We are so schooled in separateness. Wired, the scholars say, to see first our differences, though 99 percent of our DNA is the same. What if we begin to see the world differently, not me/us/mine vs. those others—but all of us?
Might this lead to questions like “What is it like to be you?” instead of “Are you like me? Could I love you?” or even “What is wrong with you?” or worse?
The way to reach people, it seems to me, is not to hector and judge and shame—but to listen and share.
It’s a generous and muscular act, listening with respect while opening to the possibility of transformation.
And what if we don’t leave anyone out of the equation, even those who appear to be despicable, beyond redemption? I think of an audiobook we listened to on a road trip a few years back. (I wish I could remember the title and author, or find it online, but I’ve had no luck.) It concerned the mystical kabbalah tradition. I still remember the large-heartedness we encountered in the listening.
The writer said that in this tradition, no one is out of reach: In the deepest darkness, there is always a sliver of light that can be contacted.
Think about that. No matter how evil or cruel their behavior, they contain a spark of light. Staying aware that we all carry this spark—and that it can be fanned into a steady flame, at any moment surprising us—changes how we might deal with those we’d like to demonize.
I once read about a KKK man who took up a phone harassment campaign against a Jewish rabbi who moved to his community in Nebraska. The rabbi and his wife could have contracted into hatred or fear. Instead, they expanded with love into the hateful man’s arena.
“There’s a lot of love out there. You’re not getting any of it. Don’t you want some?” the rabbi said into the man’s answering machine. The congregation prayed for him.
One night the man’s swastika rings began to burn and itch, and he took them off. Eventually he called the rabbi in tears, saying, “I want to get out of what I’m doing and I don’t know how.” They became friends. The man converted to Judaism, renouncing the Klan and making amends to many of his targets. The couple took him in when he needed care and had nowhere to go.
In the end the people he’d despised became his family.
What do you make of that? That level of love? Could you do as the rabbi did? I’m not sure I could. But I aspire to.
To keep beaming love at each other no matter what—while still honoring our own process and pain: Through that courageous act we might begin to understand, deep in our marrow and in the whirling energy of our molecular movement, the truth of oneness.
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Well said, Shawndra! Reading your thoughts on the kabbalah tradition, I thought of the tikkun olam concept, too–which really grabs my imagination. I wrote about it a bit here, for the On Being blog. http://www.onbeing.org/blog/heading-for-the-light/7885
There is so much light to be found. Thanks for the piece!