To listen another’s soul into a condition of disclosure
and discovery may be almost the greatest service
one human being ever performs for another.
As my father got more and more frail and his children and grandchildren had begun to take on the major responsibilities at family get-togethers, leaving him with nothing to do, he’d say, “Never mind. I’ll just sit in the corner and drool.” He didn’t drool. But sometimes a younger family member would pull up a chair, sit down beside him, and listen to his stories. Which were wonderful.
As I and the warring, climate-disrupted world we all inhabit get more and more frail, asking the Universe: “What am I called to do?” seems an existential/spiritual question with some asterisks:
* at almost-eighty.
* that doesn’t add to my carbon footprint if I choose to witness/show up/minister.
*that would actually make a difference yet which I, on a fixed-income, can afford.
(You get the idea.)
Lately I have been pondering some ways we potential droolers might be useful in this unimaginably challenging time. Let me count the ways (so far):
Like the wonderful Steere quote, we can listen as others share their grief, their fears, their suffering.
Like my father, we can share own experiences; we can offer a long-view perspective. No, let’s be clear, there has never been a time quite so fraught (my dad’s word) as this. Yet surely our stories contain some nuggets the present generations might appreciate? Dare I say learn from? (Some buy-in’s probably required. Someone willingly chose to sit beside my father. Someone needs to ask us to recount the time when . . ., right?)
We can speak to the non-binary-All because we, too have suffered. We, too, have experienced unmitigated joy. And here we are. Our breath of experience adds more to the spectrum of What Being Conscious Is About, the All of it, its spectacular, wondrous, terrifying, maddening, unlimited array of experiences.
And, finally, this: I have seen what Love can do. Love is thoroughly embedded in that All; Its all-embracing power continually takes my breath away. It feels naive—silly—to write that, now, as wars wage everywhere. Everywhere! Yet over a lifetime, in the midst of conflict, when I remembered to speak or to act from a place of Love, everything shifted. Improved. Softened. This I know at almost-eighty.
Where is Love in Gaza? Where is Love in Ukraine? Yemen? The streets of Haiti, the streets of vandalized San Francisco? That’s impossible to say. What I can say is this: some of us along Elder Path may want to listen to your grief, your rage, your fears. Grateful to be able to experience this “greatest service one human being ever performs for another,” we can hear you with Love.