My week so far has been filled with learning how to encourage.
Our theme this week began with conversation and my desire to have more learning-heavy conversations.
That it, rather than going into an encounter with another human in order to teach, go in with the goal to learn.
I imagine that if we all did this, all the time, we'd grow quite a bit more.
My thought experiment has a snag in it: The best way to learn is to teach :) Certainly this is true. And yet, how do we best teach? By inquiring — and listening.
I am (of course) quite uncertain about this but I do wonder what would happen if we decided to joyfully partner with our friends (and enemies) seeking deeper faith, seeking to follow the example of wisdom? Christians can short form that to follow Christ — I believe a good universal word that comes close might be Wisdom?
At the heart of my thought experiment, though, are these words from Dr. Martin Luther King:
I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
And I believe that we are deeply out of practice in being a "human-oriented" society.
I want to turn now and speak to all of us who consider ourselves "faith based" — I often short form this to be all of us under the Tents of Abraham and including other faiths as well. But of course I am speaking as a Christian so I ask for patience if I misrepresent or misspeak — my intention is to be inclusive.
We need to center ourselves among our fellow humans first and now more than ever. If our "thoughts and prayers" don't also include going into the trenches with our friends and enemies, sitting quietly with them, listening to them, learning what they need and what is not being heard, we are failing.
The secular humanists among us I imagine know this well?
I am speaking to myself as well today: At every difficult juncture of my life, I have struggled to not focus on the material first.
When machines, profit, and property rights are more important than people, we are defeated.
Consider your day: What percentage of your day is spent doing things that humans do? Comforting, encouraging, wandering in nature, caring for each other, mending, creating, growing?
What percentage of your day is spent outdoors or in natural light? What percentage of your day is spent calmly, quietly listening to another human? Not trying to convince another human of something, not trying to coerce or persuade, not talking about superficial stuff only? How much of your day is spent in natural, not human made, surroundings? Playing music? I could go on.
Notice that I didn't say how much of your day appears to be such? As in, no — I do not care how blissful or natural your life appears to be. I care how real it is.
One of my favorite books is The Velveteen Rabbit. In case this isn't a book you know well, it's subtitle is "How Toys Become Real." It's the story of a young boy who ended up with scarlet fever, who loved his stuffed rabbit very much. He loved it so much that it ended up with missing "fur" a loose button eye (I think) — really, what we think of as "well loved" — In the end, when the boy's things all need to be burned to make sure that the scarlet fever is completely gone (it's an old book) his dear stuffed rabbit comes to life and joins the other rabbits hopping in the garden.
That actually is from memory — it would be funny if I got it a little wrong...
I think, though, that what I am awkwardly moving toward in my life is becoming real.
Sometimes it can be a little lonely — as I show up more and more real in the world. I naturally gravitate toward other people also wanting to become real, and I notice there is a joy — a recognition — Oh, you too? Come on, let's chat :)
When I began this project, I only knew that I wanted to begin to use my writing, passion for mental health and love for programming to a purpose driven end. I honestly had no idea beyond that where I was going.
As the project and my life awkwardly and sometimes painfully blossoms, I understand — I am becoming real. I am making peace with myself. I am training to become freer, less obedient to "the world", more joyful.
I'd really like to invite you in. I feel more ready than ever: My weekly newsletter sets you up for a week of inquiry and practice — you won't become more productive, you won't become richer, you won't become more fashion savvy (though, honestly, you might develop your own gorgeous style, a la Coco Chanel). You might, though, become real.