Bang, Bang, I shot the gun
(I was five and he was six, and we used to play with sticks,
Bang, Bang, I shot the gun, Bang, Bang,
that Awful Sound, Bang, Bang, He hit the ground, Bang, Bang.)
---Sony and Cher
One of the retreatants came up to me on Tuesday evening to talk to me. We are having a retreat that is really about aging, how to deal with it, what it means etc. I will name this woman Edna. She is a unique person and in a world where people are all more or less unique that says a lot about her; in a good way. She shares her perspective on life with me that over the last few months I have found enriching and at times puzzling… which are both good. Puzzling people often speak in ways that upset the wagon but does not cause it to roll over. In other words she has a lot to teach me I believe.
So she came to me and told me that my talk on aging was BS and that I need to talk more about feelings and not so much about philosophy etc. I laughed when she told me and asked her what she meant. So we talked for about 40 minutes and we struggled to understand each other. She talked about experiencing life fully without all of the philosophical jargon etc. So at the end of our talk and she went her way, I began to absorb what she was trying to share with me.
The first thing that came to mind is that in order to truly embrace the moment, or the day, or whatever experience that is before us, takes a level of trust that I believe has to be consciously made. Life can be very painful, hard to live, and people, well do I need to go into that? We all live in a big, colorful, loud zoo I believe when it comes to human nature. We have birds, and lions and bears, and snakes, and large bugs and all kinds of things in this zoo, and there are no cages, except those we put ourselves into I guess, and perhaps force those around us in as well. Some are dangerous, many confused and just trying to get through the day, some are aware, others callous, etc. The list is long and some of what I listed are of course in me as well, or the potential.
Jesus talks about us becoming childlike. Is he asking us to become something else, or is he telling us what we actually are….children? When looking at the world around us it would seem that we are childish. Children playing a deadly game in a very large sandbox with no adults to monitor us…..perhaps there are yet no adults. Or it may be that real adults are those who are actually childlike in the way that Christ was talking about and we ignore them when they speak….just as today we Christians probably ignore Jesus and what he said more consistently than actually following him. I still don’t get it much of the time….unless it is an afterthought when I try to rethink some situation that I was not my best in.
Edna herself has a transparent aspect to her personality that may put some people off, but many will find it a characteristic that draws them in, wanting to understand what she is trying to impart that flows from deep intuition I believe.
I can be petulant, self-serving, judgmental, cruel, and violent and the list does not end there. When I am in the grip of the above, am I being adult, mature, or simply a narcissistic child….perhaps that is why we do actually receive mercy because we really don’t know what we are doing. We are living out the reality of the book called “The Lord of the Flies” in our newspapers every day. There is just no ship with ‘adults’ that can come in and snap us out of our self-destructive childish behavior.
To be truly childlike I believe takes faith and hope and trust, that our lives have meaning and that the deepest longings of our hearts are true and not magical thinking. People rebel against religion because they become to all knowing, all wise, and close off reality into a little closet where no one can really breathe. Secular philosophies are no better. They can give the impression that someone is putting a plastic bag over one's head and all that can be done is to struggle to take the next breath. None of us are made for cages, we are meant to roam in wide open spaces, to search, seek and to find in the end. I also believe that religious traditions are very important in giving us a vehicle to live out these questions without having to start all over every generation. The problem is when traditions think they have arrived, when in fact they are still on the way as well….hopefully deepening their understanding of the words and actions of their founders.
Little children play at war, BANG, BANG your dead. Big children play real war and it is lived out on our TV’s every day with greater and greater detail. The sandbox has knives in it, and guns and bombs…. OH MY! So perhaps to become as little children the way Jesus was talking about is a paradox pin-pointing to the deepest maturity that is possible.
So Edna has something to teach. She is childlike, loving, living in a world with childish adults like me to deal with. I hope that she stays in my life and continues to come out here to share with us, participating in our retreats asking questions that make us scratch our heads and go away and think.
We get more than we give our here that is for sure.
Edna told me one day this experience she had,
she was working and a young boy came in,
she looked at Edna and said:
“Wow mom, that lady has tall hair”
She pointed to her head and laughed,
for she does have hair that goes up more than down,
and I laughed with her.
Carl Jung once said:
“Don’t trust anyone who has no sense of humor”.