Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Open Letter on (Unnecessary) Suffering

*** Don't miss the post-script!

This may appear off topic, but had it not been for my journey through the wide fields of bluegrass music that opened my mind and showed me my soul after years of every kind of formal music study known to exist, I would not yet be here now.

I have a little parable. It's a true story about two men in my life.

The first man, a self-nominated Buddhist wannabe, proudly proclaims,

I am not responsible for your feelings.

Fair enough.

The second, an avowed atheist, remarks to me:

You are more important to me than this conversation.

Whom do you believe? Both, perhaps. Both are valid viewpoints.

One might think that the person who holds no expectation of an afterlife, or any other life than that which he has right now, might live less honorably, behave toward others less caringly, be less tolerant, less capable of forgiveness, less convinced of any need to change or evolve, much less respect another person’s feelings. He might be less inclined toward honesty or directness, more inclined to deceit, or to live less consciously. After all, what does he have to lose?

Conversely one might expect that someone who desires to follow the teachings of Buddha and find a way out of suffering might not want to cause more of it.

And I am tired of people causing suffering. Any people. Your last name doesn't have to be Rumsfeld to do a whole lotta damage to society or to humanity. If you can't be kind to someone who cared about you, why bother to blow your big wind about the war?

One of my favorite writers, a Buddhist monk named Thich Nhat Hanh, advises that we must learn to love our enemies, because as we love them, we begin to understand them, and they are no longer our enemies. I am keeping that teaching foremost in my mind at the moment.

Going back to the little story, I'm suffering, not because of someone who is both acutely aware of his actions and yet who doesn’t believe in God, but because of someone who does believe in some kind of God but in fact bears no responsibility to anyone or anything but himself. My desire for openness, understanding, forgiveness, and civility were met with avoidance, silence, and invisibility. Kind of like how President Bush treats Congress, or you, or me.

Being ignored is familiar territory. I no longer regard it as passive. Outside of conditions where ignoring someone is out of necessity of safety, to ignore is as hostile an act of emotional abuse as any trick in the book.

Civility is a behavior that is being evolved out of human consciousness. Frankly, one of the last civilized places on earth seems to be among people who share a love of bluegrass. I have never felt such community among so many people who don't know each other. With so many diverse viewpoints about so many things, there has never been a time when in a group of five or ten or more people, we didn't come to common ground.

I have been uncivil plenty of times to people I care about, and I regret every single instance of causing suffering. Nonetheless my single act of uncivil behavior toward the first man--ironically an instance in which I was living absolutely in the moment, which was all he ever talked about, and acting out of my own self-protection which I do all too rarely--was not cause enough for someone who supposedly believes in Karma to jeopardize it.

I live consciously. I am aware of every act, every word, every deed--good, bad, and in between--and I consider these things before I lay them on you. I do not consider myself responsible for you, but I am respectful of the power of my actions and aware that they might have an effect on your well-being. I think about whether I can achieve some necessary end without unnecessarily wounding you or damaging your hope. I may still choose wrongly, but I weigh the consequences. Just because I respect and acknowledge how you feel does not make me responsible for your feelings.

You are human, and so am I. We are humanity. Our imperfection shares this earth for a time.

Whether I know you or not, like you or not, you share this earth with the two most important people in my life: my children. Therefore, I will do my best not to hurt you. If I do, I want you to tell me. We may disagree but I will talk with you, and maybe we will at least understand each other. If you hurt me, I will tell you, whether you are listening or not. If I am afraid, unsure, angry, disillusioned, tired, not able, not willing, not available, not ready, I will always tell you and I hope you will tell me. I will not ignore you, not couch these feelings in some clever poem or a song or cryptic skywriting or a belly dance or tucked into a fortune cookie after I've left you at the Chinese restaurant with the tab.

Because you walk the earth with me, even if you are my enemy. You walked the path beside me for a time before it came to a fork. You helped me when I was suffering. And you matter more than this conversation.

More Love
Tim O'Brien, Gary Nicholson (Howdy Skies Music/Forerunner Music, Inc./Gary Nicholson Music, ASCAP)©1998 Gary Nicholson and Tim O'Brien
Performed by The Dixie Chicks

I'm so close to you baby, but I'm so far away
There's a silence between us and there's so much to say
You're my strength you're my weakness
You're my faith you're my doubt
We gotta meet in the middle
To work this thing out

More love
I can hear our hearts cryin'
More love I know that's all we need
More love to flow in between us
To take us and hold us and lift us above
If there's ever an answer, it's more love

We're afraid to be idle, so we fill up the days
We run on a treadmill, keep slavin away
Until there's no time for talkin'
About troubles in mind
And the doors are all closed
Between your heart and mine

More love I can hear our hearts cryin'
More love I know that's all we need
More love to flow in between us
To take us and hold us and lift us above
If there's ever an answer, it's more love

Just look out around you, people fightin their wars
They think they'll be happy, when they settle their scores
Let's lay down the weapons
That hold us a part
Be still for just a minute
Try to open our hearts

More love I can hear our hearts cryin'
More love I know that's all we need
More love to flow in between us
To take us and hold us and lift us above
If there's ever an answer, it's more love

Post-script: First, I should point out that the first man is not my ex-husband. Someone called to ask about that, and so I thought it was worth clarifying. Ex has evolved steadily over the last several months. Secondly, the first man, to all my availble knowledge, never visits this blog, and hasn't other than in the early days when we first met. That probably shoulda been a clue right there. Live and learn.


At February 01, 2007 10:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

MM, All I could think when I read this was "Woah." Heavy stuff here. Glad to see you did not tolerate any crap.

Yes, you do need to make the next guy jump through flaming hoops. If he balks, walk away.

YOU are worth it, m'dear.

At February 01, 2007 11:04 AM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Thanks for checking in on me, Shameless.

The thing of it is, up until the glitch or flame out or whatever it was that motivated Man #1 to stop communicating with me, there was no crap. We saw eye to eye on just about everything. We never had a single fight. Makes it all the more inconceivable, really.

If there is a next guy, bless his heart, I'll keep your words of wisdom in mind.

At February 01, 2007 11:15 AM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

...and the point is, really, that every single human interaction is a catalytic event. You never, ever know what your words or actions might lead to. I'm not just talking about paying it forward. I'm talking, here we are, living in a world full of war, greed, hunger, violence, and poverty, and we can't get our heads out of our butts long enough to make one small difference in an act of kindness or forgiveness. Who among us can wonder shamelessly then why there is war?

Every single moment counts. Every single one. Period.


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