Here in Australia, an Aboriginal man named Adam Goodes, a star Australian Football player, is at the centre of a raging national conversation about racism. He has been booed by the crowd for the last one to two years, and he has taken leave from playing football this weekend due to the toll the booing, and the national conversation about the booing, is taking on him.
The newspapers, radio and TV are filled with opinions about whether or not it’s racism, and what it all means.
My view is that the conversation is fruitless as long as it remains at the level of content. The place the conversation needs to go is to the ontological level. Here are four points about the situation from an ontological point of view:
- the incompletions of the past are coming up into view
- the past cannot be completed while ever blame is present
- the past cannot be completed until one party takes 100% responsibility for the relationship, which is to say, for the future
- what’s missing is a possibility – a future to live into – which people can be enrolled in.
When you’ve said all of the bad things and
all of the good things you haven’t been saying,
you will find what you’ve really been withholding is “I love you”.
– On Love by Werner Erhard
It was five years ago yesterday that my father died.
When he was 84, he had a heart attack and was taken to Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney. The doctors found he had four major blockages and a leaking heart valve. For a few days, the cardiologist was elusive. Every time my brother or I arrived, he had just left, and I was starting to wonder if he was a figment of my parents’ anxiety. He was the Scarlet Pimpernel of RNS, or like Major Major of Catch-22, jumping out the window whenever someone knocked on his door.
Eventually, the day arrived when we all happened to be in the room at the same time, and the specialist outlined the situation to Dad and the operation required. Dad asked how long he’d have if he declined the operation. “About two years,” the doctor said. Well, that was that for Dad. He was going to decline the operation, and though he didn’t say it, I could see on his face he thought it a good deal. Not liking to appear rude or ungrateful, and by way of explanation, he said to the doctor, “Mate, I’m running my race.”
That was so Dad. Courageous, true, humble and free. He died three and a half years later.
I’m driving and hear an announcer talking about this John Coltrane. “He’s one of those jazz people everybody’s supposed to revere, like in movies when the cool guy starts saying words like Bird or Mingus,” I’m thinking. Then the interviewer starts talking about Coltrane’s spiritual journey and suddenly I’m all ears. Turns out in his short life of just 40 years Coltrane said things like, “I believe in all religions” and “During the year 1957, I experienced, by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life.” And best of all …
I would like to bring to people something like happiness. I would like to discover a method so that if I want it to rain, it will start right away to rain. If one of my friends is ill, I’d like to play a certain song and he will be cured; when he’d be broke, I’d bring out a different song and immediately he’d receive all the money he needed.
I’m with you, John Coltrane. All this and more is possible.
To listen the program, go to the ABC’s Rhythm Divine.
“Hey, Golden Girl. Thank you. I’m happy that you enjoyed her death as much as I did. There is a beauty in death that we often miss because we turn away. Charlie watched his pops sicken and die. He saw his body after death. He listened to Pops talk to him the night before he died. He understands that death is part of life and that there is no fear in death. We talked about my own death and he understood, accepted it, and is not afraid. Children learn what we teach by our behaviors and our attitudes. We must change our avoidance of death and dying. We must stop turning away and hiding. That is the source of much suffering for the dying and for the survivors. We can only do this one family at the time. I am hopeful that our attitudes will eventually become realistic and accepting of the deaths of our elders. And we can celebrate again in the old ways.”
~ The mighty George Weaver, blogger and inspiration to many, in a comment to me regarding the death of a staghorn and the end of her own life which she is facing with courage and love and her trademark chuckle. Love you, George.
Image: Pink Lady by George
A friend, Leon, made the following point in response to the post on The choiceless choice about how he uses the distinction when playing squash. It’s great.
I hear what you say. I was playing squash and I got present to “Create the game” rather than tense up and do a loose shot in desperation to win. The game became clear when I just relaxed and focused on “creating” the game. I got excited to how this was going to shape my future games. To think is to create. To create is to think. If you’re not creating you’re not thinking. “It” is thinking.
Recently, a thunderbolt struck me and I shared it with friends. I saw that when I’m not operating under grace, my actions and results are hard-won, limited and subject to reversal at the earliest opportunity. Under grace, everything turns to gold. There is only ever one thing for me to do: get present to grace. The rest takes care of itself.
This week I’m applying the insight to a business issue that I’ve been ignoring, hoping it would just go away. Now that I’ve decided to look at the issue, I got that instead of trying to force something, as I normally would, I can allow myself to wait for grace to arise. That’s where I am now. I’m committed to letting it take as long as it takes and not engaging in busywork (to cover up the nothingness) in the meantime.
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“Dost thou reckon thyself only a puny form/
When within thee the universe is folded?”
~ The Iman ‘Alí, quoted in Bahá’u’lláh, The Seven Valleys
I’m reading the very popular, The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman. It has sold like hot cakes this book ever since it was published more than 10 years ago. It’s such a sweet and elegant idea: that each of us expresses love and appreciation in one of five “languages”.
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I was assisting at a Landmark Advanced Course last weekend, and one of the highlights of the course is when the participants start to enquire about their “act”.
The course proposes that each of us makes a decision about who we are for the world in a moment of perceived failure, a moment that occurred before the age of five. We then live out this decision for the rest of our lives, and it is in the background of every interaction we have. It’s like the wallpaper of your life, always there, never seen. At least not by you. Others, on the other hand, can usually see it, especially those close to you, like a husband or wife. The one holiday from this baleful straitjacket available to us as human beings is to live from possibility, or, to say it another way, under grace.
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Two women having lunch in the cafe, sitting close together at the end of the communal table, one monopolising the conversation.
“But I told the doctor I had a colonoscopy last December … and they’re going to test my reaction to gluten … and I’d just put on something in the slow cooker and it was really annoying … and my t-cell count is down and they think it might be due to … and I’m going back next week … and then they’ll have to do it …”
Phone rings. Glance. Telegraphs decision she will not be picking up.
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“Becoming a warrior and facing yourself is a question of honesty rather than condemning yourself. By looking at yourself, you may find that you’ve been a bad boy or girl and you may feel terrible about yourself. Your existence may feel wretched, completely pitch black, like the Black Hole of Calcutta. Or you may see something good about yourself.
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“Imagine the full moon coming through your living room window, coming closer and closer and suddenly entering your heart. You might be freaked out, or resent the whole thing, but usually it’s a tremendous relief.
Phew! The full moon has entered my heart. It’s great. Wonderful, in fact! On the other hand, when the full moon comes into your heart you might have a little panic. Good heavens, what have I done? There’s a moon in my heart. What am I going to do with it? It is too shiny.
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“Everything I had always thought about myself and about my world – all of my ideas, opinions, thoughts, attitudes, memories, hopes, worries, beliefs – all of it had suddenly revealed itself to be a hopeless tangle of chattering, machine-like voices. All that stuff which had made up ‘me’, suddenly wasn’t me. My view of myself had shifted dramatically. ‘I’ was somehow now the space, or context, or awareness, or Self, within which that old ‘me’ occurred.
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Royal Botanical Gardens, Melbourne, Australia, 4:30pm this afternoon.