Full Circles

Reflections on Living

Tag: wisdom

The Invisible Essentials

Everywhere a greater joy is preceded by a greater suffering.”

~ St. Augustine

Yes, we all have invisible wounds. At the same time, what’s truly essential is also invisible to the eye. And in some sense, we wake up to joy after the ordeal of trials and tribulations.

The impulse of desire, knowing what we want, is the seed of vitality. It’s a powerful life-force inside each of us exist, if we learn to tune in, adjust and calibrate the frequencies like an old transistor radio.

This life-force within us is a creative force. Not just in an aesthetic or artistic sense, but a potent energy waiting to be nurtured and shared generously with others.

Others people would often fail to see this seed of desire within you. Only those who know you in a deep way are able to sense this providence, and only a fewer selected people—mentor, teacher, wise friend—can help unearth this with you. If you know such individuals, stay close to them. If you don’t have such individuals in your life, seek them out. Everyone on this journey needs a guide, especially in two particular phases of life:

  1. Periods of struggles and ordeal, and
  2. Periods of renewal

One way to begin tapping into this creative force is to sit with this one question, “What do you want to create in this life,” [1] and refrain from settling with familiar and norm-based responses. Because each of us, given the matrix of our unique burdens and blessings, have something remarkable to give.

 

 

Footnotes:
[1] Robert Fritz, The Path of Least Resistance.

“The biggest questions have already been answered”

Why bother asking the big questions in life (“What brings meaning and purpose?” or “What is a good life?”), since these questions have already been tackled by philosophers of old?

The main issue is not just having the answers, but the willingness to ask the questions, and sit with the ambiguity, patiently waiting, and using questions as an arrow to guide towards what matters most.

Everyone needs to ask the big questions. Because each person’s answers are not only different, the road that leads there needs to be traveled and discovered; it’s a pilgrimage.

No point reaching the end of your holiday destination without having traveled through the new places.

Tenderness is Not Weakness: What I’ve Learned from Jean Vanier

Today, a spiritual and intellectual hero of mine has passed away.  Catholic innovator and philosopher, Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arch and Faith and Light communities

Listen to an interview with Vanier on the Podcast, OnBeing

Vanier had also inspired another one of my favorite authors, Henri Nouwen. 

Here’s some critical lesson’s I’ve learned Vanier:

 

Protective Systems:

“We all have a deep fear of our own weaknesses because my weakness is what makes it possible for someone else to crush me. So I create mechanisms of defense and compulsion to protect myself. We all have protective systems designed to prevent people from seeing who we are.”[1]

What I could do:

“Recently a father asked me to go and see his wife. She was forty years old and eight months pregnant. She was in tears and a bit hysterical–this was her first baby and she knew that the child had a disability. I saw immediately that I couldn’t say a word to her. There are times when you must not say nice words. What I could do was send her to visit another mother who’d had a child a year previously with similar disablities to the child she was going to have. The two women got together and wept.” [1]

 

On Love:

“If you discover that somebody really loves you, listens to you, then you begin to change. You come out from behind the barriers of fear that you have erected around your heart.” [2]

We seek security in life, but truly how insecure if really is…”[3]

“If God is love, then how vulnerable God must be.”[3]

On Culture:

“It’s the realization of how to create a culture which is no longer a culture just of competition, but a culture of welcoming, where tenderness, where touch is important, and it’s not — neither sexualized nor aggressive. It has become human. And I think that this is what people with disabilities are teaching us. It’s, it’s something about what it means to be human and to relate and to celebrate life together.” [3]

 

On Community:

“Some people say that communities start in mystery and end in bureaucracy…”[4] “True community is defined by how we treat the weakest.[3]

L’Arche is not a solution but a sign…You see, once I was speaking to a man in a big city in the United States. He said, ‘Give me the formula and I’ll create 300 L’Arches in the next two years.’ I said, ‘It doesn’t work like that. It’s a transmission of a vision and it’s counter culture. But that’s OK.” [5]

~~~

Dedication to Psychiatrist Dr Gwee Kok Peng, who also passed away today. May you continue to dance.

Footnotes:

[1] Jean Vanier, “Living Gently in a Violent World,” p. 68

[2] Jean Vanier, Encountering ‘the Other’ p 38

[3] https://onbeing.org/programs/jean-vanier-the-wisdom-of-tenderness/ 

[4] Jean Vanier, Community and Growth, p. 114.

[5] Meaningful Work, by Shawn Askinosie and Lawren Askinosie, Location  2156

Older vs. Elder: Who We Can Become

Everyone becomes older. Not everyone becomes an elder.[1]

We get older by the passage of time. We do not necessarily become an elder. We get to become an elder by joining the realm of conversation, which entails deep listening and wonder.

If you are someone in the first half of life, we must invite people who are older than us into a space of being treated like an elder. This is not about naive reverence, but this type of mentoring relationship requires an earnest perspective that eventually, we will also become older one day.

If you are someone in the second half of life, make room to enter into conversation, not preach, and to listen to someone into speech. Question in order to listen, not listen in order to question.

To be the best teacher, we need to become great students.

The ultimate touchstone of our lives is not self-improvement. Ultimately, any form of self-improvement is for the benefit of others. Otherwise, self-improvement becomes a self-indulgent enterprise, purely for its own sake. The ultimate act is to grow the ability to be a witness (I prefer the word with-ness) to another.

To become an elder, we must be warmly invitational. To help the older person be treated as an elder, we must suspend what we think we know, and appreciate the lived experience of the other through sharing of stories.

Holding our ideas lightly—as if to pray not with clasped hands, but with open arms—invites others into a space that helps others see themselves in a truer light, either as an elder, or a to-be elder.

 

Notes:

[1] I first learned about this distinction from author and mythologist, Michael Meade.

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