Tuesday, June 24, 2014

My Circus, My Monkeys

I like this one, but my wife tells me it's a wee bit intense.
"Not my circus.  Not my monkeys."

It's a meme that's been making the rounds lately, based on a Polish saying.  The saying pungently evokes a moment and a mindstate.

There you are, and the street is filled with monkeys.  Monkeys everywhere, getting into everything.  They have presumably escaped from the circus, and it's chaos.

A storekeeper approaches you, in a panic, as the monkeys smash and leap and generally make a mess.
Perhaps this one.

"Can you do something about these monkeys?"

To which you say, nonchalantly:

"Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys."

It's a way of saying: "Really, this isn't my problem.  I have nothing to do with this.  Didn't start it. Don't need to finish it.  I've never met these monkeys before in my life, and I'm gol-danged if I'll stress about it."

More pointedly, the point of that saying is:  don't let yourself get anxious about other people's mess.  Which I'm fine with.

Zen Mojo Jojo. Hmmm.
But what if it is our mess?  What about those times when we can't look at something, and deny we're part of it?  It's so easy to walk, to push off responsibility, to shake your head.  This is particularly true when you do not agree with a position that the gathered group that you're part of has taken.

Or when a position requires you to have awkward and difficult conversations.

"They did it," we say, grumpily, when anxious people ask us about why something was decided.  "I had nothing to do with it.  Those sure aren't my monkeys."

My denomination took several difficult steps in the last week, ones that will require the aforementioned challenging conversations. Same sex marriage?  Israel/Palestine?  I mean golly, what could possibly go wrong during a conversation on those subjects?


It'd be easier--more comfortable--to push those conversations off.    "Eh, why talk about it?  We've got other stuff to do.  Not my circus"  It would be equally easy to have those conversations from a position of remove.  "Well, you know, that was the perspective of the GA.  But I wasn't there, and those folks aren't me.  Not my monkeys."

But as I followed the GA this year, the words kept echoing in my head:

"My Circus. My Monkeys."

And no, that's not any particular comment on the character and/or hirsuteness of the commissioners.

It's about belonging, even in difference.  It's about taking responsibility to speak grace into difficult, complex realities.

If we're serious about being a denomination in which relationships--particularly challenging relationships--matter, then we need to be willing to lean into that relationship a little more fully.