We have to be right with ourselves achieve right relationship with others. And to be right with ourselves we have to master our appetites and aversions. Of course, none of this is easy. For most of our lives we act as slaves to the things that please or displease us. And that sets us up for all sorts of conflicts. The secret to resolving our inner conflicts is the same as the secret to peace between us all. It’s moving beyond the pleasure principle to a total reverence for and embrace of life. (See also: Sound Character Requires Reverence.)
Some people vehemently espouse what they believe puts us in right relationship with the transcendent. And it’s always amazed me how many who just know they have the right answer to this have such poor relationships with others, especially those who don’t believe as they do. But the fact is it’s always been easy to gel with folks who see and do things the way we prefer. And it takes no effort at all to feel like you’re right and everyone else is wrong. The real challenge is to relate in healthy, loving ways with all whom we encounter, regardless of how they differ from us. And that simply can’t happen unless we’re in right relationship with ourselves. Peace in the world begins with the inner peace of self-reconciliation.
New Lessons from Puerto Rico
Ten of us made another rebuilding trip to Puerto Rico last week. (That’s why this post is a bit later than usual in posting once again.) This vulnerable island community will be long in recovering from Hurricane Maria. Where we worked, running water was still very intermittent. At one point, the utility was out completely for two days. As distressing as this was, it was a stark reminder about what so many had to endure for months. But, as always, the experience taught us many valuable lessons.
Some things really matter. Others don’t so much. Our experience underscored some things that matter. And I’d like to share a few of them because of how they apply to learning to master appetites and aversions:
- 10 people shared a living space that would make 4 barely comfortable. And each person had their own quirks and idiosyncrasies. But we were united both in intent and purpose. Accordingly, we not only found ways to cope but also ways to get necessary things done. This is the heart of community. And it begins in each individual heart.
- Most of the time, we were without the creature comforts we’ve grown to expect. (i.e. no water on demand, only cold water for showering when it was available, etc.) But we didn’t just survive. Rather, as always, we more deeply bonded. Because we did we were able to bond more deeply with to the community we came to serve. This would have been impossible if our appetites and aversions ruled the day.
- Life is very different in the remote parts of the island. And folks have learned to cope as best they can. Still, they see things and do things very differently. Sometimes it’s hard to understand them. And it’s hard get the message across that a different way might be possible or better. But you have to meet people where they are. And you have to be willing to bear perceived rejection. Your preferences (i.e. appetites and aversions) for how people see or do things can’t rule your encounter with Others. Only openness loving intent can build the necessary bridges between us.
- We worked on the home of an elderly woman who’d succumbed to deep paranoia and despair. She’d suffered major losses. And she’d given up hope. She’d also retreated into deep isolation. We certainly didn’t work any miracles. But we did what we could. The real miracle was in what we witnessed simply doing what we could. The light was slowly coming back into this woman’s eyes. Her home was still very short of a palace. But she was feeling hope again. And she was beginning to trust again. She was coming back to life. That’s what matters.
More to Come
There will be more on the importance of mastering appetites and aversions in the coming weeks. And you can read about all the commandments in Character Disturbance and in a new book to be released this summer.