There are things we say sometimes to make a point– sweeping recapitulations of history, or statements of what is so in this world– and when we invoke them we do so as if they are self-evident. Obvious to those who would see. It is easy to forget how deeply we occupy our own lives and perspectives, and we can lose sight of the fact that what seems unmistakable to us is but the flowering of our own perceptions. When we open our mouths, we sometimes forget the voice that emerges is a particular voice– the voice of our own desire, our history, and our interpretation. The words that come out are sculpted by our own dreams, our own wisdom, our training, and our inner topographies. This is the voice we offer, and it is beautiful and good, but if we lose sight of the fact that our voice is populated by our past, by the limits of our experience and of our own knowledge, we may lost sight of the fact that what is true for us as individuals, is not necessarily true in the absolute sense.
In this regard, I learn a great deal about what I carry around inside of myself by listening to the sound of my own voice. What emerges is not always true, not always kind, and not always truly helpful. If I listen, I can see this, and then I can dig around in there to see who is hurting, who has been forgotten, and who still anticipates a skyfall. When our mouths open, and squawking birds such as these fly out, we know it. Our hearts shudder, and we wish we could take them back– fetch them down from the sky and give them the love and support they need. On the other hand, if we are attentive, we’ve been given the gift of insight. This is the grace we give to one another when we see the one behind the words, and judge them not by the voices that speak through them. In this way, we can create a safe place for one another to discover what is alive within us.
Our world today is full of these birds– our skies darkened in fact by so much we have thought and said. We live in fields of criss-crossing shadows, beneath their searching presence, roving eyes, outstretched wings and heady glances. Our task is to absolve these creatures, to welcome them home and give them a safe place to roost within us, whether they were ours to begin with or not. This is why sweeping statements of what is so scare me off. The simple truth is that I have no idea what is happening in our world, or what exactly has gotten us into the experience we are having today. I haven’t a clue about trends and patterns. Though they are perfectly valid ways of extracting order from a vast dataset, I’m perpetually at a loss to explain them in terms of the person next to me– the one wrestling with his or her own gestalt of compulsion, desire, and love.
I suspect the only wisdom needed to heal our world is the recognition that we are complete, and the attending insight that our experiences are the living, tangible feedback of whether we have accepted this or not. We simply don’t understand that our own experience– regardless of our philosophy, religion or viewpoint– is leading us back inevitably to the discovery of our inherent completeness. We think our experience is something else altogether. We think it provides us with meaningful data about the world at large, not realizing how deeply our personal perspective is enfolded into our every sensation. Then we succumb to the temptation to think our way of seeing is the solution the world needs. We fail to recognize that we keep our own deep-seated sense of incompleteness hidden behind the desire to correct the world, and alleviate it from suffering.
We make the mistake of thinking the world out there– the one we make real by giving it a form we can grapple with through all our trending and pattern-identification– could be tweaked with a little dose of our own hard-won perspective. We’ll find completeness later. That’s not a luxury we have while the world around us is so screwed up, and so many are hurting. What we know, right now– what is brutally obvious– is that if more people knew what we knew, thought like we did, believed as we do, then things would be different. We are so confident in this we race into the madness thinking we can come back to our incompleteness later. We think if we can put things right out there, this little bit of discomfort within us will take care of itself.
And it’s astoundingly incorrect.
We can, in truth, help the being next to us find peace with the gift of relationship, dialogue and presence, but we will never budge the world “out there” with our philosophies and our theoretical arguments. We can only influence what we touch, and what we allow to touch us. This means we have to encounter and seek to understand one another deeply, first and foremost. This means further that we have to come to understand ourselves. We debate too much what should be done, what should be believed, what should be taught and legislated, when in fact the relationship at the center of our existence is the only vehicle possible for reshaping our experience, both within and without.
We are here to heal through the very activity of discovering who we are. This requires relationship, honesty and vulnerability, but no understanding whatsoever of who is doing it right, and who isn’t… Such distinctions simply do not exist.