Seek pages they were given. One of the residents usually took the doodles so I seldom had the chance to photograph them.” Doodle by Sandra Strait on Flickr.

What in Julian’s poem and what in Vonnegut’s letter speaks to you of community and healing?

The A.W.E. Project: Reinventing Education, Reinventing the Human

The A.W.E. Project reminds us that awe is the appropriate response to the unfathomable wonder that is creation… A.W.E. is also the acronym for Fox’s proposed style of learning – an approach to balance the three R’s. This approach to learning, eldering, and mentoring is intelligent enough to honor the teachings of the Ancestors, to nurture Wisdom in addition to imparting knowledge, and to Educate through Fox’s 10 C’s. The 10 C’s are the core of the A.W.E. philosophy and process of education, and include: compassion, contemplation, and creativity. The A.W.E. Project does for the vast subject of “learning” what Fox’s Reinvention of Work did for vocation and Original Blessing did for theology. Included in the book is a dvd of the 10 C’s put to 10 video raps created and performed by Professor Pitt.
An awe-based vision of educational renewal.Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice.

Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet

Because creativity is the key to both our genius and beauty as a species but also to our capacity for evil, we need to teach creativity and to teach ways of steering this God-like power in directions that promote love of life (biophilia) and not love of death (necrophilia). Pushing well beyond the bounds of conventional Christian doctrine, Fox’s focus on creativity attempts nothing less than to shape a new ethic.
“Matt Fox is a pilgrim who seeks a path into the church of tomorrow.  Countless numbers will be happy to follow his lead.” –Bishop John Shelby Spong, author, Rescuing the Bible from FundamentalismLiving in Sin

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3 thoughts on “Post-election Healing Ceremonies from Julian of Norwich & Kurt Vonnegut”

  1. Avatar

    Hi – just wanted to share that your video is not available to view this morning. It says it will premiere tomorrow (11/6). Powerful DM this morning. Thank you!

  2. Avatar
    Anne Marie Raftery

    Today’s Meditation comes as a Great Relief – a “breath of fresh air” as
    we await the announcement of our new President.
    Thank you!

  3. Avatar

    I especially liked Kurt Vonnegut’s advice to the high school students:
    “Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.”

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