To anyone noticing, I’ve obviously been on a long break from posting! Just before Thanksgiving, I believe was my last post.
Reasons, several – range from intrusion of holidays, ordinary human daily affairs neglected and in need of attention, to a temporary health flare-up. Out of the three, because of the three, further shifting of my perspectives slowed down my willingness to post “statements”.
The shifting was of my own “knowing” of meaning/purpose/function around the questions of “what does it mean to be human, why are we here, and so on. I do not hold myself to unchanged “wakeful awareness”. I have worked long on the questions. From time to time, my relationship to them, and my conclusions, shift and morph toward something ‘different’ (although always with the same underlying “deeply felt sense – if incomplete – “truth”.)
Fundamental primary questions that emerge from our human consciousness are never settled, fully, for anyone who asks them across time.
It may be that my post style will change somewhat. Whether or not earlier style returns in part is as unknown to me as to anyone! I can’t say what will happen with frequency or regularity of posts. I do have much poetry long neglected as post material, and want to get back to those. (My poetry posts are complicated as they are not basic paragraph in structure – so sometimes I put off posting them for that reason alone!)
Martin Luther King Day. Today. I wonder how many will take time to find an archive on-line of his more powerful and well known speeches. Democracy.org is one site on which these are found.
Powerful. MLK’s view, his teaching to all of us, reached far beyond “only” civil rights, a powerful cause itself! But so far beyond! He spoke to “the essence of our being”, our “essential potential” to deliver to ourselves experience in ordinary life that would be, if we delivered it, extraordinary.
I perhaps find myself more at peace, now than previously, with our resistance to practicing unconditional regard and care for one another. But I cannot rid myself of a knowing that it is so – we resist.
Above I suggested, by word choice, that what MLK had to say was his view. This is a common way we “frame” one another’s ideas or spoken wisdom when it does not agree with our own. We say: “It is so and so’s view, and by this we mean opinion. By declaring someone’s ideas as “opinion”, we give ourselves psychological permission to set aside ideas we may not understand, or agree with. When we declare a statement as “opinion” we free ourselves of asking real and serious questions about what has been said .
We like to equate “opinions”. “That is his/her opinion, and everyone has a right to his/her opinion. I don’t agree with him/her”. We seldom say: I don’t find the same truth in my heart and why is that? We do not ask probing questions of conventional human belief, opinion, and “truth”.
We seldom declare ideas of another as teaching. This is especially true in matters of the heart/mind, which is what MLK addressed. Those of us well into “adult life experience” assume ourselves “mature” and beyond need to seek heart awakening, heart/mind learning, that might challenge us. Rather, we seek confirmation of our mature beliefs, opinions and truths.
And so – we miss, turn away from, opportunity to more closely know ourselves, our personal humanity, our shared humanity.
Without more closely knowing the nature of humanity as we carry it within ourselves, we are unable to bring about a world that differs significantly from the world of the last some thousands of years. In our presumed maturity, we create a “knowledge stopping place” about human affairs, and remain willing to accept “it will always be thus”.
We do not, even gently, ask many questions about human potential as it might emerge, if guided by heart/mind intelligence.
When Health Care reform was thickly, hotly, frequently, debated, a dear friend observed to me: “Health Care reform questions are a trial exercise, for the American people. Whatever emerges will show their level of humanitarian understanding. The depth of compassion practiced in American culture generally will be measurable by what develops.”
The statement was, and is, so close to one I might make myself that I suppose my paraphrase is in fact me quoting myself. But I remember my friend’s statement because it was so remarkably close to my own thoughts. That our work with HC reform could be, was, a “measure” of our capacity to be the wonderfully compassionate caring folk we claim to be, is not an idea I have heard often expressed.
The point of understanding HC reform as a “measure” of who we actually are (by our actions), is that HC policy and practice is not a discrete, isolated, package of social policy. No social, economic, and political policies are discrete and isolated from one another. Collected, they show who we are, who we want to be, “where” we are in “heart/mind knowledge” of humanity.
Social, economic, and political policies reveal our majority individual and our collective national place in the context of global humanity. Failure of HC reform is not due to “them”, “those guys”. Failure of HC reform to result in basic, full, non-profit, coverage for each and every individual across this land says we do not have it in our heart/minds to make it so.
We do not have will to find the way. Simple as that.
My statement that we lack will is not ‘mere’ opinion – it is the way it is. Hearing it, and not agreeing, but describing my statement as “opinion” is not the response of an “open mind/heart”. It is the response of a protective, perhaps at some level fearful, or perhaps merely dis-interested, mind/heart. An open response would be to say: “I don’t find the same truth in my heart, wonder why?”
A teaching remark. A challenging remark. A knowing remark. A remark best met with reflective examination of self and human condition.
Wikipedia offers the following among its discussion of the phrase: He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother: “… associated with Father Edward J. Flanagan, the founder of Boys Town. … a line drawing of a young boy carrying his brother in the Christmas 1941 edition of the Louis Allis Messenger. The caption read “He ain’t heavy Mister — he’s m’ brother!” It was created by Mr. Van B. Hooper who later became the editor of Ideals magazine. … Flanagan felt that the drawing illustrated the work done at Boys Town and received permission from the company … to recreate the drawing in color with the caption “He ain’t heavy, Father . . . he’s m’ brother.” The phrase became the motto of Boys Town (now Girls and Boys Town).”
When I was a child, the Boys Town organization published packets of stamps as fund raisers to use with Christmas cards. Each stamp had the drawing described above, and carried the quote. I was impressed with the stamps, with their meaning. I believed then, and believe now — no – I believed then and after a lifetime’s study, I now know the truth expressed by the slogan.
At least three truths, actually: (1) There is something joyful in the heart of the brother who carries the other – the truth is, practice of compassion in a culture of compassion brings a quality of pleasure unknowable when one is busy rationalizing resistance. Such pleasure is experienced culturally as well as individually. (2) Compassion is not “conditional” and cannot be rationally withheld; it is universal in heart-knowing. If not, it is diminished greatly, again, both culturally and individually. (3) We are keepers of one another’s well-ness, of one-another’s experience of belonging as brothers (and sisters.)
These truths are national, also global. They are within the essence of being human, our humanity.
I say this: If you do not agree, you have not sufficiently challenged yourself to know yourself thoroughly. You have not studied psychology to know your beliefs, biases, and the origins of your “truths”. You stand as novice, as learner, in matters of heart/mind human wholeness. As novice, you are incapable of realizing your sameness with your brother/sister within your own borders, or beyond.
There is nothing wrong with novice standing! My point is not to shame or blame. But, at least for now, I seem incapable of making any statement about human capacity for compassion, about American forms of resistance and/or practice of compassion, except to make fairly blunt statement.
I do not suggest American behavior is unique, although our resistance as focused in this one matter of HC is unique compared to many other worthy cultures. I’ve lived in two countries for some decades each. I have also met many individuals of first or second generation from yet many more countries. I have discussed social, economic, regulatory policy with all these on many issues. Humanity is humanity. Potential and capacity for compassion and resistance is the same everywhere.
Nor do I suggest my own “perfection”. Far from it. I, too, am human; I share potentials and capacities for heart/mind intelligence and resistance. (I may be more aware than some, but certainly not as aware as others. I may understand my capacity for “resistance” more thoroughly than some.)
Today is our day to honor a teacher whose primary gift was to awaken belief in us – belief in our capacity for compassion; belief in the benefit to each/all of us if we structure our social, economic, and cultural policy to support brother/sisterhood; belief in how unacknowledged fear and insecurity prevents us; belief in where we can go, what we can show ourselves about ourselves. Belief in climbing the mountain, regardless of its craggy peaks.
Dr. King said he had been to the Mountain Top. He did not say “a” mountain top. Metaphorically, there is but one mountain. We all climb it, or we mill about its base and resist the trek.
In our individual and cultural climb, we may learn to carry one another. We may also learn the burden is not so heavy as we imagine, or as we fear. (If we believe we do not fear, but we rationalize HC denial – or any other policy that ignores collateral suffering – by “common sense”, what is such a concern but a type of “fear” of consequence of practicing shared generosity? Universal HC, and other forms of compassion, are nothing more than shared generosity based on recognition of shared, inherent, vulnerability.)
Today is not a holiday — it is a call to reflection on teachings delivered. The learning is not completed with Dr. King’s passing. As with other profound “human essence” teacher offerings over time, the learning only begins when the lesson is offered.
My wish for you is that for a fleeting moment, daily, this week and beyond, you experience a “surprise flash” of “universal family” with someone you do not know well, who is not of your same social/economic “tribe”.
My wish for all of us is that such experiences become increasingly common, until a great many more of us discover the lightness and power available when we allow ourselves to carry and be carried, by one another, up that mountain.