A father knocks on his son’s bedroom door. “Jaime,” he says, “wake up!”
“I don’t want to get up, Papa,” Jaime answers.
“You need to get up,” his father shouts, “you have to go to school.”
“I don’t want to go to school,” Jaime retorts.
“Why not?” asks his father. “Three reasons,” Jaime tells him. “First, because it’s so dull, second, the kids tease me, and third, I hate school.”
And his father says, “Well, I am going to give you three reasons why you must go to school. First, because it is your duty, second, because you are forty-five years old, and third, because you are the principal.”
Well, some days, I’m with Jaimie. I don’t want to get up. I don’t want to engage. I don’t want to connect. I don’t want to care. Call it some vague sense of torpor. And I don’t want a pep talk.
I just reread that paragraph. Mercy. Somebody forgot their cheerful pill this morning.
But here’s the deal; “Spirituality means waking up.” (Anthony de Mello reminds us.) Even though, waking up isn’t always cheerful. It is however, about bringing myself, this self, to this moment. It is about presence and awareness even in the midst of any obstacles.
It is no surprise to say that many (if not most) people go through life asleep. (Or hypnotized by their mobile device.) Meaning that they never understand the loveliness and the beauty of this thing that we call human existence. But when you are nice and comfy in bed it’s irritating to be woken up. Let’s not pretend otherwise. So, we’re not saying it is easy, just that it is worth it. Because to wake up is to show up. And people who show up make a difference.
Speaking of showing up, this past week the world celebrated Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday. Can you imagine how many times he wanted to quit (and “go back to sleep”)?
That’s the power. When he did show up, and began guiding South Africa through painstaking reconciliation, the structures of violence and repression and ancient hatreds that had so long stunted people’s lives and confined the human spirit began to recede. Let’s be clear. Showing up is neither a contest nor about winning or losing. As history shows the power of fear, we know there will be impediments. However. Because we have a better story to tell, we must show up.
In a speech to commemorate Mandela this week, President Obama said, “Madiba reminds us, ‘No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and, if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart.’ Love comes more naturally to the human heart; let’s remember that truth. Let’s see it as our North Star, let’s be joyful in our struggle to make that truth manifest here on Earth, so that, in a hundred years from now, future generations will look back and say, ‘They kept the march going. That’s why we live under new banners of freedom.’”
There is a story about the northern Natal tribes in South Africa. They greet one another each day, saying “Sawa Bona,” which means literally “I see you.” Their response is “Sikhona” which means “I am here.” They are saying to one another, “until you see me I do not exist; and when you see me you bring me into existence. When you see me, I am fully present, I am here.”
Members of these tribes go about their day with personal validation from everyone they encounter–they are seen for who they are.
They are a community where everybody is a somebody, and the wholeness of each individual coalesces into the wholeness of the community.
This week I reread The Little Prince. It’s mandatory for emotional health every couple of years.
“Who are you?” asked the little prince, and added, “You are very pretty to look at.”
“I am a fox,” the fox said.
“Come and play with me,” proposed the little prince. “I am so unhappy.”
“I cannot play with you,” the fox said. “I am not tamed.”
“Ah! Please excuse me,” said the little prince.
But, after some thought, he added:
“What does that mean–‘tame’?”
“You do not live here,” said the fox. “What is it that you are looking for?”
“I am looking for men,” said the little prince. “What does that mean–‘tame’?”
“Men,” said the fox. “They have guns, and they hunt. It is very disturbing. They also raise chickens. These are their only interests. Are you looking for chickens?”
“No,” said the little prince. “I am looking for friends. What does that mean–‘tame’?”
“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. It means to establish ties.”
“‘To establish ties’?”
“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world…”
“I am beginning to understand,” said the little prince. “There is a flower… I think that she has tamed me…”
Yes. Sawa Bona: I see you. Sikhona: I am here. I am present–mentally, emotionally, spiritually. I am awake. This is the power of the better story we have to tell.
Let us remember. I bring a gift to this moment that only I can bring. And You bring a gift to this moment that only you can bring. And when we are seen (or “tamed”), we are safe. And compassion spills out of safe containers to flood our lives.
Because I am a vessel for compassion (although blemished), I will show up.
Because we are connected and not one of us is on the journey alone, and we need one another, I will show up.
Because compassion cannot be blotted out by partisan rancor, or small-minded hate, I will show up.
Because we get to say how the story ends, I will show up.
Exhaustion and exasperation will slow me down, but they cannot entomb the light.
Because (as Pope Francis reminds us) faith has real consequences in this world (we all live at the intersection of politics and religion and our faith impels us into the public square spilling compassion, caring, acceptance, and love), I will show up.
It’s so easy to be derailed by tensions, as if we need resolution or tidiness to move forward. Can we allow tensions to expand our hearts, and open us to new understandings of ourselves and our world, with a capacity to create a community of kindred spirits kindling the courage we need to show up?
There’s a law of the universe that says, when you feel lousy, go to a parade. Lucky for me, yesterday we had parade on the island, at our annual Strawberry Festival. It’s an hour of idiosyncratic islanders, which includes a dozen members of The Old Tractor Club, our grocery store synchronized-cart-drill-team, and the ukulele club on the bed of a tricked out dump truck. The entire occasion was well attended by a spirit of good will.
Today I watched The Open Championship, golf’s grandest tournament on a spectacular Scottish stage.
Quotes for your week…
The world remains beset by so much human suffering, poverty and deprivation. It is in your hands to make a difference. Nelson Mandela
The human heart is the first home of democracy. It is where we embrace our questions. Can we be equitable? Can we be generous? Can we listen with our whole beings, not just our minds, and offer our attention rather than our opinions? Terry Tempest Williams
POEMS AND PRAYERS
You, the One from whom on different paths all of us have come.
To whom on different paths all of us are going.
Make strong in our hearts what unites us.
Benedictine Brother David Steindl-Rast
Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself
to this world
so worth of rescue.
Why We Dance…
to dance is to pray;
to pray is to heal;
to heal is to give;
to give is to live;
to live is to dance.