Before you read today's post - and I hope you'll read it all & comment - take a look at the accompanying image. It's a card created between yesterday's post of desert blooms and today's words that flowed from my heart. I haven't spent a lot of time with this card, but a couple of observations: it's big and bold - there's a shadow side in there somewhere - I feel empowered and terrified when I consider it - she gives me the courage to step out and post the following reflections that poured into my journal this morning.
I didn't necessarily set out to write this for the public, and was going to heavily edit it if it turned into a post. I opted, however, to make minor revisions and go with the flow. The beginning quote is mine, made at Claire's post, Signs, where she speaks of the earthquake that sets Paul and Silas free from jail.
"yes, those earth shattering moments - many of them have melded together for me almost to the point where i see them everywhere i look - my heart has expanded and softened - fright seems to have been replaced with a love i thought i could never experience. it seems abstract and a bit cliche to put into words. simply put, yes, i've had those experiences and i remember, thank godde!"
the post describes the fear of the jailer when the earthquake shook and the prisoners were set free. the fear of the prisoners. it was elucidated in one of the comments on the blog "yikes, prisoner's escaping - time for fear." prisoners are scary, and i don't want to admit that to myself. prisoners are scary - really the unknown is scary. prisoners are just people like the rest of us and, yes, there is cause to be frightened of some of them, but not all of them. (oh, i hate them/they language.)
yesterday on a Facebook status, a well-meaning woman talked of wanting to provide spiritual direction to an "incarcerated" person and a "normal" person. my blood boiled. are you kidding me? you want to go and share God, but geez, can you hear what you're saying? i hear her saying "us and them". we're normal and they're not. an incarcerated person and a normal person. what bullshit is that? oh, i don't even want to rant about her. i need to listen to my own heart.
why does this grate on me so much? because i can see it in myself, huh? my fear. her fear. the jailer's fear - of the other. we fear 'the other', and as long as we fear the other - whether of another nationality, religion, social status - whatever - there will never be peace. fearing the other is the most dangerous thing we can do. yes, i know we have instincts to tell us when we're in danger, but what of the "instincts" we have been carefully taught? to hate people of color or those who weigh "too much" or fill in your own blank... we're taught to fear being old, too. how many of us fear the handicapped or the infirm? it's scary - really scary, 'cause it could be us!
when my mother was placed in a memory care facility (i.e. she had alzheimer's), my son at age 13 was the most compassionate person i've ever seen. he didn't fear the looping stories or the blank stares - he joined in with the residents and listened to their stories again and again. life has warped his views now with more prejudice, but then, he wasn't frightened - they were just people and he was a friend and champion for the under dog. now he is one. he's the guy behind the bars. he's the one we're supposed to be afraid of.
i sit in the visiting room at the prison and it looks like a class room. i haven't felt a moment of fear in that environment. maybe it's because the guards are standing around. maybe. but they're all people with stories. i feel more curious than anything and would love to sit down and talk with everyone (not allowed - btw). i don't see the men as "other" - other than making different choices than i've made, but i have no idea what life path lead them to those choices. fear - certainly. desperation - probably. self-contempt - absolutely.
and so we pour on the contempt by placing "them" in the other category. we're not scary and they are. we're normal and they're different. it's all fear. so what do we do? who are you afraid of? how does it cause you to be in the world or not be in the world? what's the difference between you and me and the guy in the orange jump suit? choices? luck? nature? God's plan? did God predestine them to be bad and us good? bullshit. yes, it comes down to choice. it comes down to love and fear. how can we be curious? i don't know what it means to be black or jewish or handicapped, but do you know what it's like to have a kid in jail and have the "good" Christian people afraid of him - categorizing him before they've even considered him as a person?
if you've ever read Martin Buber, you know about the i/thou relationship. when do we quit making people "it" and consider them as I/Thou. look into the eyes - yes, you may feel your blood chill - i've had that experience and i say "run". watch "dead man walking" and see sister prejean. yes, sean penn was scary in that movie - the character was terrifying and there was a spark of humanity. my son sits beside the most heinous offenders. does that make him scary? yes, i won't deny that i've dreamed of being terrified of him, and i will still give him a chance to be more than an it or they. i will not categorize blindly. at least i hope i won't.
i hope i will be like the jailer's in Claire's story and ask what i need to do to be saved - from myself. from my own pettiness and bitterness and fear. that's who and what i need to be saved from. "they" don't need to be saved, I do - especially if i hold malice and unjustified fear in my heart. - uneducated fear. ignorant fear. i say to me and you - to us: listen to yourself. have knowledge before you speak or at least acknowledge your ignorance. don't speak of love if you don't know what it's like to love unconditionally. i don't wish the challenges i've had on anyone AND i am grateful to have been challenged to know what it's like to love without condition. i'm not sure i would have done it on my own without an earthquake - would you?
Thanks for reading today. Wishing you peace and blessings.