Thursday, December 24, 2009

As an only child, I have as little understanding of what it means to have -- and be -- a sibling as I have of enlightenment. Which is to say, I can grasp some of the essentials but there's a lot that still eludes me -- and I find myself wondering at times if it's possible that those who DO have siblings might have a better understanding of what it might actually mean to be One with the Universe.

I say this now, of course, because the holidays are upon us and both daughters are home. I watch their squabbles, and their jockeying for position, and I despair sometimes of their ever being able to just BE together. At the same time, watching them I find myself having to visit some of the less functional pieces of my own psyche -- which is a good thing, of course; it always brings new insight. But it's a challenge to do that without feeling guilty for whichever of my own hangups I seem to have visited on my children.

I was discussing this with Anita Feng during my visit with her two days ago, and she reminded me: "It's easy to get caught up in that sense of responsibility," she said, "but our children have so much more than us in them: they have ancestral DNA, and cultural DNA, and all the influences of society..." All of which is a gentle reminder that I alone am not solely responsible for their struggles.

But I cannot help but see that the way they hover on the edge of family, watching for and inflating signs of inclusion or exclusion, is not so different from the way I hover on the edges of other groups, particularly church. It is, I think, a particularly unattractive and self-absorbed way of being: is it part of all humanity, or is it just us? And can I learn to see it -- in myself and in them -- with the calm acceptance with which this latest Buddha of Anita's -- still unfired -- seems to look upon the world?

My dear friend Robin sent me a clip from this morning, a Christmas newsletter addressing the question, "Who was the real walking, talking, preaching Jesus and what lessons can we take from him today?"

The responses were taken from Cynthia Bourgeault, Deepak Chopra, and Michael Berg, a Kabbalah expert whose name I had not heard before. I loved what each of them had to say, but wanted to share with you these final lines from Berg's response:

"To be religious or spiritual means a constant process of growing and changing, consistently becoming a better and better person, knowing that none of our beliefs can – nor should they – bring us anything but a growing sense of love, compassion, and tolerance for those whom we love, and, more importantly, for those with whom we disagree."

As I watch my daughters struggle to find a way to be together when they come from such different life perspectives, I find reassurance in Berg's reminder that this is all a process. We are all growing and changing, all the time, and it would be foolish of me to expect that all these tensions could be resolved -- and I cannot help but wonder if that hope doesn't both fuel the process of change but also make it doubly disappointing when it doesn't progress as quickly as I'd like.

It's another reminder that sitting in NOW and being patient with what IS could be the best -- indeed the ONLY -- way to find the peace I see in this Buddha's eyes.

And in this often painful holiday season, so often fraught with family tensions and disappointed expectations, I wish you that so-elusive quality that Christ and the angels sought to bring: PEACE.


Maureen said...

Diane, thank you for that wonderful quote from Berg. I know some think one cannot be faithful or spiritual without going to church every Sunday or reading the Bible every day or evangelizing...this quote speaks exactly to how I feel about being religious or spiritual. And, after all, Love, Compassion, Tolerance: those are what our Lord teaches are the Way.

Feng's piece is spectacular. Please be sure to share, if possible, another image when the sculpture is fired.

As for being an only versus having siblings, I grew up among seven of nine children who lived to adulthood. l'm still trying to understand being One with the Universe. My son is an only. He has become one of the most spiritual young men I know. So, go figure.

M.L. Gallagher said...

Hello Diane, I tried posting this yesterday and it got lost in the cyberland wonder of way out there.

Both my daughters are home. They bicker and nag. Compete and withdraw. And through it all, they love each other more than anyone else in the world.

Christmas Eve they have slept in the same bed since Liseanne was born almost 22 years ago. Last night, for the first time, they didn't. Liseanne is sick. Alexis awoke this morning and said, I don't want to go to my dad's. I want to spend the day with my sister. She's gone to her dad's alone, but she will be home to see the person she loves the most in the world. The person she fights with most. Bickers with and competes with most. And the one she tells all her secrets to. The one she texts and phones throughout the day. The one she loves most.

And that's the way it should be.

Blessings of wonder and joy to you and yours.

Louise said...

Thank you both -- SO much -- for all your thoughtful comments, and these especially.

A peace-filled and joyous Christmas to you both!