Archives for the month of: April, 2018

Whom do we blame and for what? – two critical questions, whether they apply to our view of others or ourselves.

A high school classmate and I have an ongoing dialogue about which of our human capacities dominates – cognition or emotion. He would say that our rational mind can and should prevail. While I often wish that were the case, I proffer that despite the power of our executive function, many times our emotions take over, especially when dealing with our fears.

In and of itself, finding fault, which is one definition of “blame,” can be a neutral dynamic. It is a way that our “head” identifies the source of events or circumstances. Knowing the cause of a situation often mitigates its threat. Replacing the unknown with knowledge provides us a way of managing if not controlling what confronts us.

At the same time embedded in “blame” is judgment, and judgment is one way our “heart” seeks to protect us from potential threats. We see too many examples of the emotional blame game in play every day in relationships, politics, religion and culture, where our tribal roots tilt the teeter-totter of fake versus fact.

Perhaps more pernicious is the blame game we play with ourselves when we judge ourselves as inadequate or unworthy. Who is to blame – our upbringing, our workplace, our partner? While those may indeed be the source of fault, we are the sole agents of changing the game going forward.

Harnessing the wisdom of both head and heart, we have the capacity, indeed, the response-ability, to create a new future for ourselves individually and collectively. We do control the two ingredients that can do most to lift us out of blaming others and ourselves – our attitude and our effort.

 

This past week I received an email from a friend with whom I spent three years in seminary. Until a fiftieth reunion last year, we hadn’t seen each other since graduation. I was reminded how often back then he and I shared frequencies regarding life’s conundrums and possibilities.

Arriving last week, my friend’s message was a brief but powerful outcry over our brokenness as a species. Examples he cited from this year’s forty days of Lent epitomize our capacity for treating each other inhumanely, a morbid prelude to the crucifixion of “Good” Friday.

Efforts to rationalize all that is going on in our country and around the world seem futile, especially if one is attached to outcomes. Believing an Easter experience is the Christian response to a Good Friday, my friend re-framed the quandary by suggesting we turn to another realm of truth-seeking – the wisdom embedded in our place among the mysteries of the earth and its cycles. He shared two poems by Mary Oliver, one of which is below.

Here in rural New Hampshire it is lambing season for some farmers. Is the timing with Passover and Easter this year just coincidence?

Mysteries, Yes

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous / to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing / in the mouths of lambs.

How rivers and stones are forever / in allegiance with gravity

while we ourselves dream of rising.

How two hands touch and the bonds will / never be broken.

How people come, from delight or the

Scars of damage / to the comfort of a poem.

 

Let me keep my distance, always, from those

who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say

“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,

and bow their heads.

Mary Oliver