November 8, 2010

Judges and Jurors

Walking In My Shoes
by Depeche Mode

I would tell you about the things
They put me through.
The pain I've been subjected to
But the Lord himself would blush.
The countless feasts laid at my feet.
Forbidden fruits for me to eat.
But I think your pulse would start to rush.

Now I'm not looking for absolution
forgiveness for the things I do.
But before you come to any conclusions
Try walking in my shoes.
You'll stumble in my footsteps.
Keep the same appointments I kept
If you try walking in my shoes.

Morality would frown upon.
Decency look down upon.
The scapegoat fate's made of me.
But I promise you, my judge and jurors
My intentions couldn't have been purer.

My case is easy to see.
I'm not looking for a clearer conscience.
Peace of mind after what I've been through
And before we talk of repentance
Try walking in my shoes
Try walking in my shoes.

We all think we have it worse, and sometimes we do. Blind to ourselves, quick to call out others, we volunteer ourselves for both judge and jury. Recently I had a conversation with a person who thinks of herself in a spiritual light. She noted that while many may choose to live together with their extended family, it really 'just depends upon your personality.' A simple mind remarked that custom and culture probably had more to do with it than the idiosyncrasies of personality.

Then it happened... She judged, and in that moment--a split second really, a simple mind could see into everything she most believed about herself and the world she inhabits: It's a world where the wheel is created over and over again; tradition accounts for naught, and not seeing herself clearly, she later remarked, that she was leaving her job to find "meaningful work with an NGO (a non-governmental organization) in Africa." She thought to work somewhere else far, far away.
Simple mind comments about the value of observation over judgment were lost upon her, as lost as her thought that her life was really somewhere else, somewhere not in this and every moment.

 Discerning rather than judging is hard; often it's really hard. We are reminded in most all the spiritual traditions east or west, about the practice of openness, of emptiness and the great gifts it brings when we are empty to receive in the here and now. Our life is filled moment to moment with the world and ourselves, filled to the top.
Jesus, the Christ, reminds us of this when we read the gospels which tell of his decided indifference to the character and style of an individual life. Tax collectors, despots, harlots and others, he was willing to treat them, to attend to the great commandment of love for one's neighbor.

Who is your neighbor? The gospel of Luke 10:25-37 gives some clues:
“A man fell victim to robbers
as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.
They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.
A priest happened to be going down that road,
but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
Likewise a Levite came to the place,
and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him
was moved with compassion at the sight.
He approached the victim,
poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them.
Then he lifted him up on his own animal,
took him to an inn, and cared for him.
The next day he took out two silver coins
and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction,
‘Take care of him.
If you spend more than what I have given you,
I shall repay you on my way back.’

Which of these three, in your opinion,
was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?”

He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.”
Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
It is not necessary to go afar to meet one which you and your gifts may help. Neighbors are everywhere. If we are living in the "now moment," the present moment with its most pressing meaning, presently, we will come to understand our self first and our neighbor more clearly, who is human like our self. Compassion is the way to understand, and to love.

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