First time I read this well-known Margaret Fuller quote, my reaction was probably the same as yours: “Duh! Of course you do, Maggy. You don’t have any choice!” But pretty much the same thought has come to me, lately.
First, some context: Transcendentalist, feminist, universally acclaimed to be brilliant, widely-read author and skilled editor, Margaret Fuller was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1810. (She died, at age 40, with her infant son, when their ship shipwrecked off the coast of Fire island, New York.) Which means, of course, that the Universe she accepted included both slavery, an American evil most (not all) transcendentalists vigorously condemned and fought, and sexism. Northeast-based for much of her short, fully-lived life, the horrors of slavery may very well have been an abstraction for Margaret; not so regarding sexism. That form of oppression she knew first-hand. She was denied an education at Harvard, for example—although later in life she became the first woman allowed to use the prestigious college’s library. (To rectify the abominable education most women of that time received she later conducted “conversations” for/with other women.) In other words, Margaret Fuller’s Universe “ain’t no crystal stair.”*
Neither is mine. So when I say I accept a Universe of climate change denial and racism and Donald Trump and the Kardashian family and unending war and the Zika Virus, I am saying, “Yes. I am mindful of all of it. My acceptance means humility. And embracing complexity. ‘It is what it is.’ All of it. I accept that I am to ask: What am I called to do? And who do I can cheer on from the sidelines as they do what they’re called to do? And to embrace all of it; to let my acceptance be joyful.
And to be grateful as I keep climbing on.
* Langston Hughes’
Mother to Son
Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor —
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now —
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.