There it is


Looking to the sunrise from Fancy Gap, VA over toward the Sauratown Mountains.

President Obama was right; the sun did rise the day after the election. Since I am still reorienting to a seven-hour time zone shift from South Africa, I can tell you that it is about rise on Sunday, too.

Rev. Bill Torkell was one of the great souls who was a damaged man, but knew it, which made him more whole than most everyone. He had worked many jobs—including chaplain at Methodist in Memphis. He hurt enough people along the way to love clear-eyed and openly all of us. He would say, “There is is. There it is if you like it; there it is if you don’t; but there it is.”

So there it is. Seems pretty perilous to me, given that we’re down to hoping on Mike Pence and four Trump children to keep the nutters away from the red buttons on the dash board. There it is.

Garrison Keillor says it is a good time for us liberals to go for a walk around the block: “The government is in Republican hands. Let them deal with him. Democrats can spend four years raising heirloom tomatoes, meditating, reading Jane Austen, traveling around the country, tasting artisan beers, and let the Republicans build the wall and carry on the trade war with China and deport the undocumented and deal with opioids and we Democrats can go for a long brisk walk and smell the roses. (Her’s his article in SF Gate). In effect, there it is.

I suspect that Mr. Keillor is not quite as done as his morning-after comments suggest. And while Mr. Trump’s children are the ones crafting the transition, not me, Garrison, me and you are citizens, connected and responsible for doing what we can in the day that just dawned again. Bill Torkell would say “there it is,” then offer to help move the furniture after the divorce, craft your child’s funeral, get you a bag of food or into rehab. “There it is” was the first, not last step.


Looking South from the Blue Ridge is always good perspective as the Sauratown Mountains preceded the Appalachians. Lots of sunrises.

Life gives us a clue where to look for the many next steps. The logic of the Leading Causes of Life is that we are alive, not just as individuals, but as complex human systems called villages and nations. Organizations (hospitals) and networks (political parties) and movements (100 Million Lives) are also alive. In a practical-as-dirt way, human systems find their life through their connections, through the sense of coherence, through their sense of being able to act, choose, move –agency. And we find our lives acting consciously through the web of generativity flowing from one generation to the next. Finally, life finds life in hope; not optimism, but the confidence that what matters most survives. Life finds a way. This has worked since we started painting on cave walls and is how it will work after the election.

You can analyze political and religious movements locally and globally through this lens and notice that the ones that thrive hit on all five causes. This also warns you that life is not safe without something else—a practical moral compass that always points to the life of the whole complex system, not just one’s tribe, team. And certainly not something as tiny as a self. The Nazi and Apartheid movement were tightly connected, highly coherent, manifested powerful agency with a sharp sense of history and clear hope. Yikes.

No human system lives apart; this is why apartheid was doomed, as is any movement defined by separation. Even when all you hope for is you and yours, it is folly to ignore, much less oppose, the larger systems in which you and yours find life. The logic of the Leading Causes of Life is always to understand the next larger system, as well as one’s own. The idea is to examine ones connections with active curiosity that enables accurate coherence.

img_4600“There it is,” refers to exactly that: making one’s practical moral choice in a clear-eyed understanding of the complex human systems in play. That includes the Chinese, Mexicans, Africans and billions of other fully alive humans, including several down the block who voted—incomprehensibly—for the other person this week.

You can’t vote to disconnect from the world or each other. The event of the election does ask us to look again at those connections for clues to life. What are we going to do with our connections with angry White people? What are angry white people going to do with their connections with angry Black people? What are both going to do with scared brown ones and the billion Indians and nearly billion Africans that didn’t make it into the headlines? Where’s the life in these connections?

The way to use the Leading Causes of Life is the opposite of the medical problem-oriented approach (what’s wrong or missing that we can fix or inject). Life grows from life and along its lines of strength. Ironically, the friction comes from connection; but also warmth and fire. We are very, very connected, even when those connections are deeply confusing, painful and uncomfortable. Ask any Black person if they are connected to white America. Ask any West Virginian if they are connected to the scientists driving the fracking or solar energy roller derby.

Look to the strengths—connections. Revisit your old framework of ideas about those connections to find your choices. Some of the Trump anger was simply cruel and toxic. But listen again to the rage of not being understood, the real vulnerability throbbing in rural, small town and left behind industries that are turning millworkers into Walmart greeters. Of course, these are all victims of the hand of larger systems; but some empathy might turn on some intelligence about what to do. “There it is” might at least offer up something as practical as helping to move the furniture. And it might offer a lot more, if we really took our connections seriously and thought together.

I’m not at the table in DC, but that’s not the only table that matters. Every Stakeholder Health hospital is deeply connected to hundreds of small town and rural communities, but we tend to peer at them through the tiny peephole of our emergency room and only when they are forced to come lacking any other connection to 21st century medicine. We are connected, but have brought little creative moral choices to those relationships. We haven’t even begun to think about it, not entirely unlike the way we tend to avoid the obvious thinking about the minority neighborhoods that tend to surround our urban academic medical centers.

Follow the connections home and then find the thread of coherence that might disclose some real choices.


These ancient “witness stones” were covered over by vines beneath our place on the ridge. A witness I didn’t even know was there.

The name for that work is generation. Generation is what grown-ups are supposed to do. It’s not quite as fun-in-the-moment as procreation, but it has its pleasures.

Generation is also the way we work: with life, hoping and choosing, tending and protecting. Generation draws us to the broken places and wounded connections, but not in hopes of mere restoration. We look to the next sunrise, not the past. Generation is also amount of time it takes for the hope to mature. Decades of sunrises; one every day.

Life finds a way.

There it is.

If you’d like to be in connection with others thinking about the Leading Causes of Life, follow this link:


About garygunderson

Vice President, FaithHealth, Atrium Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC. Author, Leading Causes of Life, Deeply Woven Roots, Boundary Leaders, Religion and the Heath of the Public, Speak Life and God and the People. Secretary Stakeholder Health (Health Systems Learning Group). Founder, Leading Causes of Life Initiative
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s