Us not wanting to go there, wherever that might be in us that we are afraid to face, is hurting us all.
Let’s see if I can articulate what it is I am seeing in our culture right now. If you can stay with me while I attempt to vent my thoughts out to you, I will bring you to better place toward the end. Here are a few: I am taking several online courses about becoming a teacher. I notice a pattern of treating the “students” as though fragile. As though we must be forever sweet and gentle with them. As though they are children we must coddle.
The tones in the voices can seem condescending and inauthentic. There seems to be a dance around honesty, authenticity and ultimately intimacy. Now, this can stem from the teacher’s feelings of inadequacy more than anything else. Their hang-ups about being the “expert” and their fear they actually might not be.
Here’s another example of this. I’ve been watching old episodes of Parenthood on Netflix. The lawyer mother, who wants to teach her daughter to swim, decides to take her away from the safe, gentle teaching method she’s been learning with her dad and the at-home moms, and have her daughter swim to her. No holding. No coddling. All swimming.
The daughter cries. Says she is scared. The mother holds her ground while the other mothers wince. The little girl leaves the edge, but then goes under. She kicks and fights, while mom watches, knowing she will swim. But, instead daddy saves the day and the mothers judge her heartlessness.
Turns out though, the little girl was swimming like a fish the next day.
I find it so interesting that in this day where we are “PC” –– where we walk on eggshells, allow children to win even if they lose, we say things like: and how does that make you feel –– we are still lacking empathy and understanding, and therefore respect toward others.
The culprits: self-righteousness. Arrogance. Ignorance.
Where is the compassion? I think self-righteousness, ignorance and arrogance are the larger winners here.
The way our culture is acting, it begs the question: What are we protecting?
The culture fears and yet yearns for innocence and vulnerability. It will not be until we face and cherish our own will we be able to cherish it in each other. Until then we will be a culture doing absurd and abhorrent acts to each other and ourselves.
I had a friend who would always say, “Who is protecting the babies?” Meaning, who protects our vulnerability. Turns out, the culture, even with all of its “PC” talk is not protecting vulnerability or the vulnerable. Our institutions don’t. Often our parents don’t. Even some of the churches with their preachers don’t.
It is a great paradox. We do the coddling, and then we turn our backs. We say the right things, and than we aren’t there when we are needed the most. We project and judge, and then speak about how positive and open we are.
How we hold the space for others is how we hold it for ourselves. The depth in which we have gone in ourselves is the depth in which we can go with others.
In recent weeks there has been a lot of news about Trayvon Martin, the young boy who was shot and killed by a self-appointed neighborhood watch person. What has captivated my attention with this story is projection. I listened to the 911 call from Mr. Zimmerman. What I heard was paranoia and projection: they always get away with it, he said.
They, meaning whomever he thought was doing the string of robberies in the area. But, it turns out Mr. Zimmerman may have a criminal record of his own. A bit of projection, perhaps? But, really what has captivated me is the black man and the projections he faces.
I am married to a black man. He’s not only black, but 6’3” –– so a big, black man. I remember when we went to Little Italy in New York. I’m Italian, so I was right at home. We ate pasta on tables with the red-and-white checkered, plastic tablecloths. I bought an antique plate from Calabria. I was happy, but every time I looked at my husband, he looked pissed. Which got me pissed.
Turns out, he was doing what he has learned to do as a black man in this country –– put on the hard face so “they” know to leave him the f**k alone (think Bensonhurst). But, when he does this, he also keeps the stereotype of the black man going. And then if that weren’t enough, if he doesn’t act like the hard, black guy, he might be told by his culture he is “acting white.”
What is a black man to do? One of his survival strategies, other than looking hard, perhaps even with a hoodie, is to be a chameleon. To blend in as a way to stay safe.
There have been numerous conversations on Facebook about this incident –– one I was involved in where a white man said that black people should “rise above.” Well, that’s easy to say when you’re white.
The ignorant and narrow view, in this “PC” world is flipping me out.
Another example. On Twitter. A woman said: Be yourself. Why is that so hard for people to do? I responded and said: Because we have so many parts. So many conditions. So many battles. I mean, yeah –– alone, it might be easy to feel like we know ourselves, but then we step outside and meet society with all its conditions and projections, and we are all confused again. Who am I?
She then brings Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Self-Actualization. Few will achieve. And yet so easy. If you want it.
Do you know anyone who is self-actualized? This is a big word. Self-Actualized, which means I know all of who I am. All of who I am. I replied, as I find the need to advocate for the journey, many say is so easy: Many don’t have basic needs –– and I’ve not found it to be easy, and I want it.
The response that made me stop talking to her: Everyone has basic needs.
She has since blocked and deleted me from Twitter, and has probably done me a favor by doing so.
But seriously, everyone has basic needs? I’ll just let that sit.
You must work out your own salvation diligently. ~The Buddha
Our culture has a mixed bag of stuff to sort through. Tough stuff. So much so I am having trouble finding my way through this essay. There is so much. And now, I am going to try and wrap it around.
We’ve got to look at that bag of stuff. In the case of Trayvon alone. Our racism. Our paranoia. Our projections. Our lack of seeing and taking responsibility for those projections. We need to look at our narrow-minded self-righteousness, which has us believe the road is easy and than judges others because they can’t just get with the program, and self-actualize.
We need a wider view, and the only way to get wide, is to go deep. Deep within the self. It is our only true work, as Buddha said.
We must because our projections are hurting us all. Even killing us, but we can handle it. We can get down and dirty with all of our crap. We can. We don’t need to be coddled. Condemned. Shunned. Judged. We just need the space to be held and the courage to look. And if the culture won’t do give it, which it probably won’t until enough of us do, then we need to hold the space for ourselves and put on our brave heart.
We don’t need to keep protecting each other or ourselves. We don’t. We are smart. Wise. Brave. Resilient. We know how to fight and stand tall. And we have hearts as big as any ocean that knows how to love and longs to be intimate. We desire authenticity. And no matter our ignorance or where we are on Maslow’s Hierarchy, we all strive for self-actualization.
Further, we honor our vulnerability. We know it as strong, not weak, and as our most precious gift. Our vulnerability and innocence holds our compassion. Until we recapture this, we won’t see it in others and give them the gift of our heart. Our understanding. Our empathy.
Until we face ourselves in a real and honest way, we won’t face each other in a real and honest way. And as long as we don’t, we are hurting us all, even those who have faced themselves still long for this because we are all one.
Editor: Lindsay Friedman