Inside this house, I lounge in pajamas, nursing sore muscles and a tired mind. I work with distractions, changing CDs, rifling through novels, considering movies I could stream from Netflix or pull out of my library – the kinds that I want to watch, but don’t want my 7 year old to see yet, movies like “American History X” or “Apocalypse Now.” I consider also resuming my rereading of the Bible. Solitude is good for theological contemplation, then again, one also needs to be in a state of mind for such endeavors to be anything other than checking off so many chapters read per day. You need to pay attention if you want to save your soul.
Inside this mind, I pace, I lope, I sneer and snarl at the lists of things I Ought to Do, a list I wrote and tasks I assigned to myself because seeing them recline undone annoys me. (I am always balancing my annoyance with my clutter and my dust against my general irritation with doing anything that will simply need to be done again in a few days and maintained. I don’t particularly care for Sisyphean tasks; they remind me of all the things we have to do each day just to keep things running, like paying recurring bills or brushing one’s teeth. You’re just going to have to do it all over again in a few hours or days, Sweetheart.) I fidget and sigh and daydream and check the clock. I watch the countdowns in my mind: so many hours until Opening Day baseball, so many hours until Passover, until Easter, until a Zumba class a neighbor has invited me to attend, until my family comes home, until I might feel inspired to do all of those Annoying Tasks – I do know that I will enjoy the results immensely. I run this circle in repetition, in rhythm, until I am stilled by the lists of possible choices to make. To turn left, or right, to climb up or squat down, this room or the next, check email, check blog, check weather, check email.
I am like a wolf in a cage, a cage built of too many choices, none of them urgent, all of them important, and my indecisiveness is the metal holding me in. I pace and I snap. I wish I could sleep.
I do realize that if I take action of any kind, make a decision to do any of these things that I (have at least convinced myself that I) want to do, my cage will open, and my paths to run or lope or rest will again be fresh and free. I have created my own cage, but have I done this because I am staggered by my freedom and don’t know how to enjoy it, or because there is a perverse safety in enforced limitations. (If I’m locked in a cage, then I can’t possibly do any of these things. It isn’t my fault. If I am free to roam, then am I a sloth, lazy, decadent, or are all of the things on, for example, my Spring Cleaning list not as important to me as I thought?)
When others constrict our movement, we feel resistance and a desire to escape and employ free agency again. When we constrict ourselves, we are meeting personally, face-to-face our own private jailers, and our own fear of – the immense responsibility of freedom, the raw power of free will, and the potential to lose our humanity to this power. Creatures tend to want to acquire as much power as possible in which ever form is the most available or the most expedient to them. None of us are above this urge, it brusts from a concept we have that more power means more safey.
I believe, however, that more “Power” means greater risk to one’s soul: you might barter it away without knowing, you might think that your power is secure in money or prestige or influence or a Best Selling Novel or IPO. These things are not power in themselves. They can assist power, but if the soil they provide is left untended, it will nourish choking weeds and creepers, nothing lovely or sustaining will grow. Power is sourced in kindness, in acts of compassion and mercy, and in the discreet protection of other people’s secrets, in being trustworthy and honest. Power is love in action, with no plans for personal benefit, but with attention to the welfare of others. In using our talents in context with others, each of us is powerful.
Our culture certainly celebrates celebrity power and influence – but I think that all that activity and noise is a form of star-fucking and self-aggrandizement, meant to fill in holes and gather “respect.” Reality TV offers an abundance of examples. So does politics. Sadly, even our religious communities often fall prey to the power of bullying and condemnation, of hate-mongering and ignorance. Atrocities are committed every day in the name of someone’s God.
Note: don’t bring God into your own agenda. All this evil is on each one of us and our very own decisions, not God. Not the Devil either. We made these choices, we are responsible for the consequences. I’m pretty sure that God – and here it doesn’t even matter what God a person might be praying to – will not appreciate such libel and heresy. Be very careful if you start pinning your tasks onto someone else.
True power exists in spaces that are anonymous and gentle. The power is in the generosity, and it is a power that passes from one of us into the next. It grows as we share it, and it is through small acts towards neighbors, family, coworkers, community members, and so on, that we create a momentum of respect and love. These things are taught by example, and because we learn them in relationships with other people whose names we learn and situations we hear of, gently our fears of those with different cultures, religions, health statuses, economic standing, employment status – the list goes on – our fears wane.
It is hard to hate those we meet. Once we drop our impulse to define ourselves as different from everyone else, we comfort each other in our similarities, and our differences become treasure we can share, and the beginnings of peace we can sustain.
This, this kindness, this true power, this real love, cannot be organized by law, but can be introduced by name and face. This power is what is outside the cage.
If you leave your own self-made cage, you have the opportunity to make these choices. You have the power to offer yourself to help by sharing the things you already do and already have with others. You have it, I have it, even the recovering addict in the shelter has this potential.
Outside of the cage. So, truly, there is no excuse for my staying in my cage. I need to live with my heart, and with my eyes, and with sensitivity – for, as the saying goes, “we are all fighting a hard battle.”
This is power: the power of love, from which comes mercy, compassion, empathy, charity, forgiveness, kindness, and respect. (And, in your journeys, should you meet a “Christian” who teaches superiority of any kind, judgmentalness in any disguise, hate in any language towards anyone, or who claims to know God better than you do, or that s/he is more holy than you are, that s/he has the right to condemn you — well, run, don’t walk, run in the other direction. They aren’t teaching the Bible, they are teaching their fear and hiding behind a religious machinery to do so. It’s extreme cowardice, and it’s heresy. An aversion to these people is very prudent. 🙂 )
- John 15:12 (KJV)This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
- John 13:34 (KJV)A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
- Ephesians 4:2 (KJV)With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
- John 13:35 (KJV)By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
- John 15:17 (KJV)These things I command you, that ye love one another.
- 1 John 3:11 (KJV)For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
- 1 John 4:11 (KJV)Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
- 1 Peter 3:8 (KJV)Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:
- Matthew 22:39 (KJV)And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
- Colossians 3:19 (KJV)Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.
- Hebrews 10:24 (KJV)And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
- 1 John 4:7 (KJV)Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
- Romans 13:8 (KJV)Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.
- 1 Thessalonians 3:12 (KJV)And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you:
- 1 John 4:12 (KJV)
- No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
- Galatians 6:2 (KJV)Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
- Luke 6:27 (KJV)But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,
- Colossians 3:13 (KJV)Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
- Ephesians 4:32 (KJV)And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
- Scribes Sounding Off: Culture, Counter Culture, Chaos Culture in America (kexp.org)
- A Perspective on Feral Children (twistingthreads.wordpress.com)
- Shame and the Sisyphean Task (thesobertraveler.com)