The Sacredness of Wants
November 30, 2011

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I’m learning the sacredness of stating my wants. Not wants as in what I want my life to be, like purpose…and also not wants as in the stuff I think I want. But those things in between the conceptual and the material. Things like relationships and past times and conversations. And also the importance of honing in on what I don’t want.

For example, I really don’t like talking or writing about religion anymore. I’d much rather be wandering in the woods or sloshing in tidepools. I still enjoy occasionally sharing my story or listening to others’. People’s beliefs are precious to them, and what works for them may or may not work for me. But I’m learning that it’s okay for me not to obsess over being right about religion. And it’s okay for me to want to spend my time elsewhere.

Instead of assuming that having wants is selfish, I’m learning that it’s healthy, for myself and others. We all have our personal world. Our own little bubbles that we want to look and feel a certain way. But we do not live in a vacuum. Our bubbles bounce into and stick to each other. We need to hear each others’ stories to help write our own. We depend on each other. But we should not be codependent. Big difference.

My sense of wholeness should not depend on the information I gather from others, but from something that’s beyond all of us. I’m not sure what that is, but it’s something that, while beyond us, also connects all of us and resides deep inside each of us. It informs me of what comes most naturally to me, my individuality, etc. And to operate in that natural individuality that makes me whole, I need and therefore want certain things. But wants can get confused. For example, I may think I want money but I really want the freedom that money can buy.

To prevent the confusion requires absolute honesty with myself, and in turn honesty with others. Clearly stating what I want or don’t want eliminates the need for me to manipulate others. And as I grow older, my focus is getting clearer on what I want. And when I allow myself to be honest, it actually helps others.

So wants, in their truest form, are not selfish. They are essential. And even the process of uncovering what our deepest wants really are, instead of feeling ashamed of them, is sacred.

* image source here

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Do You Know Your Enemy?
June 30, 2010

Do not be too quick to assume your enemy is a savage just because he is your enemy. Perhaps he is your enemy because he thinks you are a savage. Or perhaps he is afraid of you because he feels that you are afraid of him. And perhaps if he believed you were capable of loving him he would no longer be your enemy.

Do not be too quick to assume that your enemy is an enemy of God just because he is your enemy. Perhaps he is your enemy precisely because he can find nothing in you that gives glory to God. Perhaps he fears you because he can find nothing in you of God’s love and God’s kindness and God’s patience and mercy and understanding of the weaknesses of men.

Do not be too quick to condemn the man who no longer believes in God, for it is perhaps your own coldness and avarice, your mediocrity and materialism, your sensuality and selfishness that have killed his faith.

–T. Merton

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When I first read those lines a year or two ago, I had other people in mind. I envisioned myself saying those words to them, calling out the error of their ways. It’s easy to do that, especially when I’ve been on a journey away from the established traditions that raised me. It’s easy to take every opportunity to snap at those who I may see as hypocrites in religion or those that I feel may be holding us back from “progress.”

Now I’m trying to envision someone saying those things to me. Yes, I’ve had many call out the error of my ways. It’s sort of been a theme of my life for some time now. But this is different. It doesn’t deal with belief or doctrine. It deals with behavior. It deals with the ways I choose to  see the world and others around me.

So instead of “convicting” others of such things as “coldness and avarice…mediocrity and materialism…sensuality and selfishness,” I’m trying to recognize where those elements might have a home in me. Instead of assuming people see me or my views as the enemy (although that may be the case), I’m trying to recognize when I see “them” as my enemy. How do I speak of them when they’re not around? How do I speak to them when they are around?

There’s a balancing point somewhere in all this. What’s the  optimum tension between staying quiet with a humble, open mind, and not hiding my own truths? (To be sure, there’s a difference between “not hiding” and “asserting.”) And to be honest, I’m tired of trying to find the wrong in others, and looking for holes in arguments. It just takes too much energy.

And in that sense, my enemy is often myself, sapping my energy for the sake of an endless war.

So maybe I can try not “knowing” the weaknesses of my enemy, and instead try to know them as individuals. Which just happens to be what I expect of them.

My spiritual exercise for now is to just go with the flow, staying content in my own truths, assuming no ill of anyone else, and remaining responsible for my own words and actions.

But that’s hard.