Friday, December 26, 2008

The Reality Of A Thing

"No nine year old daughter of mine would be wearing makeup and dressing like that."

"All that means is that you have different values than the mother you saw let her daughter dress like that."


A conversation something like the one above took place in group counseling one day when I was in rehab. It was not only an eye opener to the woman who was adamant her daughter would never be allowed to look like an adult before her time, it was an eye opener for me to hear how a difference in values was simply that and nothing more. It was a brand new perspective for me. I've often judged others (and still do) for having values differing from mine. I remember thinking something along the lines of "You mean I don't have to feel threatened by someone else choosing a different set of values than me?" Which is another spin on not making everything about me.

A few days ago I was thinking about what I'd bought dearest one for Christmas. I must've been attaching value to what I surmised because I realized I could only be having that train of thought by elevating myself to somewhere beyond reality. Then yesterday I was thinking about a post I'd read where someone described a certain individual, a sort of stereotypical description that wasn't favourable. I thought to myself, "What if that person simply was and there was no value attached, good or bad, to how he looked, that he simply was who he was?".

What I heard in rehab seems to be sinking to a deeper level. I am grateful. Ha. Attaching a value to even that, you see.

I think more than anything I've been influenced for several years by a little book. It has 31 short chapters and I read one every day. The author, Anthony DeMello, was a Jesuit priest from India. There are some great videos of his teaching on youtube that sum up much of what this little book has to say.

A few days ago I read this little snippet for the umpteenth time:
"If you wish to get in touch with the reality of a thing, the first thing you must understand is that every idea distorts reality and is a barrier to seeing reality. The idea is not the reality, the idea "wine" is not wine, the idea "woman" is not this woman. If I really want to get in touch with the reality of this woman I must put aside my idea of womanness or Indianness and experience her in her thisness, her concreteness, her uniqueness. Unfortunately most people most of the time do not take the trouble to see things like this in their uniqueness; they just see the words or the ideas, they never look with the eyes of a child at this concrete, unique, fluffy, alive thing that is moving out there in front of them. They only see a sparrow, (or)they never see the wondrous marvel of this unique human being here in front of them. They only see an Indian peasant woman. The idea therefore is a barrier to the perception of reality.

....This thing or person is good or bad, ugly or beautiful. It is barrier enough to have the idea of Indian or peasant when I look at this concrete individual. But now I add a judgement and I say, "She is good," or "She is bad," or "She is attractive and beautiful," or "She is unattractive and ugly." That further prevents me from seeing her because she is neither good nor bad. She is "she" in all her uniqueness.....Good and bad are in relation to something outside them. Inasmuch as they suit my purpose or please my eyes, or help me, or threaten me, I call them good or bad."

That nine year old girl dressed like a young woman is not good or bad, neither is her mom. She is "she" in all her uniqueness. Free to have a different value system than mine. I often pray for eyes to see. Really see. (Then there are the moments when I want to be momentarily struck blind. Truth can sometimes be painful.)

This afternoon I'll be with dearest one's family, who live a very different lifestyle than we do. I've gotten better at accepting our differences. I've gotten better at being okay with me. Occasionally I let what I perceive as their judgement, affect me and am tempted to give it back in spades. I spent years doing just that. Nowadays I struggle with when to speak up and when to be quiet. I often want to be the voice of everyone-who-is-not-them and force them to see the world through eyes not their own. I want to play God. I want to attach value to their groupthink. I want to tell them their values are wrong. And mine are so obviously right. Sigh.

And while it's true that no nine year old daughter of any of them would wear makeup (maybe I could tell them that I know this crack addict who would agree with them? They have no idea I was in rehab last year) I don't have to take our differences personally. Anthony DeMello more than once reminds one that we see others as we are not as they are. Food for thought as I go through my day today.


Christy said...

I LOVE this idea.

I have a corollary to the non-judgement thing.

Just me, personally.

I used to say to everyone, "I don't judge you, do what you want", or "All's fair.....", or "Each to his own".

I still do say that and want to believe it.

But I had a person call me on it. They said I had no standards, that what I really wanted was to behave badly myself.


True, I have no standards. I "judge not lest I be judged".

But then if I screwed someone over, I EXPECTED forgiveness.

Hard to fathom.

I am trying to still not judge, to experience things in the moment without preconceptions--but not just let myself do whatever the hell I want.

I was in therapy for awhile (I know, what a SHOCK!! LOL) and my therapist said that she usually has to break down people's barriers, but I had so few that THAT was a problem.

No standards, no barriers, no limits.......

Hard when you have some addiction issues, too....

Gabriella Moonlight said...

Such a great and wonderful post to read today! I love the idea of just letting what I love DeMello and his work it's all great. I appreciate the quote too..thank you so much!

Jim said...

I believe "judgment" to be natural thing, a God-given part of who we are and not "sinful" in its substance, but in how we apply it in our encounter with it. You look at a melon, in other words, and "judge" it to be ripe or not. You teach your child not to speak to strangers and teach judgment for their own safety. So, for me, it is a matter of learning to put judgment into His hands, learning to walk by His judgment, not my own; and that's not always easy, for even though He indwells me, I yet occupy the place, too. What is great is when we can begin to see that we need His eyes, His wisdom, His grace; and that's what I hear you speak, not only in this post, but in your journey. Journey on, my friend, and may you, each day, know Him in all that He is...

annie said...

This is such an interesting subject Hope. You've done a good job in writing about it. Somehow it reminds me of the problems encountered when trying to learn to draw. So many people say "oh, I can't draw", thinking they have no talent for drawing, but in reality, the thing that holds them back the worst is that they never really look at or see the thing they are drawing. For instance, if you say "draw a tree", they will draw a symbol for a tree, what they remember of a tree--some sort of trunk and leaves and maybe a branch or two, but they spend very little time looking at a tree to draw a tree, and they wonder why their drawing does not look like a tree!

(Feel free not to post all this, it does seem like a bit of an unrelated tangent I have gone off on...)