Saturday, December 26, 2020

Face to Face

For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face. 1 Corinthians 13:12

When we read this verse, we might yearn for that time of seeing face to face, when all things become clear and we see things as they really are. We don’t often pause to wonder if we will like what we see. 

2020, the year of perfect 20/20 vision, is coming to a close. We have had the opportunity to look into that glass and see through the murky darkness. And what have we seen? 

We’ve all watched videos of animals seeing themselves in a mirror. Some are puzzled, tentatively reaching out to touch their reflection. Some are threatened and attack. Some are excited and offer to play. All of them think that they are seeing an “other,” separate from themselves. 

Is that what we see when we look at this year? This year has set the table with an unending buffet of “other” possibilities, so many “thems.” Thems of other race, gender, political party, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, age, economic status, education, and more. All the thems who are causing all the problems.

This year has brought us face to face. Do we recognize ourselves, or like the animals in the videos, do we mistake our reflections as “other,” as “them”? Are we willing to look in the mirror and see things as they really are? To see ourselves as we really are? 

When I look at my own reflection in the mirror of this year, I see some things I wanted to turn away from. It has been revealing, embarrassing, disappointing, frustrating, and most of all humbling. Very humbling. And in that, there has been some relief, shedding false images, releasing burdens of control (which I never really had anyway), grieving loss. Acceptance. Forgiveness. Gratitude. And that has been good.  

The Gospel of Thomas says that when we find what we are seeking, we will be disturbed, and that disturbance will lead to marvel. I love this verse because it promises that when we are willing to tolerate, even to embrace, the disturbance that comes from looking at ourselves honestly, individually and corporately, we will move through that disturbance to marvel at who we really are, jewels in the net of Indra, all connected, all reflecting the perfection of creation. 

In the No Way CafĂ© contemplation group, we often end a gathering by sharing what we can take from our time together as we go forward. Looking at this year as a gathering, I am taking so many things, but perhaps primarily some heightened awareness of race and privilege. As I go forward, I hope to be more self aware, to listen more and speak less, to look more deeply at assumptions, to inquire rather than suggest, to trust. 

What has this year reflected back to you? What will you take from this year as you go forward? 

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Friend or Foe

The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe. ~Albert Einstein

What power we hold, and most of us don’t even know it. We mistake our lens of judgment for objective reality and fall victim to it. I remember a furious friend telling me that a particular person was a b- - -h and that a related situation was really f- - - -d up and that that was a FACT! At which point I confess I quit listening and started considering the implications of confusing judgment with fact. 

And of course, once we make that initial decision about the universe, then what we notice or see around us reinforces it, especially in today’s world of closed loop information. 

Today I went on YouTube for an experiment. I clicked on stories of the “three P’s” of this year – politics, pandemic, and protests. It’s hard to take in all these stories without experiencing a sense of frustration or despair. After a while, I switched and clicked on stories of random acts of kindness. If all you watch is news, which is so often skewed towards a particular bias, and to the negative aspects of that bias, you might be surprised by how many stories there are of people being kind, people being kind without regard to all the things that seem to so deeply divide us. I felt like I was bathing in these stories of kindness, drinking them, inhaling them. I felt uplifted and grateful, and inspired to look for opportunities to be kind.

How can I reconcile the two visions of the universe represented in these videos, one which seems friendly and the other than seems hostile? Do we believe in one only by denying evidence of the other? Are they mutually exclusive or can one include the other? If I make the decision to believe in a friendly universe, how do I explain such an overwhelming appearance of hostility? How do I include everything, denying nothing, and still choose to believe in a benign universe that is not out to get me? 

Perhaps the lens we choose is not about selective seeing and denying, but rather about orientation or perspective. If I choose to believe that I live in a friendly universe, then can I see everyone and everything with broader or deeper view? A view that connects us rather than divides us? A view that keeps my heart open even to those who act in ways that I find anathema to my own values? Can I protest without hatred? Can I advocate without condemnation? 

A Course in Miracles teaches that everything we do or think or say is either an expression of love, or a call for love. These are the only two choices, and there are no exceptions -- everything is one or the other. When I view my world through this lens, then actions that I find indefensible become calls for love, evoking not outrage, but sorrowful compassion. And while I might not consider some people to be friends I want to hang out with, and while I might stand against their agendas of hatred and division, I can still acknowledge our basic human connection and not reject them as foes.

A friendly universe can hold it all, including everything and everyone, like the sun that shines on the evil and the good, and the rain that falls on the just and the unjust. 

I can choose to see this differently. ~A Course in Miracles