Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Call to Fall in Love with People who Irritate Us for the sake of Divinity

The theme of my thoughts these days has been on little, pernicious stereotypes as related to self-identity. The consideration of "identity" has always been a focus for me as a feminist thinker. As I mature, I note that my own identity is increasingly liminal and border-crossing. It frustrates me at times to never be able to fit neatly into any categories. I would enjoy, just for a moment, to see what it is like to be an easy fit with another group of human beings, but I know from experience that "fitting in" is so psychically uncomfortable to me that it is worth the extra effort of forging friendships based not on commonalities but on time, conversation, and love.

Very many of my strongest connections to others come not from an easy compatibility but from the hard work of laboring with another person through the differences. If, as I believe, the Divine is beyond measure and beyond definition, and if, as I believe, each of us is a unique manifestation of that Divine Energy in our physical and spiritual "bodies" as well as in our perspectives, it is imperative that we reach out to each other as we are not as we believe we should be. I am but one spark of the Divine driven by a desire to join in the company of Light. Too often, I seek out those who are most like me. Worse, I try to make others into my own image, but to mistake my own reflection for the inner Light of another soul is to surrender myself to a tragic and profound loneliness.

So much of our identities are both constructed and relational and yet one would never know this from the way that folks lob defining words at other people like weapons. Words are tricky things. They help us communicate ideas even as they interrupt the freedom ideas require to grow. There are a million things I could say on this topic but I will focus only on one bit of advice. Instead of defining the person sitting across from you, that person who frustrates your conceptions and definitions and irritates the snot out of you with their "wrong"-ness, try listening to them instead. Listen deeply and patiently. Listen passionately and faithfully. Let them tell their own stories. Let them define their own words. Hear them into Fullness. When you are unsure, ask for clarification. Perhaps they are using your cherished words differently than you do. Perhaps their experience taught them different truths than the ones you love. Be cognizant that it is possible that they too are learning what it means to be a human being and that they too are doing the best they can in the circumstances of their own lives and that miraculously, you have met them, this facet of the Divine, this Spark of Life, in your own travels. A million circumstances could have kept them from you and yet here they are with you! Here is another story, a story you have never heard before, and you may hear it if you are willing. This is a miraculous and joyful thing though it may also be hard and bitter in the execution. All Thought is seeking to know in all the ways that Knowledge can be found. It takes an Infinity of us to accomplish this. All of Life is yearning for Itself. Honor your own experience and do not apologize for it. It is a unique manifestation of the Divine that only you could accomplish. But remember, you do not hold the entirety of the Divine in your heart. If God is anything, S/He is a Process, a Relationship, a Love Unfolding. All of Life is yearning for Itself. We are called to desire each other, to touch each other. We are called to listen and to fall in love with the "Other" though the Other may be very strange. I cannot explain the mystery of falling in love with difference and finding there my deepest Self. But it is a good thing and I want more of it.


Mary Ellen said...

I like this a lot. I've also been pretty keenly aware of how shifting my own self-image has become, partly through age, and partly (maybe relatedly) through backing off from a professional identity. Thinking about the people who annoy us - there's a lot of unconscious hooks out there, so in addition to getting access to a different hue of Light, an intentional engagement with the annoying ones can also bring about self-insight.

Morgaine said...

Well put - something I've been thinking greatly on and have a draft of my own that runs along the same line. Hmmmm.....must be in the air or water or something.

Larry said...

Hi, I'm an owner (not very active these days) of the blog, Friendly Scripture Study, where I found you as a follower. I think you may have more in common with my other blog ( Blake would qualify in many circles as a Plainly Pagan: Quaker, although never acknowledging his Quaker roots. If would be nice if you and I could be in relationship through our two blogs.

The best to you.

Hystery said...

Mary Ellen,
I agree that contact with those who annoy me has led to insight. At times, I have been challenged to deepen and strengthen my own perspective- to be more careful in my communication of concepts that I had taken for granted. At other times, I have been introduced to new ideas. Often, there's a bit of both going on. It is fruitful to spend time with those who disagree with me.

I think there must be something in the air. Isn't it cool how that works?

Larry, I'm looking forward to getting to know your Blake blog and to future correspondence with you. I'm thankful for your comment here.