Another guest post from my friend, Landon:
In 1967 a doctor told me I needed to take some time off. I bought a pup tent and set off on a journey through “The Great American West.” Every day, I saw something new to me.
In 1969 I set off on a world journey. Every day, for an entire year, I saw something new to me. Every day.
In Africa I found that Africans have a beautiful saying: “I see you.”
Sensing the power of seeing something new, I made it central to my life: every day I will see something new to me. That commitment has had a profound impact on who I am.
Seeing the new is especially important in long-term relationships. In my own relationships, I make it a point to see something new in each encounter. Otherwise, it is so easy to take for granted, to experience boredom, to fail to respect—to “re-spect,” literally “to look at again”—to see the other person in a whole new light.
So many relationships suffer from this failure—not to see a spouse, a child, a parent, a friend, an enemy, even everyday experiences in a new way.
In times of strain and crisis, of suffering, of injustice, of feeling “stuck,” of feeling overwhelmed. To see something new, something I hadn’t seen before, opens the way for authentic life to keep emerging and for the best in us to grow. It changes us. It helps prevent the growth of prejudice, fear, unhealthy attitudes toward others, and trends toward polarizations.
Our humanness, our growth, is so dependent on opening our eyes each day to see the new.
“I see you.” Do you see?
Do you ever get the feeling that we’re drowning in talk, talk, talk today? That we are overwhelmed by noise and information? As poet T. S. Eliot said:
“Where is the wisdom lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge lost in information?”
And he also said:
“Where can the word be found? Where can the word resound? Not here, there’s not enough silence.”
I do think we long for a word that really means something, a word that grows out of a rich, thoughtful silence. But instead we are bombarded by noise, talking heads, books, articles, workshops. As Kurt Vonnegut wryly observed:
“Folks have to talk to keep their mouth muscles working in case they someday have something to say.”
But what can we do about this kind of talk inflation and noise pollution? We could do worse than listen to Gandhi who said:
“I have naturally formed the habit of restraining my thoughts. A thoughtless word hardly ever escaped my tongue or pen … We find so many people impatient to talk. All this talking can hardly be said to be of any benefit to the world. It is so much waste of time.”
Let me repeat: “A thoughtless word hardly ever escaped my tongue or pen.”
I don’t know about you, but I felt a bit rebuked by those words! It reminds me of the line, “From speaking comes repentance; from listening comes wisdom.”
Words do matter. And in a noisy world, my neighbors, this is one thing we can do: make the effort to weed out thoughtless, harmful words—at work, at the dinner table, and yes, even online. To “only speak when we can improve on the silence.”
To do that, we’ll need to cultivate the kind of silence in our lives out of which more thoughtful words can grow. (Thoughtless words never accomplish anything anyway!)
As the Biblical proverb says:
“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”
Here’s another thoughtful guest post from …
Once there was a well. Four stones were gathered around the mouth of the well to mark its location. These stones were courage, honor, loyalty, and knowledge. And hanging down into the well was the bucket of faith.
One day, the land was infected with a raging thirst that led human beings to shed the blood of their neighbors. The thirst in the land became so great that the stones of courage, honor, loyalty, and knowledge were removed and used as weapons. Even the bucket of faith was taken from its place to be another part of the arsenal to injure and destroy.
With the stone markers and bucket removed, the people could no longer find the well or reach the one thing within it that could quench this raging thirst that had led them to hurt one another: the waters of compassion.
Courage without compassion is a killing force. Honor without compassion creates rigidity. Loyalty without compassion is blind allegiance. Knowledge without compassion turns stones and buckets into weapons. Faith without compassion is cruel.
Friends, as we search for how to respond to the pain around us and within us, I hope you will first spend time cultivating your compassion. Because it is only a deep well of compassion at the center of human beings that protects us from using our courage, honor, loyalty, knowledge, and even faith to hurt our neighbor.
Maybe this is a good moment to again explore the question: what does it mean to love?
It’s a tricky word, isn’t it? A beautiful word, but confusing, sometimes, I think. A lot of hurt and foolishness can parade in the name of love.
And yet, isn’t it still true—in the lyrics by Hal David and Burt Bacharach—that:
What the world needs now, is love, sweet, love,
That’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.
What the world needs now, is love, sweet love,
No not just for some, but for everyone.
(Everyone? Really? Even that jerk who…) Ah, there’s the rub. As good old Charlie Brown says, “It’s easy to love the world, it’s the guy next door I can’t stand.”
In the guest post last Thursday (see below), Landon Saunders talked about sitting with a a 13-year-old boy who had been mercilessly beaten by his father.
Speaking of this moment, Landon said, “What he feels in my touch, what he sees in my eyes, what he hears in the tone of my voice will either fully acknowledge his sense of worth and dignity as a human being…or in his heart he will wish I would just leave.”
He added, “How we are present with those in pain either creates solidarity or deepens alienation. How we sit with another can be healing, or the wounded might simply wish we would leave.”
I’ll confess, those words stopped me—made me question my own life. But then I thought, it’s good to know that even in my 70s there’s still much to learn about love!
Thinking of love in this way—as a way of being present that quietly and fully acknowledges the other person’s worth and dignity as a human being—maybe love really is what it’s all about. I leave you with the lyrics of another song by Hal David and Burt Bacharach:
What’s it all about, Alfie,
Is it just for the moment we live?
What’s it all about when you sort it out, Alfie,
Are we meant to take more than we give?
Or, are we meant to be kind.
And if only fools are kind, Alfie,
Then I guess it is wise to be cruel;
And if life belongs only to the strong, Alfie,
What will you lend on an old golden rule?
As sure as I believe there’s a heaven above, Alfie,
I know there’s something much more,
Something even unbelievers can believe in.
I believe in love, Alfie,
Without true love we just exist, Alfie,
Until you find the love you’ve missed, you’re nothing, Alfie.
When you walk, let your heart lead the way
And you’ll find love every day … Alfie.
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