April 2018

Saturday, September 14, 2013

This I Believe

Dad says I'm becoming the family sage. Funny. I think of sages as people who sit in sacred silence, their legs twisted into impossibly pretzel-like postures as the sage dispenses wisdom. It is true that I would like to be wise, but I am not so flexible as the sages, and I'm not much of a talker, more one to listen and ask questions: I am more soothseeker than soothsayer. 

I might have learned a few things in my first half a century, however. I have been through some rough times, and I think that tradition has it that going through something difficult makes a person more wise. Dante went to hell before heading to Purgatory and Paradise, for example, and Luke Skywalker had to swing that neon light saber at some evildoers. 

Like these heroes, I have been through my own rough times: in my divorce and coming out, I experienced depression's deep pain, and in facing brain tumors and ensuing disabilities, I have seen "the eternal footman hold my coat", like T.S. Eliot's Prufrock (though my eternal footman did not snicker. He was silent and sad about the eyes, like the kid no one sits with at lunch.)

I do believe that I've learned a few things in my teaching (where I've learned from both colleagues and students), in coming out as a lesbian before such love was honored, in traveling through depression's deep darkness, and in surviving brain tumors with new ways of living. Just in case this is the height of my sagacity, I think I'll share what I believe.

So what do I believe?

I believe that people always do the best they can at the time, even when it seems that they are really screwing up. I heard this from my mentor Peter in my first year of teaching: he responded in this way when I asked if he thought our students were really doing their best.

I know that I, too, always do my best, and sometimes I make a mess of things. Our presidents do their best; so do our parents and our teachers. This belief allows so much room for forgiveness, not for sanctioning wrong behavior, but for understanding the humanity of all that we do, all that is elegant and all that is ugly. I can forgive myself, and I can forgive you. After all, we are doing our best, even when our best is not so good at all. Even when we hurt someone we love. Or hate. Or do not know.

I believe other things, too. 

I go to church because I grew up in a church and the rituals are familiar and comforting to me. I believe there is a force of grace and love and forgiveness that is bigger than I am and bigger than my church is. I call that force God. And what of this word, God? Rumi said that words are but a finger pointing to the moon, and that we should not confuse the finger with the moon. I do not confuse the word God with God, and I believe that there are many other words pointing to this essence, words like Allah and Yahweh and Father and Son and Holy Ghost and so many more that I do not know.

I believe that great material wealth is dangerous to the poor and the rich alike, that a focus on wealth distracts us from our lives. I believe that I, like everyone else, bring gifts to share with those in my world, even those I do not know. I believe that I cannot multitask, but that I can only focus my mind on one thing at a time, and I believe this is also true for people who think they can multitask. I believe that as a nation, we are underfunding the dreams that are at the core of our identity and that we should be funding public schools at a MUCH higher rate than we currently do. I believe that every child should go to kindergarten. 

What is the point of life? I believe with the Budha at Breakfast that life is the point of life. 

This I believe.


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