Posted by: MC | April 29, 2011

Things that are More Important

Obama released his birth certificate.  Kate and William finally walked the aisle.  Then the phone rings yesterday.  One of my dearest of dears doesn’t know what to do.  She is a hair’s breadth from ending it all.

They are unmistakable when they show up, these things that are more important.  Yesterday, regarding this week’s focus on the part of the news media Dan Rather said Come on, gang.  Really? or something to that effect.  The circumstances of my dear one’s life asked the same question, but the stakes were as close as breath and heart beats.  They were high as stakes can be.

If you’ve been following this blog, you know what I’m on about.  EX:Change.  How do we prime for wisdom and peace?  Both are capabilities we humans have.  Too often they go un-schooled, un-modeled, un-practiced, un-seen, under-valued.  Likely that’s because we have the choice (and really the privilege) to ignore them.  Wisdom and peace seem to take effort.  They also take confidence.

EX:Change.  How do we listen across our differences?  How do we give ourselves the space and time to think together – to get on the same side of the table to look at the problem(s!) before us and consider what each of us sees as the way to solution(s)?

Yesterday, throughout the night, this morning a linked question repeatedly demanded my attention.  How do we listen and speak in the same way to our own selves?  Respectful and sincere exchange is just as vital across the countryside of internal experience.  Maybe more.

Two sayings come to mind.  Sometime in my late childhood I read John Donne’s words.  I remember them this way:  No person is an island.  That part echoes as a bass note for the EX:Change project, for its interviews, for the writing I am working to produce for returning it to the American people – the writing to be held in a real live book:  100 Voices – Americans Talk about Change.  The words of well more than half of those voices emphasized this interdependence.  It is, they said, our greatest resource.  It is inescapable.  It can be our salvation.  That’s what they said.  All of which invokes the rest of Donne’s quote.  Anyone’s death diminishes me, for I am involved in humankind.

The second saying is the wisest I ever heard.  It is a simple statement of fact and it is a profound invitation to each one of us to take care of these lives we’ve been given – our own being the only life we can save.  I credit these words to Ramana Maharshi, a Hindu sage who lived at the foot of a mountain in southern India early in the last century.  Never given to many words, he said this.  As within, so without.

How can we wonder at the state of the world when we are so internally cruel?  How can we wonder at our own habits of internal cruelty when the world – wide around and most intimately close in – is so often insanely destructive?

I don’t know the answers.  I do know we must ask the questions.  Today I’m seeing again – perhaps more vividly than ever – that we must tend to the ways we are with ourselves so that we may support the wellbeing of human community as we say we wish to.

There is a tradition in some Buddhist practices known as taking the bodhisattva vow.  As I have understood it, the vow is entered into by awakened beings who elect to stay around (rather than being zapped into eternal bliss – although, arguably, that’s probably never exactly what happens).  Their promise is to do everything they can to support the awakening of all beings before leaving the human realm.  One of the goals:  May all beings be happy.  May all beings be at peace.  There’s an amazing deal in these words.  Anyone who takes this vow is entirely responsible to support the peace and happiness of others.  That is impossible if the person is not also fully devoted to her or his own peace and happiness.

And we all have it in us.  As I tend to say; don’t believe me, check it out for yourself.  Can the vast space and silence of what many traditions call living truth ever disappear?  Where would peace and happiness go?

It’s the more important things that take us our next steps into these questions.  Maybe we are priming for wisdom after all.

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