Neighbors, not siblings, on the path

If it be true that one may become a criminal by association with crime, (and this is a known fact), it is equally true that one may develop faith by voluntarily suggesting to the subconscious mind that one has faith. The mind comes, finally, to take on the nature of the influences which dominate it.”–Napoleon Hill

There is a statement that is disturbing: count up the five people you spend the most time with, adding their net worth.  Divide by the number of people, and you’ll be right in the middle of the pack. The same thing is often true of factors like weight, marital happiness, and emotional health.   We take on the attitudes of the people around us, and our attitudes determine our actions, while actions drive results.

In other words, the fastest way to change your life for the better…or worse…change your associations.

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“Faith” is an important part of the Five Part Pattern.  Every step depends on it.

1) Self-love.  If you have been damaged by life events, family culture or social programming, you may feel damaged and unworthy.  It is FAITH that allows you to simply commit to loving yourself, even if you see no evidence that you are worthy of it.  Dig in: find your child self, and you’ll tap into the genetic wiring that protects infants, and there’s your healing.

2) Bonding to another human being.   Once you’ve found self-love, it requires FAITH to believe you can expand that to include another person.   If you’ve had your heart broken, if you were raised in a household with domestic violence, or a social fabric filled with shattered relationships or single parents…it can be very hard to believe that happy marriages exist.  I simply say to you: yes, they do.  I have one.  And so can you.

3) Understand humanity without guilt, blame, or shame.   If you have suffered, or been part of a group that has been oppressed, it is natural to believe that the group that hurt you has deep, intrinsic failings.  The alternative is often to believe that YOU have those failings, and frankly, it is healthier to love yourself and dislike others than the reverse.  But healthier still to rise above it.

4) Find your mastermind “tribe” based on shared values, beliefs and goals.   Don’t awaken those who are asleep, and watch out for snakes and “Smiling Monsters.”  Faith is required to believe that you can accomplish miracles even if you only have the support of a small percentage of the population.   Also to believe that you are strong enough to confront monsters.  And that most people, even those who oppose you, are merely asleep, not evil.

5) SUCCEED.  In a moral, ethical fashion, showing the way for others, leaving a trail of bread crumbs through the woods as you do.  You need FAITH to believe you can transform your life.

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The imprecation to “understand humanity without guilt, blame or shame” has a very special corollary when applied to the arena of social justice: the understanding of our history without the need to consider your opponents or “Other” to be knaves or fools.  Racially, this manifests as two questions concerning slavery and its aftermath, one for white people, one for white people:

“Under the same historical circumstances, would white people have done better or been wounded less?”

And one for black people:  “Under the same historical circumstances, would black people have been kinder or more moral, or less self-servingly oblivious afterward?”

The question is simple, and so is the rule of application: if you ask this question, and the answer “yes, they’d be the same” comes back quickly and easily, it is useful to go on to the next questions, dealing with how we clean up the mess we’ve created.

Because the truth is that there is much to deal with in the black community, much dysfunction and damage.  It is grimly amusing that apologists will say, “Yes!   We were massively damaged for centuries!” but then be unwilling to actually admit we’re damaged.

Or that some of that damage MUST be healed through our own efforts.   If you get hit by a car, YOU will have to go through the rehab, wincing through every step as you learn to walk again.

That isn’t fair.  But it is life. But you know what?  If the family of the person you hit you denies the accident took place,  tells you you are genetically or culturally inclined to limping, that your bones splintered by themselves… you are justified in believing they are either asleep or are snakes.

But yeah…you’ve got to do the work, or your broken legs will never be strong.

But to move forward in your life, you have to be able to have confidence (faith) in yourself regardless of external circumstances. Do this deeply enough, and you’ll have the courage to look at your mental failings, the way you justify your own ugliness, have blamed others for your failings, and projected your guilt onto others. 

THE PRICE TO FORGIVE YOURSELF FOR THIS IS FORGIVING OTHERS.

You CANNOT forgive yourself, see yourself clearly, without also forgiving others. They are the same human “stuff” that you are. 

When I ask “The Question” there is a common pattern.  I remember no exception to it, but admit that I might have forgotten one, or may run into one in the future.

1) The people who can answer “yes, we are the same” easily and readily are the people with whom it is safe to describe and brainstorm about ways to heal the community. They know that, given the same history, whites would be just as damaged and vulnerable and angry…and afraid.  They see the shared humanity.

2) Those who cannot will obfuscate, lecture, talk about how the question is “unfair” or “hypothetical” (well, duh), a “trick” question, and so on.  To my great amusement, someone threw back   “have you stopped smoking crack yet?” And thought that clever.  Well, if his intent was to reveal his reality map, it certainly was.  The “have you stopped smoking crack yet” (a revealing version of the “have you stopped beating your wife yet” question, modified for his racial attitudes) is a “heads I win, tails you lose” equation, where either “yes” or “no” causes pain.

So it becomes reasonable to ask: “what is the pain he would experience if people are equal?”

Well…it is reasonable to assume that something about his ego depends upon thinking himself superior.  That whites would have done better under slavery. Why would this be important to him?

One reason is that his political and philosophical world-view depends upon believing in a “level playing field,” a meritocratic construct in which a person’s life manifestation reveals their internal being.

If this is true, then they have zero responsibility for the suffering of others, because their status is due to their own efforts.  That means no tax dollars or reparations or whatever, of course.

The truth is that they could take that same position just by saying “yes, you got seriously screwed over, and in your place I’d be limping too.  But I have no interest in my resources going to help you out of that hole you got shoved into.  Good luck.”

And that is actually kinda honest and even honorable. And…damned few people can think that way.   

There’s another version of that, of course. And it involves guilt.  If you believe people are equal (as groups) but the results you can see in things like criminality, net worth, violent death, health and so forth are unequal…then the initial conditions MUST be different.   

What happens then? What happens if you were raised believing slavery was benign, no worse than immigration, that it ended 150 years ago and all is well now, yada yada yada and so forth?   If you BELIEVE that, then you look at what is going on today, and could well conclude “wow.  What’s wrong with those people?”

Some try to hide from the fact that their conclusions are racist (racism is defined as “the differential attribution of capacity or worth on the basis of race or ethnicity”) by saying “it’s not race, its culture!”

Wow.  THAT is just kicking the can down the road. What in the @#$$ do you think was stripped away from slaves in America?  THEIR CULTURE.  Their names, languages, religions, ethnic or tribal identities, history, mythology, and laws.  Everything that defines people other than than the raw meat of their bodies.   Distinctions like Greek, Jewish, Irish, whatever?  Gone gone gone.  Just “African” or “black” remains.  All gone.

So when people say “culture” a follow up question enters my mischievous mind.  It’s culture?  Wow!  Are you saying that slavery was so horrific that it stripped all that away, and what grew in its place was so dysfunctional as to produce the results we see today? Really? That’s a serious condemnation of that Peculiar Institution, brother!

Ask THAT question and watch the faces redden.  In other words, if you are descended from or related to  those who were slave-masters, and cannot separate yourself from their negative actions, and cannot love humanity enough to realize that we SERIOUSLY screw up, hurt each other, then justify the action and blame the victim…if you cannot do that, you will not be able to see what happened. Your world view, view of America’s history or understanding of the path ahead will be corrupt.

Guilt: “oh my God. We did THAT?”

And how about fear:  “If someone did THAT to me or mine, and then denied it afterward for generations, AND BLAMED ME FOR THE RESULTS I would want to @#$$ kill them.”

Oh, yeah.   Feel the burn, baby.

But if you start with love, commit to protect yourself and forgive yourself…and then expand that out to just one human being and let your heart open…and then understand how all human beings struggle with fear and love…you can look at what happened and forgive without forgetting.

Anger and fear comes from a heart that has not reached this peaceful place.  That believes that holding onto pain is the best protection from future damage.  That is being “asleep”.   Wake up.

Over the last few days, I’ve engaged with two people who could not answer The Question without obfuscation, talking about the dysfunction, parasitic mountebanks, and self-destructive behavior as if that is all separate from the initial damage.

This is like someone saying pus reeking in a supporting wound is the NATURAL state of your leg, and has nothing to do with that car that hit you.  Or that the accident which took TWO seconds should heal in ONE second.  (“Hell, yes slavery lasted 250 years followed by another century of Jim Crow and Segregation and brainwashing that you are inferior, which didn’t really end until about 1965.  Why aren’t you over it yet?  We would have gotten over it!  Of course, I’m too polite to state that directly, because that would make me racist, and of course I’m not that…”)

Sorry, if a wound heals in less time than it took to inflict, that’s called a “miracle.”  And if they were honest with themselves, they’d find areas in their own lives where personal or childhood wounds still affect their lives, and the lives of others, and would see where cultures remember wounds and major emotional events that took place THOUSANDS of years ago. That’s what human beings do.

And it’s easy to see, if you believe in equality.  One person with whom I had this dialog was a man.  He twisted and turned and answered indirectly and never got there.  I’d not be surprised if he disagreed with that characterization, and that’s fine with me.

The other was a nice lady who seemed genuinely torn and in pain.   Wondered why healing was taking so long.   Couldn’t directly answer the question, and resorted to talking about her black friends, and all she’s struggled with as an individual, and how she wished she could be black to have the ‘advantages’ black people have…

While, one suspects, slowly coming to the realization that if she believes black people have net advantages, but are still statistically behind, the natural conclusion is that they don’t have the same potential.

“It’s the culture” she said.  Thunk.  The sound of a can being kicked down the road. 

C’mon, lady.   Human cultures develop over centuries, in relative isolation, and comprise elements like language, religion, history, mythology…the very things stripped away.  Nope, can’t hide there.

One step at a time, she boxed herself in.  Until she broke off communication…

But PM’d the host of the thread. Painfully admitting that yes, she now realized those were her attitudes.   That she believed herself a good person who now realized her attitudes were…things she hadn’t believed were within her.

What to do when someone becomes that vulnerable? Kick them while they’re down? 

HELL NO.

Love them. As you love yourself.  Comfort them.  Help them grasp that they were as vulnerable to their programming as anyone else.  Do you know how much courage it takes to examine your own psyche and ADMIT something like that?  She just woke up!

Even if she ends up BELIEVING that particular view of differential capacity, she is still a person of honesty and courage, worthy of respect.  And if she loves herself and others, even WITH that belief she will still be a good and decent person, a good neighbor even if she cannot be a sister.   I know LOTS of people, black and white, who believe their tribe is superior. Nice people.

Not my brothers and sisters, however.

To do this, to forgive, to understand that this is what humanity is, what we have dealt with, but still LOVE humanity requires faith.  Lots of it.   Some have the horrible sense that they or all humanity are/is corrupt and ugly.  Wouldn’t happen if they started with love.

Start with love.  Understand and forgive: everyone falls short of perfection. 

Love another, at least one other person.   See how they are you.

Expand to understand and forgive and love humanity.

Choose your “tribe” based on their willingness to accept your core values.  Let the others sleep, and go their way.   Except for snakes or “Smiling Monsters” of course.   They are rare.  But it is important to encourage them to expose themselves so that others can spot them more easily. 

(A STORY:  While teaching at a children’s camp fifteen years ago, we found a rattlesnake sunning itself on the path leading to the showers.    We carefully pushed it off the  path into the woods. It came back. So we cut off its head.  Why I tell this story here I will leave as an exercise for the reader.)

The point is that if you are firm but loving, clear on your values and see that most human failings are an expression of fear rather than “evil”, you will create an environment where people can see and express truth.  BUT THEY MUST KNOW THEY WILL NOT BE ATTACKED IF THEY DROP THEIR GUARD.

If you HONESTLY love them, that love will  disarm them.  Not necessarily convince them to agree with you—that is not your job. Your job is to gather those who already agree, and organize to get the job done without trampling on the legitimate rights of others.  Very different strategy.

But this lady?  Regardless of what she decides from this point, I know she is a good person, a caring, loving person who simply has a belief she never thought she had.   It is my belief that hers is wrong.   But it is not my place to change her…just to love her.

And of course to protect myself, and my children.   Frankly, I have no interest in pushing her off the path.  We can share that space. I would protect her children, and I believe she would protect mine.  I believe we’re walking toward the same future.  And if my attitude is correct? Then in time, she will come to that conclusion as well…

Or she will move to the side of the road, and take a nap. 

That’s o.k. too.   Shhhhhh, don’t wake the sleeping children.

But watch out for snakes.

Namaste,

Steve

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