I spent the morning listening to a talk given by Franciscan friar, Richard Rohr. He eloquently explains that we are the product of hundreds of years of conditioning that teaches us to judge EVERYTHING based on “all or nothing” patterns of thought: I am right, you are wrong. We are in, they are out. This is truth, those are lies. The problem, Rohr explains, is that judgement starts with a NO and then asks anything outside of us to win us over to yes…a nearly impossible task. It is sort of a guilty until proven innocent process for understanding the world. This can work for a while, but life is not so black and white and soon we find ourselves ill-equipped to handle the tensions of trying to push complex subjects into ever simplified boxes. Rohr suggests that we spend much less time ranking, rating, or categorizing the world around us and rather, start with YES. Start by trying to see the real nature of things even when it damages our fragile egos or challenges the prevailing narratives we tell ourselves. I walked away from the talk feeling like I had just witnessed 60 minutes of something authentic and true. Please watch for yourself if you feel like I am using “true” too liberally.
Here is the problem: We are in the midst of scouting for where to locate our family next. We formatted the trip to expose us to a half dozen locations around Canada’s west coast in hopes of gathering up impressions about these places that can help us make better informed decisions about where to go next. I have been reading Rachel’s posts and watching my own thoughts and comments and I am realizing that this kind of searching is replete with conscious and unconscious judgements about these places and the very people that make these towns come to life. I caught myself thinking about one town we passed through: “I don’t want my buddies to be a bunch of chubby gamers that still listen to 90’s rock and drive lifted trucks littered with Monster and Coor’s cans.” It is hard to admit that I can be so judgmental. Not only have I said NO to this caricature without so much as talking to such individuals, I have also said NO to an entire town based on a few uniformed observations.
Still, decisions still need to be made. I want to go forward with as open a mind as possible starting with a YES when I meet people and letting people and places unfold and spring to life. I know that giving people the time of day and learning their story always leads to compassion and empathy and a deeper understanding. I think this probably applies the same to places. So is there a place for being judgmental with our experiences, when ultimately we will need to make real choices? Perhaps greeting each new place with an openness and an awareness of my own propensity for judgement is really the point. I think that the experience can probably be a lot richer if approached in this way. There is more room for a place to speak to the deeper parts of our soul rather than just satisfying an arbitrarily conceived checklist of pros and cons. For instance, I keep assuming that I do not like this rain, but every time I embrace it and just keep exploring the world for the wet sponge that it is, I come back invigorated (and dirty). Last time I went running in the rain, I saw a flock of tiny swallows descend on a pond with the rain after having just encountered a bald eagle take off only steps away from me. Experiences that may never have occurred in a busy park on a sunny day.
Perhaps when this trip is over, it will be the surprising moments, people, and places that spring out of the possibilities that only an open heart can facilitate that will help us gain real clarity where cheap judgements would have only served to confirm the stories we already had unconsciously written before we got here.