I was drinking some delicious cider and started wondering about something. Doesn’t a baked apple have about the same consistency, smell, and look as a rotten one? Baking simply causes an accelerated version of what happens to a rotten one. Why do we enjoy one, and are repulsed by the other?
Another “growing up on a farm” question, if we squeeze the essence of the juice out of an apple (many of them wormy and rotten, trust me on that) don’t we end up with this delicious cider I am now drinking? One I call bad, the other I call delicious.
I’m recently reminded that the non-physical pain I experience comes from the gap between how I see things, or how I believe they should be and how they actually are. The greater the distance, the greater the pain. Sometimes the gap blows open and despair comes to sit for a while, talks to me and offers me some wisdom. Always wisdom, often in the form of a chastening.
I was walking through our local airport and saw a banner totally black except for a white circle in the middle. In the middle it said, “Optimism, it will get brighter.” I thought, wouldn’t it be more accurate if it read, “It might get brighter.”
There are loved ones I know who are living a nightmare that they can’t wake up from. I can’t imagine how they do that. Talk about my privileged self. They are good models and perhaps resources for me when my nightmare that never quits comes to me.
When I don’t feel seen or understood I get mean. I am probably not the only one. You might not notice my meanness. I mostly don’t get mean overtly; I get even. In passive ways. You might notice the distance in my voice or demeanor. And, of course, if you asked me, I would more likely deny anything is happening.
I was at a workshop and found it impossible to hear. My hearing aids had failed. I felt the enormous impact of that, and the feeling of great sadness welled up. Despair. I decided to practice listening with my heart. It reminded me of a song that Josh White Jr. used to sing. A part of that song was, “Listen with your heart, listen with your heart, feel everything you hear.” I remember being in a workshop in Guatemala and at one moment in time, everyone was speaking Spanish, (which I don’t) but I totally got the message.
Later, in that workshop, someone reminded me that I could ask to come physically close to those who were talking. Though it was embarrassing to admit to everyone I needed to do that, I asked. Everyone was sitting in a circle and as they spoke I scootched around the room to get closer to the speaker, I felt like their pet dog as they looked down at me and smiled. A beloved one.
I was reminded by the tears that involuntarily rolled down my cheeks as the doctor replaced my hearing aids and inserted them, of the absolute gift of hearing. Another privilege I have, that others never will have again.
Someone recently asked me, “When you were young, who listened to you?” “No one,” I heard myself blurt out.
I was told more than once, “If anyone cares to know what you think, they will ask you, until then, keep your mouth shut.” Ridicule was a frequent child rearing tool. (Parents, grandparents, uncles, and aunts raised me.) I did listen. To myself. My very own echo chamber. I talked aloud to the corn I was plowing, the hay I was baling, the dirt I was discing, the rabbits I scared up. But around humans, not so much. I remember one time someone paid me a nickel because I kept quiet. I listened to what they were telling me too.
For some reason, maybe that one, listening to others is much of my life’s work. I don’t pretend to be an expert at it, but I really work at it. It is where my heart is. Especially those no one else wants or can listen to; the quiet ones.
Without the wound of not being listened to, I wonder if listening to others would be so important to me. I recently ran across a quote from a Lakota man (Doug Goodfeather) who asked, “Without your wound, where would your heart be?”
I talked recently about what I was doing about the messy world I was witnessing. Now is the time to ask myself, “Is what you are doing, working?” “How am I still a part of the problem?”
If mass shootings are the answer, what is the question? If semi-automatic weapons are the answer, I wonder what the question is.