At first read, this is a heavy and complex piece of writing from artist Anne Truitt. Take a moment and ponder it.
Unless we are very, very careful, we doom each other by holding onto images of one another based on preconceptions that are in turn based on indifference to what is other than ourselves. This indifference can be, in its extreme, a form of murder and seems to me a rather common phenomenon. We claim autonomy for ourselves and forget that in so doing we can fall into the tyranny of defining other people as we would like them to be. By focusing on what we choose to acknowledge in them, we impose an insidious control on them. I notice that I have to pay careful attention in order to listen to others with an openness that allows them to be as they are, or as they think themselves to be. The shutters of my mind habitually flip open and click shut, and these little snaps form into patterns I arrange for myself. The opposite of this inattention is love, is the honoring of others in a way that grants them the grace of their own autonomy and allows mutual discovery.Here's the title of the piece on Brain Pickings that includes this phrase:
Compassion, Humility, and How to Cure Our Chronic Self-RighteousnessThat leads me to see something very important in the passage that could easily be missed. It is about how each one of us can overcome the tendency to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think, a tendency caused by an unwillingness to let go of the past and all the imperfect insights, self-centered interpretations, and putting other people into boxes that limit them while allowing us to be "different from" them.
Okay, that too is more complex than it has to be.
Each of us can tend to maintain our feelings about ourselves by not allowing others to grow and change. We hold on to the old ideas and keep our view of them based on the past.
Last weekend I visited a close high school friend that I haven't been with in person for nearly 45 years. While we have been friends on Facebook for several years, I am sure the images we had of each other were more than colored by our high school relationship. Most likely they were almost totally defined by that 50-year old experience.
We spent the weekend "catching up." It was a combination of reminiscing and letting each other know how we each became the people we are today over these last 50 years. By the end of the weekend the past was more truly the past. I can no longer see him through the eyes of an 18-year old looking at another 18-year old. Neither of us is the person we were then (Thanks be to God, at least as far as my life is concerned!)
Those old images that Truitt mentions above truly do doom us. They doom us to miss the great wonders of growing and changing as well as having the new experiences that keep us stuck in what we like to call "the good, old days," which they were not. They simply were.
This seems to be a time for me to make some of these old connections into new experiences. Tomorrow I will be preaching at the church I served from 1977 - 1984. I have not been there in 30 years. Many people are gone who were part of the church then. The "young people" are no longer young and their children are no longer the age of children. I will be an interesting experience to see the church and my experiences there from a new perspective.
Truitt called this other way of handling the past love. It is the opposite of the inattention that keeps stereotypes, old memories, and our own baggage from stunting our growth and relationships. We are far deeper, wider, and richer than the boxes we put ourselves and others in. I am looking forward to seeing what that means at the church and for me.
Last weekend helped set the tone for me to be able to do that.