Awareness

I have been mulling over this next topic. Based on the conclusion of my last post, the word sin was going to be my reflection. In order for this journal to be more consistent with the times of the world right now, I felt that awareness was actually a more accurate reflection.

Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.

Booker T. Washington
Photo: Tara Bartal

I would not say that I am a huge fan of spiders. I do find them a little fascinating due to their ability to weave their magnificent webs. I will be honest in sharing that I have often wondered how angry spiders must get when their webs get destroyed in a spontaneous instant. All the work, all the effort and all the use of fine silky stuff, wasted. Yet, they move on. Tenacious eight-legged buggers. Where one web is destroyed another will be weaved. The weaver does not give up but, figures on the next space for a meticulously crafted pattern of seizing the next victim for dinner. This is daily life for the spider.

Daily life. As a human, this can seem fun and exciting some days, wholly mundane on others and for some it can be a daily matter of survival. For every single human, daily life is different. For example, someone surviving an illness or disease may see daily life as an absolutely amazing event. In some way, that survivor has experienced a heightened level of awareness. That survivor may see each moment as an opportunity to experience living and being alive. What would happen to every human if every human would be more conscious of daily life? Carpe diem?

Honestly, it doesn’t have to be a major event or undertaking that would grant an experience of consciousness that makes an impact. Years ago I worked as a graphic designer for the yellow pages. I was working in an office that maintained a sales force. My job was to create speculative advertising for the sales team in order for them to be able to display what would look like an existing advertising. All day I would do ads ranging from carpet cleaning to lawn services to oral care to, well, name any type of licensed business and it was almost critical for them to advertise in a local phone book; back in the dark ages of paper printed advertising.

I don’t remember the name of the company and I am not sure if I can remember the sales reps name but, on an average day at the office, I did a speculative piece of work for a moving company. This was a new company so, they didn’t even have a logo yet. The rep really wanted to impress them so she ordered a full page size ad. She listed bullet points and all the necessary, pertinent business information for me on a spec form and I went to work.

At this juncture of my life, I had been attending a predominately African-American church. I am a white female. Without getting into too much detail, sharing the experience of worship in a community that was, well, not like me, was enlightening. I was with that church for four years before I felt to move on. I moved on because my beliefs started to differ, significantly, from that church’s beliefs or doctrinal behaviors which, I won’t get into in this post. Like I stated earlier, I don’t want to digress into details that aren’t integral to my point of awareness. The point, I let myself experience something that was not familiar and the experience raised my awareness. I learned a lot from that experience.

Back to the yellow page ad. I made a conscious decision while designing the ad. I searched through the photo database and pulled photos of people of different ethnic backgrounds. I had one photo of a moving van, gotta have that pic, but, I also sourced three other photos of a African-American couple smiling and happy in front of their new home as well as one that showed a white person packing/unpacking a box and a Latino couple signing documents. I will admit, it was hard to find more culturally diverse photos of people moving. While searching through photos, I kept thinking how EVERYBODY moves. If people live life long enough, no matter what the color of their skin, they are going to pack and unpack boxes and suitcases to move to a new location. It really made me aware of the limited range of models used for our stock photography database.

After a couple of weeks, I had already forgotten about the ad and was not aware if the sales rep made the sale. Then she came to me one afternoon and told me how impressed the owners, a husband and wife team, of the moving company were with the ad. She specifically said that the wife made a comment that she really liked that the ad was ethnically diverse. It just so happened that the couple who owned the moving company were African-American. They bought the design with no changes. It made my day to hear that! Not just that the ad sold with no design changes but, the choices I made meant a lot to someone. Also, the fact that I am a white chick makes it all the more impactful.

That ad doesn’t exist anymore. It didn’t change the world. It didn’t demand a protest but, instead it changed four people in an experience of awareness. It changed me forever and I hope that the couple who owned that moving company can remember the experience as something that is possible in everyday life. It is possible. It is a daily possibility.

In my last post, I mentioned how there was a lot in our world that could stand a good WASH. Yes. There is still a road that must be traveled. Much of that road may still be unpaved but, with daily perseverance and attention, I think it is possible to evolve into a more conscious society reconciling with diversity. Or maybe I am just an idealist.

Now, back to the spider. What web are we developing, designing, focusing on today?

Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when we first practice to deceive!

Sir Walter Scott

Sometimes I think it is the unwritten codes of conduct and law that actually do more damage than the written ones. When people work together they stick together in order to cover each other, right? What happens when someone on the team is doing wrong? Keep your mouth shut or bad things will start to happen to you. This is a very real, everyday, scenario. If one is in a position to create change for the sake of the greater good then create it. If one is in a position of power to effect change in a system then use that power. It will take individual courage to create change in mindsets. Some moments of courage have cost people their lives.

I end with the great and wise Solomon, for even in his day there was wickedness.

Moreover I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, wickedness was there, and in the place of righteousness, wickedness was there as well.

Ecclesiastes 3:16 NRSV

Wash

About three months ago I shared with my spiritual director that I was writing a blog, or well, a journal of sorts. I shared with my director that I wanted to record my journey. I used to write in traditional paper journals and I got tired of the standard format of pen and paper (I make a lot of mistakes so, the pages are full of strikethroughs). Thus began an online journal that I figure no one is looking at anyway so, I can just have fun and let loose. Of course not with the intention of becoming a drunken, sporadic explosion of emotions kind of journal but, using an exploratory and experimental method. My spiritual director suggested an idea of using one word and then reflecting on that one word. That sounded good to me so, here we are in June and I did not come up with a word until this paragraph.

The Eastertide season came and went with online services and Zoom presentations. I viewed churches from a few different areas including my hometown church. There was one service that stood out to me because of the homily. It was a simple service of Morning Prayer that was held on the morning of Good Friday. Within the short sermon, the priest spoke of washing feet and what it meant that Jesus washed the feet of the disciples and, he said, “Jesus also washed the feet of Judas.”

Washing the feet of the enemy struck a nerve. I would not seek out my enemy. If anything, I would avoid my enemy. In many cases, I would discern that as a wise choice or decision. The machinations of people do not require for one to seek out the enemy. The intrigues will bring the enemy to the table.

“You never walk alone. Even the devil is the lord of flies.”

― Gilles Deleuze

As I reflect on this word, wash, for this moment in time, I can get a sense of other words predicating its further usage. Wash hatred, wash injustice, wash bullying, wash anger, wash jealously, wash fear, wash anxiety, wash envy, wash greed, wash violence, wash ignorance, wash stupidity, wash arrogance …. wash sin.

So, I return to the washing of feet and what the act of the washing of feet symbolizes. Servitude and cleanliness. The cleanliness is not literal, of course. There was one who ate at the table with Jesus, had his feet washed and did not walk away clean. As a matter of fact, he walked away more dirty than when he had arrived. Is this what happens to our enemies? Is this what happens when we demonstrate love instead of hate? I am not moralizing. I am really pondering.

Truly, love does have the upper hand even if it seems hard to do. Practice makes perfect. I still have some practicing to do as do my enemies.

The drops of rain make a hole in the stone, not by violence, but by oft falling.

Lucretius

I am currently reading, Thomas Merton’s, “The Seven Storey Mountain.” I am almost done. I should finish before the end of this week. It has taken me awhile to focus on this book. I think I needed some time in isolation and stillness in order to fully engage in this book. Merton is an excellent writer but, notes are usually a good idea in order to keep in memory all that is being presented and with Merton, there are a lot of notes.

…there is no positive power in sin, only negation, only annihilation: and perhaps that is why it is so destructive, it is a nothingness, and where it is, there is nothing left – a blank, a moral vacuum (p 128).”

Merton, Thomas. Seven Storey Mountain, the: Thomas Merton. Harcourt-Brace Jovanovich, 1978.

Sin is the moment of separation from God or the turning away from God. Sin has been defined by people in all kinds of forms. I most certainly don’t agree with all the rules and I have lost some Christian friends because I don’t carry certain Fundamentalist ideals and theologies. Don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t have sex, don’t use profanity, don’t listen to secular music, don’t hang out with heathens or gay people or anyone who sins, don’t slouch, don’t be late, don’t breathe … then you’ll be ok. Not that going wild and becoming an anarchist is the answer either. Don’t get me wrong. There is much in this world that could use a good wash. I think the word, sin, might be my next reflection.

I will end with a bit more from Merton. This is just too good not to cite.

People seem to think that it is in some way a proof that no merciful God exists, if we have so many wars. On the contrary, consider how in spite of centuries of sin and greed and lust and cruelty and hatred and avarice and oppression and injustice, spawned and bred by the free wills of men, the human race can still recover, each time, and can produce men and women who overcome evil with good, hatred with love, greed with charity, lust and cruelty with sanctity. How could this be possible without the merciful love of God, pouring out His grace upon us (p 128)?”

Merton, Thomas. Seven Storey Mountain, the: Thomas Merton. Harcourt-Brace Jovanovich, 1978.