Thursday, January 29, 2015

Sacred Triangle and Listening

I went to Bryan Stevenson's lecture and book signing at Carter Center last night. A big crowd showed up and he exceeded everyone's expectations. He is a charismatic speaker and his words come from his heart.

Unfortunately, he did not pay any attention to me. A few times, I had the opportunity to approach and talk to him, but I didn't. In my fantasy, it was him who should have discovered my wisdom. I just had to be present. I could have forced myself to talk to him but I didn't. I gave myself a suggestion, a hint, but nothing more. It's been a while that if doing something is not absolutely necessary, I do not force myself to do it. That's it.

I am not angry though, maybe a little disappointed but not angry. Between all his preoccupations (founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, professor at New York University School of Law, recipient of a MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Award (1995), the Reebok Human Rights Award (1989), the Thurgood Marshall Medal of Justice (1993), the Gleitsman Citizen Activist Award (2000), the Olof Palme Prize (2000), Stanford Law School's National Public Service Award (2010), a visiting professor of law at the University of Michigan School of Law, lecturer at Harvard and Yale Law Schools, a member of Obama's task force for police practices) and his attention to his lecture and all the audience, I did not expect him to give his full time and attention to me! Anyway, I had an important message for him. Too bad that he did not want to hear it. Well, I never asked him, so too bad that he did not find out about the message.

This morning, however, I realized that the message was really for myself, to the part of me that identifies with him: ``If you want to keep your humanity, empathize with the oppressor, the persecutor, the bad guy!" Sympathizing with victims, oppressed, condemned is a convenient position, but over time makes you angry and self-righteous! Understanding the fears and anxieties that drive a seemingly powerful, fortunate, arrogant person, now that is difficult.

``Hope'', ``spirit's orientation'', and ``willingness to witness'' form a sacred triangle. Each one reinforces the others. At the center, is the ``art of listening'', of being present, calm, open, and curious, and containing one's anxieties. At the heart of the ``art of listening'' is a simple and powerful observation. We play the role of oppressor and victim, at the same time, all the time: when we make a decision, based on reason or emotions, and then force ourselves to go through with it. We all have grown up in a global culture that glorifies internal hatred and violence.

Another name for ``hope,'' in the sense I am using, is faith. The fundamental trust, in the face of all imperfections and uncertainties, that we can follow the ``spirit's orientation'' if we allow ourselves to stay witness, and refrain from becoming oppressor or victim, and instead try our best to listen to, and empathize with, all the sounds and characters within ourselves. And the trust that this is the most important, and the only, responsibility that we have in this life.

At this point in time, the most mysterious element of this picture, for me, is the ``spirit's orientation.'' 

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