Ordinary Fear

Today is the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, according to ‘Today’s Missal’ at church. There is something very soothing about calling time ordinary. I don’t know about you, but if a day is already labeled extraordinary before it has even happened, I’m probably not going to live up to it on account of the pressure. I tend to do the opposite of what is expected by me, especially when it is me doing the expecting. It’s like knowing I should be outside enjoying a beautiful sunny day when I am in a stay in the house rainy day kind of mood.

On this particularly ordinary Sunday I slept in but still rallied for Mass, dirty hair and all, because lately it has felt good to go. I have been enjoying the intellectual and emotional stimulation of church without expectations or demands with the understanding that an open heart and mind can allow surprising and simple treasures to sometimes land in my lap like that chewy, nourishing heaven bread landed in a desert of hungries.

Fears have been keeping me awake and unhappy lately, ones that seem insurmountable and singularly unique to me: career failure; money worries; having ‘all the cancers’ plus a touch alzheimer’s; not teaching my kids how to properly clean a toilet; and my annoying fifty something belly fat are a few of my current fears. I have felt a bit shameful about these fears believing that I MUST overcome them in order to be happy, but seeming to lack the faith and intellectual strength to do so. Consequently, I have grown them like big, fat inedible mushrooms, nourished in the dark recesses of my heart.

Okay, that’s a little melodramatic. My heart is mostly not dark. Ha!

The words “Action Conquers Fear” are written on my motivation wall from an article I read on LinkedIn called “11 Powerful Mantras for Those Who’ve Lost Motivation” by Ross Simmonds. So it feels like I should be DOING something about these fears.

But the visiting priest’s homily today landed a bit of inspiring and timely “ah-ha manna’’ in my lap that made me look at this mantra from a slightly different angle. In speaking about the last supper and the Eucharist, he mentioned the name of a scripture interpreter who’s name I can not recall, though I know she was a woman, and quoted this from her writing:   

“He prepares the table in the presence of my fears.”

I found myself having a little chat with Jesus:

Me: “Does this mean that I can enjoy the great dinner you made even though I have all these nasty fears?”

Jesus: “H. Bring all of you to the table. Your fears will continue to grow if you focus too much on conquering them. If you think having ‘all the cancers’ is bad, trying being a slave to a giant ugly mushroom. Now there’s a good horror movie idea!”

Me: “So I shouldn’t take action to kill the mushrooms? That doesn’t seem very Jesuit of you, especially you being the founder and all.”

Jesus: “You’re such a dork H, always trying to complicate things. The only action you need to take is to step up to the plate as you are every day and let yourself taste and savor what’s right in front of you. This is where the light is. And mushrooms don’t take kindly to light. It really is that simple.”

Me: “Sometimes you don’t realize you are starving until you get a taste of inspiration that has been missing from your plate for a bit. Thank you J.”

Jesus: “You’re welcome H. Now, go be in the light, with all your ordinary fear on this ordinary Sunday.”

Me: “Now I’m singing the song ‘Gravity’ by John Mayer.”

Jesus: “Ha! Whatever it takes to keep you where the Light is.”

Ugly People

“Perfect love casts out fear. Where there is love there are no demands, no expectations, no dependency.” -Anthony De Mello in “Awareness”

Oh Tony. I wish we could talk. We would converse about the simplicity of believing these words and the complexity of living them. But, the unlikely event that you, a Jesuit Priest from Bombay would cross paths with someone like me and actually have a conversation is pretty much made even more improbable by the fact that you died in 1987. Plus I’m pretty sure you’d tell me, if we did speak, that I’m overthinking things. Again.

Another person from beyond the grave in my head. I suppose that’s weird.

Whatever.

I wonder if Tony, Thomas Szasz and Calamity Jane from my past peaceof8 posts have had any chats (besides the ones in my brain) since they moved out of most of the human race’s vision? 

My mind has been all over the place lately when it comes to the impact of perfect love (or its lack thereof) upon people. If we all gave out and exemplified this perfect love that Tony and other enlightened people throughout the history of time speak and write about, would there be ugly people in the world?

Now don’t get all pissed off at that last sentence. I don’t mean it how you might think I do. But it IS where I have been stuck for weeks in my thinking. I could actually use a little chat with Tony, a Jesuit, Buddhisty, Mystic, Psychotherapist, Writer, Teacher Philosopher guy, whose teachings I might add, have been frowned upon though not completely banned (yet) by the Vatican since his death. I don’t think this would have bothered Tony in the slightest. Which I THINK is going to be my point to this blog post.

When I dig deep into my heart I know with absolute certainty that there is no such thing as an ugly person. The word “ugly” is just one more dividing and highly subjective adjective we humans use to categorize ourselves and deny the deep fear that who we ARE is not good enough. Or perhaps adamantly defend that we ARE good enough, which doesn’t need any kind of defending if we truly believe this.

We think to ourselves, because it is our nature as human beings, “this or that person has such: ugly behavior, ugly clothes, ugly beliefs, ugly hair, ugly smell, ugly skin, ugly size, ugly voice, ugly shoes. I’m glad I’m not like that. I’m in THIS category over here, which is so much better than that.”  

We place ourselves in compartments that make us believe we are right and true and beautiful: religion, politics, gender, sexual persuasion, age, race, financial status, clothing, skin, body size, body shape, career choice, family size and the means of controlling the size (to name a few big divisions) and we encourage and in some cases DEMAND that others join us in our self righteous little compartments where we can feel even BETTER about ourselves because we have all these other people on our SIDE who think or act or look or live the same as us!

Power in numbers.

Powerful fear.

Which breeds the very thing most of us are in earnest trying to avoid: ugliness.

So if we only see ‘ugly’ because of fear, which is the opposite of love, then if we love as we are called to do, without expectations, demands or dependency, then ugly disappears. Right? Just like every other dividing label.

Poof.

Perfect beautiful world.

Not seeing it? Think I’m crazy and off in H World again? Well if this blog post was really about “Ugly People” I’d tell you to fuck off, quit reading and keep looking through your ugly making lens and I will mine, forever till we are dead. See if I care.

But I DO care. I really do. I don’t want ugly to be a thing. Do you?

Have you ever been with someone who made you feel wonderful, inside and out? Their eyes light up when they look at you and they listen and HEAR and absorb who you are without any kind of judgement, or expectations or demands? These people are yummy saints who help us see ourselves correctly without imposing themselves upon us. They don’t need to. They know that who they are is enough and that this will not be changed by helping someone else see that they are enough as well. And because of this, we are drawn to them. They make the world so beautiful! That’s why they are saints, with a little s. (That’s for the Vatican, in case ‘they’ are reading. Oh man I SO wish! How AWESOME would it be to be read so much that I was BANNED by an entity as large and awesome as the Vatican. Ha!)

However, as I exemplified in the above comment about wanting the whole VATICAN to read my words, most of us are extremely self absorbed and so it’s HARD for most of us to be a saint. Even one with a little s. It doesn’t come naturally.  At ALL.

But think on this with me for a minute:

What IF we just take off our ugly making, dividing lenses once in awhile and in the process remove ourselves from a few of the personal encounters that come to us each day? When someone whom we might label in our minds as being ‘ugly’ for whatever reason comes into our vision, what if we ignored for just a moment who WE are and simply experienced THEM? What if we experienced this person (or place or thing for that matter) as though it were the very first encounter of our lives? Would we not be filled with awe and wonder, especially if we didn’t have any way of comparing what they looked like or believed because WE and all our past experiences are out of the equation.

What if we left all the baggage and fear we carry around with us and had a discussion with someone else to know the other person instead of having the intention of ‘winning’ the conversation?

What if we a lived the way Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (another not living but still alive person) suggested we should:

“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement…get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted.”

Could it be that simple?

Maybe. 

I’m going to try pulling myself out of the equation once in a while. I think that’s really where loving without demands or expectations or dependency at least starts, and fear subsides.

Besides, if a gun toting prostitute, a psychoanalyst, a Jesuit priest and a Rabbi are all in my head mostly getting along, surely there doesn’t always need to be room for me in there.

Poof.

Ha!