Divisions are Happening.
They happen all around us,
They happen within us.
How long ago was it that natural elements first divided?
A division happened millions of times that created uniqueness forms and organisms.
Again and again and again…
I love divisions.
It reminds me of the words of a dear Carmelite friend, Therese of Lisieux who talked about people being like the wildflowers in the field, all giving off unique fragrances.
But the paradox of division is this illusion of separation on the level of essence.
As individuals strove and still strive to survive, identify and flourish.
Yet divisions creating new life keep happening.
They are still a cause for insatiable joy.
But are divisions also happening in more destructive ways? Or are we simply repeating the same cycles over and over, still trying to find stability by creating distinctions. Distinctions that take us away from the ground in which we live and move and have our being; the only place for true stability and freedom.
I wondered this a couple months ago when driving home to Colorado from Florida, and was jaunted in an experience of prejudice.
A division happened that caused pain.
And I wondered again yesterday when watching the movie The Soloist, where a very gifted musician ends up going from the prestigious Julliard School ofPerforming Arts to living on the streets. Why? Because he began suffering inner decline, hearing voices and finding it difficult to make distinctions between what was outside him and what was happening inside him.
A division happened that caused pain.
And it all reminded me of a man who remains etched upon my memory. I used to see him riding his bike while balancing a big, dirty, empty black trash bag in his right hand. He would ride and let the bag fill with air, then stop and shake it out. Sometimes he would do the same thing walking along the street.
His face was concerned as he focused upon filling the bag with air and emptying it out, sometimes shaking it vigorously. All the muscles in his arms would flex as he shook the bag, you would have thought it was filled with heavy blankets the way he acted.
I used to wonder why he was spending his days that way.
Inside, because my own path feels so ‘out there,’ at times, I wasn’t surprised. In fact, there was a kind of curiosity spawned by respect that kept me captive.
So I decided one day to ask him. We had never met, and I had no idea if he would open up to me or if he might just see me as some intruder into his world. I walked up and smiled the biggest smile possible. Which is pretty darn big if you know me you know I have a big mouth.
Reaching out my hand I gave him my name, he looked at me but didn’t take my hand in return or give me his name. But he did let me in, I could see it in his eyes. ‘I see you out here every day,’ I began honestly, ‘and you are working so hard. What are you doing with your garbage bag?’ My tone must have put him at ease.
‘I’m cleaning the air of all the crap in this city,’ he muttered looking at his bag. And then he went on as though the revelation reminded him that time was short and his work was imperative.
He was in my dream that night.
He was smiling because the city was bright with golden light. We walked passed each other in the dream as happiness streamed off his face like a waterfall of golden light. Free. He was free. And the city was free of its heavy, crappy, air.
What a shaman this man was, at least for me. Humbled by his sensitivity that reached into the greed and distrust, the lies and unkindness, the fear that permeated the very air we breathe I felt illumined by him.
Reminded that the path of each of us has a sacred quality and we do what we do for reasons that stretch beyond the mind. Reasons that would smack with being unreasonable in a world of conditioned reality.
Eric Fromm gave a brilliant definition of sanity in his work, The Sane Society (pub. 1955.) He said it was, ‘consensual validation,’ which means that the notion of sanity is what is accepted by the general consensus. I am making broad strokes, but his observation was that just because something was considered correct or acceptable moral behavior didn’t make it actually moral or liberating. Think of slavery. Think of how we slap the word mental illness as a way of defining what is ‘whole,’ and what is ‘destructive.’
I have always been moved by how powerfully public opinion can wield a sword that kills. Not just figuratively, though I do not underestimate the killing of spirit (which has happened in my own life,) but literally KILLED.
And we keep on.
And shamans like this man, keep on. Not because he had a stance against the world, he was not a self proclaimed liberal minded man who ‘knew’ how to make a stand. He simply could do nothing other than give his whole self to what was of service.
Divisions are happening that cause pain.
Just last month I was driving home to Colorado from Florida. It has been a wonderful family visit. As is my custom, I was driving the speed limit. Yes, I am one of those weird ones that actually enjoys driving the speed limit. Granted there are times I drive 69 in a 65 and 74 in the 70 MPH rules but there is something kind of enjoyable about settling into the speed limit.
Part of the fruit is I get to sink into the lay of the land, moving swiftly without an adrenaline rush that goes along with pushing the limits.
Hours passed. Driving from Florida, to North Carolina to Athens Georgia. It was a new route, peppered with visits to old friends so dear to my heart.
The route put me through Tennessee. Even if it was new, there wasn’t anything remarkably different in the rolling green hills from other Midwestern routes.
Except one very significant event.
I was stopped for speeding.
My trusty 1998 Nissan Altima did not have cruise control so over one hill I crested at 76 in a 70 MPH speed zone. Coming up and over the ridge I saw my mistake and immediately corrected. The quick brake brought me back to speed there was a highway patrol sitting there.
Looking to catch drivers speeding.
And that feeling came, I knew it. He caught my speed. He noticed me in particular.
Wanting to doubt my intuition I put a mental note, ‘Oh, even if he saw me, surely he saw I corrected myself as soon as I saw it.’ But there was a feeling that he would be pulling me over.
I drove on, uneventfully.
And decided that I had better not ‘worry,’ about my intuition for I would give weight to it and no lights flashed behind me.
So I did.
I let go.
And shortly after lights flashed behind me.
It was unbelievable.
But peace flooded me. I wasn’t sure why I wasn’t nervous because police officers make me very nervous.
You might wonder why law enforcement would make me nervous instead of reminding me they are there to protect us.
There have been times protection has happened, that is true.
They make me nervous because they have power, and their formation doesn’t mean they will use their power for good. They MAY use there power for good, but just because they have been given power means they will use it for honest, moral decisions. Too many friends and people I love have been squashed by systems that have power for service only to have that power used for beliefs or prejudice.
Similar to a friend of mine that is super close, there is something within that evokes worry that I have no safety in this world, nothing I can truly rely upon, and thus even if I am honest it doesn’t mean I will be safe.
But right now, being pulled over, something within me took over and I was filled with a very humble clarity and power and peace. I am not sure why.
The officer was in a large pickup truck. He walked from his truck to my passenger window, which I quickly lowered, and leaned in. This man was very muscular, and much larger than me. And he had a gun.
I realized that he had all the power and could do whatever he wanted to do to me, or with me.
But I felt peace. Clarity. And certainty.
The reason these qualities flooded me were a mystery soon to be revealed.
The officer didn’t ask for my registration, only for my license. He had bright blue eyes slightly hidden from the angle of his firm brimmed hat. ‘So you were going 76 over that hill, which isn’t bad, but tell me…where are you coming from?’
I told him generously of being a grand aunt and celebrating my little grand nephew’s first birthday party. I added in the work engagements I had along the way and seeing other members of my family. ‘yes I have been on the road five weeks and am ready to get home.’
‘Ah,’ he reflected speaking very thoughtfully, ‘so…have you ever been convicted of a felony?’ I was really surprised and realized in that moment why I had experienced the intuition of him noticing my car and that it had nothing to do with my speed limit.
But I didn’t know why until a number of questions later.
‘No sir, never.’ It was easy to respond truthfully.
‘Well then,’ he continued a bit more easily, ‘are you out on parole or are you running away from parole?’
I was very confused. This was strange. But it was easy to be honest, ‘No sir, this has never happened.’
He began to look around inside my car, slowly. It was very clean and the only things to be noted were a jug of water, my water glass and my back cushion. Then he slowly looked at my license.
There was a part of me that wanted to understand what was happening, to ask for guidance as to why my small infraction was leading to questions that made no sense. I first thought it was because I was clearly poor. My clean, yet old car, evidenced to the fact that I am poor. Unless I was a hidden millionaire. So I wondered if being visually poor spurred him to wonder if I were a criminal.
‘So, are you carrying a concealed weapon?’
‘No sir,’ it was easy to respond given how weapons make me cry.
‘Is this your address?’ he pressed on. Which it wasn’t but I readily gave him my address. Remembering how a colleague had been shot for getting things out of his glove compartment I had already pulled out my registration and insurance information, but the officer wasn’t interested in these I.D. verifications, he never asked for them.
The powerlessness of the situation set in.
Privately I mildly lashed myself for not having known my rights ahead of time just in case something like this might happen. But I live with a trust that doesn’t want to cultivate beliefs that stoke worry and fear.
‘Okay, I’ll be back,’ he said looking straight in my eye and I looked straight into his eye.
I sat there. For a very long time. It was a very long time.
I knew that anything couldhappen here. I could be hand cuffed or arrested or accused of something I didn’t do. I knew this could happen. And I felt on a soul level that I would simply be honest and trust that.
He finally came back.
‘What do you do for a living?’ he inquired with deliberation. He was never unkind but he was definitely weighing my every word, my eye contact and my disposition. Since I love what I do, it was easy to tell him about being a minister, helping people find peace and on I went for a short while. ‘Oh, I could really use help with stress,’ he said.
With the concern I had about my poor car I threw in, ‘yes, commitment to my ministry is the reason I do not have a lot of money,’ and I touched the sagging roof of my car. ‘I know!’ he softened, ‘I work non stop to pay for my two cars…’
We looked each other in the eye.
He knew I was honest. He knew it, but he still vacillated.
Very simply I held a stance that he would choose honesty over power. Thought I had no idea what the issue was here given the infraction of going a couple miles over the speed limit.
‘What about medical marijuana, do you have any in this car?’ he looked me straight in the eye.
Then I knew. I was from Colorado. And this influenced him. At least I knew why this was happening.
Sadness that my beloved state, part of a country whose vision was freedom and unity, was now a cause for interrogation.
‘No sir,’ I looked him straight in the eye. There was no force, no trying to influence. But within me was a simply truth, the hope he would choose integrity over power. Since I did not know this man, I could not know what he would choose. I remembered back just last year, sitting in a juried courtroom where a friend of mine, who was innocent, were wrongly convicted. She was a PhD who never drank, handcuffed and convicted of drunk driving. While she was acquitted her husband was not. This experience in the courtroom had really shaken me. I almost thought about moving to another country, to not chance the same happening to me.
Yet, it would be naïve, for we humans are still interested more in being right than being just. It is a universal point of growth, anything could happen anywhere I might live.
I was a woman. I also felt that my gender was another factor in the powerlessness rushing through me.
But that was not the only reason the feeling of powerlessness came…it was because of my propensity to understand and offer compassion before taking a stand. It is actually painful to take a stand for myself. So I was complicit in the power situation. And I was scared.
But I also felt freedom because I was being honest. It was quite an empowering experience to rest in the eternal strength that comes from inner clarity.
Whether my honesty made a difference or not, no one could take from me my own truth to myself.
He kept looking around my car, taking a long time to decide what next to do.
He pushed on, ‘if I wanted to search your car, would you say no?’ The question was something like a double negative, I didn’t understand exactly how to answer. And I immediately wondered, ‘could he do this? Just because I am from Colorado, he could search my car?’
My heart sank to know that I had no idea if this was legal or if I had any recourse.
But I also knew that he was a man, with a gun, and with authority.
I figured my best course would be to allowing him any choice, hoping he would choose to be honest and meet me in that land. ‘No sir.’
Right away he said, ‘No sir, I can search your car or no sir I cannot search your car?’
His verbal jump scared me. ‘No sir, you can search my car,’ I clarified looking into his soul.
This felt like I wasn’t standing up for my rights, but I didn’t know what my rights were and thought if I asked for guidance I could be accused of hiding something. Even if I was taken in and the truth came out I would still have been taken in and the thought made me shudder.
He took a long time.
He kept looking around my car, it didn’t seem he was looking but stalling, deciding what to do.
‘Okay,’ his hands hit the ridge of my passenger door, ‘Be safe getting home.’
And he tipped his hat and left me.
Are they increasing?
We like to think we are evolving.
We like the consolation of feeling civilized.
We like to purport that we aresane.
Just like the man cleaning the air of all the crap I wondered if those of us who perceive the layers, all the layers of being human, are not automatically marginalized from the comfort of knowing we are home in this world.
It is a welcome reminder that safety comes from being inwardly free.
A cell division that opened me mysteriously into the Portal of True Connectivity.
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