The Examined Life in Practice, Step One
A view of Life!
If the unexamined life is not worth living, why not?
Two white middle-class girls -- around eight or nine years old -- were walking home from school one day in the early 1970s in Omaha, Nebraska. They lived just around the corner from each other and were best friends. It was a beautiful day and only a half-mile walk in a safe neighborhood.
In the very early 1800s, when Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa were still the wild west, a young Native American maiden named Maw Waiquoi woke up from her sleep having dreamt of the handsome white man she had encountered near the trappers' settlement near her village. The men there were mostly Frenchmen, but this man was Scottish. From her dream, she knew he would be her husband; so she went to him and a few days later they were married.
On August 1st and 2nd, 1832, we killed babies and women and children and weak old men, after the Sac Indian leaders (Black Hawk and a few remaining warriors) commanded his people to surrender to the US army while he and his few living men fled to the north. He thought the army would spare the women and children, but that they would have killed the Sac warriors. He thought wrong, because the US army massacred his people, lied about it (even to this day, although history has plenty of truth-tellers that have carried the real news report forward from that day to this), and then captured the warriors and kept them alive as trophies of victory.
I finally figured out my answer to all our political and cultural battles, and to the interpersonal conflicts in my own life. It came to me out of a distressing but normal conflict with my seventeen-year-old son. And, of course, I did not think it up. Rather, everything wise women and men and wise faith have been teaching me all my life finally won out in my head and heart, and put to rest my silly notions of “winning” and “losing”.
I will let you see my epiphany as most of you see so much interaction these days: as a series of text messages, written by me to my son after he had treated me poorly because he felt I was “on him” unreasonably, but then he needed a favor some hours later and so acted as if none of it even happened.Here is my response, which was also the written expression of my own eyes opening to my own struggle to communicate my reality in ways that made him (and the world) take it as seriously as his own perspective:
Him: I need to … (his words are not mine to share)… so will you … (not mine to share)
Me: I love you. My answer is going to be “yes” if you will bear with me and hear me out about this morning.
Me: When we are in community (ie family, coworkers/bosses/employees, students&teachers&staff, members of the same club or church, etc) we are committed together toward accomplishing certain goals and with efficiency and kindness to one another.
Me: In the community of our family, we are committed together toward : 1) providing daily routines that allow us all to be where we need to be when we need to be there with everything we need for our day; 2) planning together how we can each and all best move toward a future that brings us peace and joy; 3) using available resources to do a better job toward the above two things than we did yesterday; AND 4) growing, together and individually, into peacable and passionate (joy-filled) creatures.
Me: If you are not committed to those goals, but instead allow your anger to put you in a place where you work to destroy our ability (and your own ability) to achieve those goals, you do not win
Me: Nor do my goals change.
Me: I still love you.
Me: I still am after the same goals.
Me: I still know you can achieve those goals too, if you decide to do so, once you decide to do so,
Me: But right now you think anger makes destroying progress toward those goals a “win”,
Me: as if you are punishing me.
Me: I do not believe in punishment — not in the sense of retribution anyway. I do believe there are consequences to our choices, but I think life and society impose those consequences, not me.
Me: I think my role (not just as your mom, but as a fellow human being) is to keep my eye on the bigger goals and just keep trying to move toward them.
Me: That is the role of forgiveness:
Me: not some sickly-sweet useless caving in to an angry teenager,
Me: but a choosing to keep my eye on real goals that will bring joy and peace rather than to get pulled into a win/lose game where even the winner loses.
Me: So my answer is “yes”,
Me: But until you learn to use your anger to point you toward all that you actually long for,
Me: you lose.
Me: Because joy and peace and love ARE real
Me: and you are missing out.
Me: So each time one of us frustrates or angers the other, it is not a fight where there will be a winner and a loser.
Me: You ARE growing up. Neither of us can speed that up or slow that down.
Me: Each time we have conflict, it is an opportunity for each of us and for us together
Me: To grow in our ability to stay fixed on peace and joy
Me: and to get there
Me: together or not.
Me: That is all.
We each have our own perspectives and goals, and we cannot control others, and we cannot even set the goals we think those with us in community should be pursuing. They may pursue winning at the expense of everything that lasts.
However, we can choose to pursue peace and joy and love in the context of reality, and practice the forgiveness over and over and over that frees us up to KEEP pursuing peace and joy and love even if it is a lone pursuit.
We cannot avoid the conflict and tragedy that are outside our control, but we CAN each let all that conflict and tragedy direct us back to our ever-stronger pursuit of peace and joy and love.
And in our personal lives we will become amazing and experience full life.
And in our political and cultural conflicts, we will learn to listen and learn to value real progress over time, rather than just valuing the temporary triumph of our own current ideologies or the power to impose our own perspectives on others.
And in our collective life and history, over time, we will become whole and free, with real diversity and with real unity.
I have deep empathy for those who are deeply afraid of what a Trump win says about our country, and of what it will mean in policies that will hurt many. I do not post this to disrespect your emotions of fear and grief. Nor do I post this to disrespect the elation and relief that Trump supporters are feeling. I voted for Hillary whole-heartedly (an easy and obvious choice in my mind and heart and spirit), but I had and have grappled with the larger dynamics that grip our nation and world: We (on both sides) have allowed ourselves to value "winning" over valuing the people who hold the beliefs that we fear and reject.
Well, 2015 is almost over!
Part 1: the big picture
Again, these words are from a friend who is a pastor and who needs to remain publicly anonymous. He can receive direct donations, though -- so if you are able and inclined to give toward his need, please contact me and I will give you his contact information."We are a ministry family in danger of losing our home. We fell behind on the payments this summer but received a forbearance that is about to end. The forbearance stated that the arrearage had to be cleared up by September 30. After that, they will not accept a partialpayment. The entire arrearage must be paid in full, and foreclosure proceedings could start at any time. We truly believe God led us to this pastorate and to this house. It is well-suited to our child's special needs as well as those of the rest of our family. We pray that your compassion will help to save it.
We started falling behind last spring. One of our children is disabled and much of this child's care is not covered under insurance. We arrived at this current pastorate in the hole already due to the care associated with our child's disability. Each payday, I chase the overdrafts: much of each paycheck just goes to fill the "hole" created by starting the previous pay period in the hole. I am very ashamed to say I have turned to high-interest finance companies and even payday loans to try to fill that hole, which only means less money each paycheck to live on.
If a number of compassionate people can help just a little bit each, I can pay off the arrearage on the house and fill in the "negative" in the bank account so that I could start each month with a clean slate instead of trying to "fill the hole" each time.
Why have I waited so long? Shame. And I've been hoping and praying that something would come along. My family does not have the means to help, or I would go there first. If you can help us, I would be most appreciative."
The Synchroblog topic this month is on loving our enemies. I look forward to the reflections and stories on such a key part of our calling as follower's of Jesus! Join me in reading through the list of posts this month, which I have included at the bottom of this post, my own contribution.
This month's list of posts submitted for this month's synchroblog is out! I have added it to the end of this post. Please take time to read the other posts listed below?
In the "all about me" theme of this blog of mine, let me bring you up to date finally, after having been very vague about the last few years. This, of course, is my version of events, and not necessarily the way Steven or any other person perceived things ... but it is accurate and complete to the best of my ability. Steven did not read this before I published it (and has not yet, to my knowledge) and did not give me his permission to do so. Nevertheless, I disappeared from my own life into an abyss in October of 2011, and I finally give myself permission to tell my own story here: