January 17, 2021
What a gift and privilege to spend time with young children. On the weekends when my grandchildren come over for a sleepover, I experience my whole being centering and remembering one of the greatest gifts of early childhood – the gift of being. Being present. Being open. Being non-judgmental. Being delighted by discovery. Being all in – whether it is joy, sadness, disappointment, puzzlement or epiphany – in each moment they are totally committed to whatever that moment awakened in them. And then, typically, they move on to the next moment to experience another moment of fullness.
Another thing they seem really good at is forgiveness – although it may be more of a capacity for forgetness (I just made that up). Most of us who care for young children remember the BIG THREAT – “I’m not inviting you to my birthday!” Yet, somewhere between five minutes and a few hours (maybe one day at the most) there is seemingly no memory of whatever grave disappointment created the provocation. The friendship is restored and they move on.
How did we lose that toward one another? It seems almost every great religion, philosophy or spiritual discipline teaches forgiveness as a central tenet. Maybe what we want to restore is the quality that precedes forgiveness – openness. If we are open to the possibility that our fellow beings are multi-faceted, that they are more than the bad decision, the strange idea, the different viewpoint, the alternative lifestyle, the spewed retort, the fear that is affecting their decisions and even their personality.
In the last week or so I have noticed a number of articles encouraging us to open our hearts and minds to The Other. One article encourages us to understand that most everyone is experiencing some level of fear right now – albeit, what one individual fears may be the opposite of what another fears. What we know about fear is that it can be polarizing, that it is a cold process strongly encouraged and produced through adversarial (some would say evil) forces. If we are not alert, we can easily become puppets whose words and actions are controlled by something outside of ourselves. We can find ourselves involved in something called cancel culture where there is no forgiveness, no second chance, no humor, and no context other than preconceived and/or orchestrated ideas about what is and is no longer acceptable on the human stage.
With the advent of scientism (and, even more dangerous, a singular narrative of what is acceptable science) and continued growth of what I would call physicalism (overlooking or denying the spirit), are we losing touch (metaphorically and actually) with each other, with being open, loving and accepting of one another? Another article I saw resurrected last week is called “The Waitress and The Cowboy” (Waitress Was Worried To Serve Texan “Cowboy,” Then He Wrote A Note On The Check ) and it stands as an inspirational example of what it can look like when we put aside our preconceived notions about someone we think fits a particular profile.
Can you imagine taking our lead from our little ones and extending ourselves to one another over and over again? Can we all be re-invited to the birthday party?
Tomorrow we celebrate one of the finest and most inspiring Americans of last century, Dr. Martin Luther King. I want to close with a few of his quotes and send you a warm and loving embrace.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
“A riot is the language of the unheard.” [Let us start listening more fully to each other (and responding) so that we are not driven to rage and riot.]
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”