Every challenge in life has the potential to teach us so much.
To open our closed eyes, to bring us nearer to inclusion and love, to allow us to ease the grip of human fear.
What have you learned during the pandemic?
What spiritual lessons have penetrated your flesh and bones?
Here are some thoughts about what I’ve learned so far during this pandemic. (OK, maybe should edit to say–am still learning, but let’s go with the idea that something has been learned.)
I have learned how polarized we humans can become with our thinking.
I have learned how each of us comes from different angles, different beliefs, different ways of viewing life and death. How folks can interpret fear in entirely different and unique ways.
I have learned very humbly that I have held strong beliefs that contributed to the polarization.
I watched my own anger (against the viewpoint of others) rise swiftly time and time and time again, notably in early summer 2020.
I allowed the anger to rise with its bile and upset, and saw that it contained repressed anger from an entire lifetime of damping down and judging the anger-flame within.
I have sat with the virus of self-righteousness and pointed fingers at others (usually behind their backs) who thought differently. You are wrong, wrong, wrong, dear brother and sister of the human race. So very wrong.
I felt sadness, upset, injustice, frustration, annoyance, hatred.
I have feared the viewpoints of others more than I have feared the virus.
I suddenly began to understand wars, hatred, unforgiveness, Nazi Germany, Rwanda, the millions of conflicts of humanity. (Before I understood intellectually. Now I understood in my quivering hopeless heart.)
It took many months to loosen the grips on my own viewpoint and compassionately see the viewpoints of others. Sometimes I still sit in the jail cells of my own sanctimonious judgment. (And it’s OK that we have judgments, let’s not demonize these either.)
I am still learning how to do this, but now it’s more often possible to sit with the opposing opinion and truly hear it. To hear where it arises from love and fear. To recognize that love and fear intermingle in our viewpoints, and it’s a rare viewpoint that doesn’t try to dominate, to be right.
It has felt like being in the trenches during this pandemic. Learning how to see from the eagle’s eyes as it soars over the bloody battlefield below. (And I thought I already KNEW this, so it has been so so humbling.)
This afternoon–talking on the phone with you or you or you–I might still feel my opinion arise with its indignation, its feeling of rightness, its fixated point of view. (And there’s nothing wrong with a fixated point of view. It’s when it becomes rigid and myopic that brings us to the brink of fierce wrongness and rightness.) But, God willing and the creek don’t rise, I will also be able to hear what you are expressing and not rush in to offer my different opinion in the mandala of life. If I can’t hear this immediately, I might be able to feel it before bedtime as it shifts and wiggles out of self-righteous fixation.
I have learned that my own opinion can more resemble a sapling, bending, bending, bending. It might resemble a root in its solid conviction–but those branches sway in the breeze to reveal new possibilities, new points of view, new processed information.
I’ve learned to add not-knowing into the mix.
I thought I knew this before the pandemic, but it was only an intellectual understanding. The pandemic brought me onto my knees as humanity’s dark polarizations of right and wrong splayed out in bloody horror.
I don’t know. I don’t really know. Here’s what I think, but I may be wrong. Here’s how I will act, but it’s not a ticket to heaven. This feels right, but your knowing is sacred, too, and it’s often been an unconscious need-to-be-right that won’t see the holiness shining through your star of Being.
This can be hard work, this soaring above many different viewpoints, and then having the courage to build a campfire and roast marshmallows together with those who insist life’s values are different than ours. I suppose it’s the work of a lifetime. Seeing the virus of polarization and learning how to love beyond its perimeters. Failing again and again, but sometimes succeeding.
Here, take this marshmallow and tell me what you’ve learned during the pandemic. What have you learned thus far?