065: MMM - Thanksgiving and Mercy
I wanted to do a special Mini Moved Me in honor of Thanksgiving - thanking you for your support, for your questions and insights and connections. I do feel so incredibly thankful for this slice of my life that has been so gratifying in the past year.
All of that is very true - I'm incredibly grateful for this show, and for each of you. But I also feel a pang of shallowness in that sentiment. I need to place my gratitude within the context of this greater world that is struggling so much right now.
I read this beautiful post by Elizabeth Gilbert about Mercy, about keeping our hearts open when so many people are shutting theirs down. We, as meaning-makers, speaker - MOVERS - our job is to help people experience mercy, to open their hearts, to illuminate the suffering of others and have it become our suffering as well. To experience each other, to experience compassion. To be human.
Thank you for your open hearts.
Dear Ones -
It's been a tough few weeks here on Planet Earth. A lot of violence, a lot of suffering, a lot of sorrow and anger and reaction and revenge.
Beirut, Paris, and now Mali. Attacks upon the innocent by the ignorant. The rise of Isis. The desperate plight of refugees. Everywhere I look, I see tender-hearted people who are in pain, and hard-hearted people who are in rage. It's very hard to process, very hard to bear.
In response to it all, we can also witness a very natural human movement happening across the world — namely, an impulse toward CLOSING EVERYTHING DOWN.
Close your borders. Close your town. Close your wallets. Close your eyes. Close your heart. Close your mind.
(By the way: You know you have a problem when the most powerful people in the world become terrified of the most powerless people in the world. When wealthy, lucky and safe people are afraid of poor, hungry, and endangered people, this is not good This is a sure sign of panic, if ever there was one. And nobody is at their best when they panic.)
But this is what most humans do when we feel cornered and threatened. We close everything down. We do it on a global scale and we do it on a personal scale. We lose our mercy. All too often, our mercy is first thing to go when we feel overwhelmed. We start saying to our fellow man: "Your suffering is not my problem. I have enough problems. I don't have any space to imagine your nightmare, because I'm too busy living out my own nightmare. Goodbye." (Or maybe even, in stronger moments: "Go to hell.")
I've done it; you've done it.
I'm guilty of this; you're guilty of this.
I've closed my heart to people, and I've had other people close their hearts to me. I've experienced the death of mercy from both sides — and it's hell, from both sides. (I certainly know this to be true: Anytime you tell another human being to go to hell, you can be sure that you are already there yourself.)
Mercy is HARD. Staying soft and open in a difficult world is HARD. Forgiveness is HARD. Sharing your resources is HARD. Communication is HARD. Empathy is HARD. Humanity is HARD. Compassion is HARD.
These feel like soft words, but they are not soft, and they are not for amateurs. These words push you sometimes to very difficult and uncomfortable places in your mind and in your heart. These words challenge you. These words push you to think past your own needs and fears and emotions. These words force you to listen to people you can't stand, and to be generous to everyone — sometimes to the point that it chafes and stings. Sometimes to the point that you must make difficult sacrifices. These words make you suffer at times, because they feel so impossible to achieve. These words are the hardest work in the world, because the easiest thing in the world is exactly the opposite — to just shut yourself down.
But the problem is — when we shut ourselves down, we lose our mercy, and without mercy, we are all doomed. Without mercy, nobody is safe.
Every great teacher who has ever lived has taught this exact lesson.
It's always the same lesson: MERCY.
And until somebody can give me a better idea for how 7 billion human beings are meant to share one very small planet in peace (or — for that matter — how one complicated family is meant to share Thanksgiving dinner in peace; or — for that matter — how one self-hating human being is meant to make friends with herself and stop hurting herself), then I will keep fighting for mercy.
I'm not a master of mercy by any means, but I have met some genuine masters of mercy, and they have the right idea. They are onto something big. Even when they are exhausted, they radiate love, because they know this vital truth: Mercy is the hardest challenge on earth, but it's always worth the work.
Keep your hearts open, everyone. Don't give up on us, or on yourself, or on anybody. Keep your mercy alive.
My best to you this Thanksgiving. May our hearts be open.