with walter brueggemann
This series is a six-part pause. For reflection. For consideration. To guide us in the restorative and reorienting work that is ours to do. While BitterSweet typically shares real world stories that point toward an alternative way to live and love, we thought given the torrent of digital content that our gift in this moment might need to be something slower and as raw as we are. And so here we offer that which we value most deeply—patient, soulful space to ask ancient, elemental questions. Of meaning. Of life.
We seek wisdom as an act of resistance—a determined response to fear, anxiety, and despair. And ache is where we start, perhaps appropriate given the profound sorrow of disease, devastation, and inequity.
In this segment Walter Brueggemann, an Old Testament scholar and world-renown theologian, leads us to consider lament, the switching of narratives, and life as covenant. We filmed this conversation with Walter two years ago, in an '88 Oldsmobile parked in an empty parking lot outside an abandoned mall in Cincinnati, Ohio. It’s uncanny how closely that scene resembles our current reality. His, a voice we need to hear, carrying nearly 100 years of lived experience and most of that spent in the study and teaching of ancient scriptures.
"There is another, more excellent way. We don’t have to live like this," says Walter.
This conversation between Walter Brueggemann and director Eliot Rausch was filmed November 30, 2017 in Cincinnati, OH.
There is a way to view our current circumstances as a gift—an invitation to choose a more excellent way to live and to love. Through pandemic we are presented an opportunity to not simply go back to the way things were, but rather push into new imagination for how things can be. We have all been touched by a fresh sense of fragility, in ourselves and in our social systems. We can let the blue skies above LA and Wuhan and clean canals in Venice prompt the question again, “What is the better way and how can I live it?” The earth is aching, undoubtedly, as are we each—relationally perhaps, or financially, or physically or mentally.
And this is a moment to notice the ache—to admit pain, disappointment, sorrow. Can we ache for the 200,000 lives claimed by Covid? Can we ache for the more than 30 million jobs lost in the United States alone? Can we ache for the quaking of our healthcare and hospital systems, and for the frontline providers risking their own health to care for the sickness of others? Whatever ache I have carried, I see now you carry it too—different in particularity, but universal in truth.
This is a moment to allow the deep questions to surface and breathe. No interest in easy answers or cheap solutions. Only space to contemplate what the ache can teach us. Allowing it to reorient us.
This is a moment to seek wisdom, not answers. Wisdom that can orient in times of confusion, that can uplift in times of despair.
May the acute anxiety of Covid remind us, open us to refreshed compassion for the billion people long living with food insecurity, for the millions despairing for locusts and rain, for the many millions living on the razor’s edge of poverty no matter how hard they work, and the many children without in-home resources for continued education.
May these seeds of ache put down roots in our hearts and ground us more deeply in compassion. May they mature as openness to the pain and ache of others and teach us the questions of wisdom, truth of mystery, and presence of love everlasting. Ache is a reminder of our humanness—we were made for relationship. Let the frustration of distance remind us of this every day.
Ache sounds heavy and sad but is really invitation to participate in the restoration and healing of the deeper things. May it lead us toward one another.