It is Saturday night, 8 PM. I am sitting in my living room and the house is quite comfortably warm and cozy on this February evening. The light from the kitchen is giving off a soft glow and there is a faint buzz of electricity about, along with the whimpering of our puppy, currently in time out in her kennel for trying to chase our two cats. We have to set boundaries.
My father and step-mother came to visit us earlier. My father and I spent a considerable amount of time talking about our mutual faith, our relatives, our lives. He has decided to give up drinking beer altogether, and is trying to live a healthier lifestyle. He is also wearing a nicotine patch and has curbed his smoking of cigarettes considerably. At fifty-seven years old, these changes are not easy for him, but I am very proud of him for making them nevertheless. Change is never easy.
My wife has been in an angry mood today. I have been in angry mood over the past week. But we have not been angry with each other and we seldom are. I am thankful for our love. It has sustained me through the darkest of times and over the past six years has been a source of strength and of joy for both of us. Both of us have been spending considerable time reflecting on the injustices that so many of our human family are currently facing. The killer of a transgendered black woman had whose bond was set at a thousand dollars. A close friend got ripped off. A former coworker was screwed over by a big bank. All over the world, we see the evidence of a system and a way of life that for so many people is causing such suffering and such a sense of separation and anxiety. I myself have felt this separation, this anxiety, this sense of something-being-off many times. So have many other people. Lord have mercy. Kyrie eleison.
And yet, though these feelings seem to be common to the human condition, what is also common to the condition of humanity in modern society is that we shouldn’t really talk about these things or dwell on them too deeply. To admit our own insecurities about those things which trouble our spirits seems to be definitely frowned upon. The West in general and America in particular wants success stories, feel-good stories, rags-to-riches, American Idol, destruction, delusion, and ignorance. Even the things which gain considerable attention among the masses are not the Real Thing.
What do I mean by this? Understand as you read this, if you read this, that this blog post is in no way meant to spark a discussion of policy nor is it meant to solve a problem. I am writing this in a rather stream-of-conscious matter and I have no intention to go back and make corrections or try to build a coherent argument after the fact. This is a blog, not a college thesis. This is a journal-made-public, not a news article. I am just some guy, not an authority on anything in particular.
But in my role as just-some-guy, an everyman in every sense, I suppose I have a sense of empathy for all the other just-some-guys or just-some-women or just-some persons in the world. I have faced my own multitude of struggles: spiritual, existential, financial, physical. I am far from perfect, though innate perfection is not something I desire. “Perfection.” Oh, how we obsess over it, how we desire it. How it is projected into our lives at every moment, an unattainable ideal in which all the bills are paid, the body is without blemish, the soul is without suffering, the spirit is without doubt, the bank account runneth over, the Caribbean awaits on vacation. But how many of us live that reality? Not many.
Most of us work for a living after all. We have our doubts about how well we are doing our jobs; how well we are engaging in our various relationships, both personal and professional; how well we are making it financially, spiritually, mentally. We look in the mirrors and we do not see the perfect bodies of a Hollywood royal. Our houses are not McMansions. Our energy is not boundless. We have our human limitations.
And it is in these limitations that we most deeply encounter our humanity, and therefore where we most deeply approach something that could be called Divine. Examine Christ on the cross, bloodied and suffering. Examine Buddha beneath the tree having put himself through every suffering imaginable and coming across the other side with that famous enlightened grin. In both we see humanity in terms of its limits, not its boundless possibilities. In both we encounter a form of divinity that suffers with us and through us on the most basic and primal of levels. We do not here encounter boundless power or boundless energy or even boundless understanding. Instead we encounter a set of limitations that speak volumes as to the human capacity for compassion when faced with the suffering and wisdom of others. For it is in that otherness that we can truly learn, truly expand, truly become more alive to our own possibilities.
Humanity, you are great. You are strong. You are good and noble and should be proud. But yet you, and when I say you, I include myself as part of that you, you walk as if one enslaved with your head bowed down. You throw yourself over to your fears and your anxieties and you feel as if you are less than those around you, that they are not struggling with the same anxiety of being human. But this is a complete fallacy and a complete fraud, a completely delusional falsehood perpetrated by your own self-awareness concentrating too much upon its own egoistic fear. . . . and pride.
Humanity, you have a responsibility. You have a deep responsibility to love and to show and to share that love to those around you to the best of your ability, for the ones you see as other, they are really you in disguise. From a strictly materialistic and scientific view (which I don’t subscribe to but nevertheless) they are born out of the same process of beautiful evolution. Their atoms were forged in the same stars, those stars were born out of the same cosmic Bang. From a Judeo-Christian perspective, they are creations of the same Father. From a more universally spiritual perspective, they are a part of the same creative energy.
And the key to take away from this, both for myself and for anyone who happens to read it, is that it is perfectly OKAY to acknowledge all three of these things simultaneously. It is okay to recognize the other as yourself. It is okay to feel compassion. It is okay to let your heart run over with love. It is okay to let music move you to tears or to let out a big belly laugh or to howl at the moon or to do whatever you damn well please as long as you are not hurting another, which is really just hurting yourself, by your actions.
It is okay to let other people know how beautiful you find them. It is okay to let them bask in your love, and it is okay to bask in their love. It is okay to be a human being with all of the myriad complications, imperfections, and straining and growing pains that being a completely human, human being entails.
And what’s more, it’s okay to feel angry when you see something that doesn’t sit right with your sense of how other people ought to be treated. It’s okay to feel deep rage at injustice, wherever we find it. It’s okay to feel as if injustice offends some moral principle to the universe, or to God, because injustice is just that.
Of course, popular thought would tell you that to talk about love, peace, and nonviolence is just so much “hippie-dippy-shit” and to speak of injustice too much or too loudly is revolutionary or radical or worse. I have no grand point to make in my final paragraph because to go on any longer would be to ramble too self-indulgently except to say that it is been too long since i have updated this blog and I will be doing so far more often in the near future. I am writing this, very thankful for my wife and my family and the friendships and faith that have carried me for my past twenty-eight years on this planet. I hope that if you are reading this, you can find something in your life to be thankful for as well.