Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Damage Done?

You and I need to grow up. We have little choice. The years from babyhood to adult, or to the day we die are filled with lessons. And we may see those lessons as the damage done, in many cases, or as the passages by which we in turn have learned not only to survive, or thrive, but also to give us the experience for empathy, consideration, care, and compassion for others.

We sit on a bench beside the popular pathway along the ocean shore, my long-time old friend and I. A young couple in their 30's are panting and perspiring as they overtake five younger women also headed in our direction. They all pass by and I think I overhear:

"Ew! A sweat drop hit me! When they run that close I'd like to trip them!"

"Check out her lard ass," comments another, leaning over, colluding.

"Wouldn't be caught dead wearing that outfit," responds yet another.

"There but for the grace of God go I," the fourth demurs.

"Nice that she's out with her husband, trying to keep fit though," offers the fifth.

At which her friends lean over, almost musical in unison, and tease, "Oh, trust you!" Giggle.

And they wend their way.

Our pathways from birth to now are like that, full of observation, comment, reaction, responses, provocations, misunderstandings, and temptations. We cannot but help grow up under the influence of others, of our culture, our country, our parents, our friends, our teachers and...

The lesson is always there to be learned, but do we always learn all from the lesson? Evidently not, and so the lessons repeat in ever increasing cycles of differentiation, however subtly, with an essential essence at their core; the ethics and integrity of the individual. Would that such concepts have been articulated when I was a child! Would that all children be made cognizant of such precepts  at their earliest ages, with love and care and compassion and nurturing from the most mature and insightful and integrative of elders, in ever increasing spirals, but...

Too many of us have suffered abuse and maltreatment and war and poverty and the insecurities of disenfranchisement and the imposition of paradigms established by others and the sad or bad consequences of our own choices en route. We kinda all know that. Yet we also too easily perpetuate the negativity and the harshness and the dismissive-ness and even the unkind. We too easily do not think ethically (let alone enact it), and we too easily cheat our own integrity by thinking we can get away with things when 'others do not know.' And too many of us then drag the anchor of our shame along the pathways of our route, letting its weight trip us up, hold us back, or go round and round in circles. Fundamentally, we understand, deeply, though we may not conceive of it nor understand it, what P.B. Shelley meant by, "And perne [my soul] in a gyre."  Few dictionaries contain perne. Knowledge is not all. We whirl in spirals of insight, or?

It is that precise spiralling in our evolutionary process that allows for compassion, forgiveness, understanding, acceptance, and inclusion. "A gentleman is defined not so much by what he thinks and does in front of others," intoned my old Headmaster, "but by what he does and thinks when he is all by himself!" Ethics, and Integrity; indeed, now there's the gyre of one's perseverance!

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