I’ve had another one of those sleepless kind of nights, but this time I can’t blame it on an overstuffed belly. Please indulge the following diarrhea of words. I almost got up really early since I wasn’t sleeping anyway, and because I had an almost overpowering urge to express my thoughts. Was it George Carlin or someone else who said that sometimes he really felt ambitious, like there was something he felt that he just really needed to do, and whenever that happened, he learned that he could just lay down and eventually the feeling would go away. Well I was already laying down when the feeling came… so what do I do? I get up and write a message to my neighbors.
It was more than just an urge to express my thoughts, actually. Am I the only one, or has anyone else had this kind of experience – a feeling that you have something to do… and you kind’a know what it is, but you can’t exactly put it into words? It’s not exactly a feeling that something needs to be done either… it’s more like a desire or urge… like needing to pee really badly… but getting up to pee doesn’t make the feeling go away. I also have to confess that I’ve had this urge or desire for many years. Last night (or very early this morning) I remembered a biblical story (hey, it’s Sunday morning… indulge me more) that I related to a lot before becoming a confused teenager. It was the story of Samuel, who, as a very young boy, was sleeping in the Temple and heard someone calling his name. So, thinking it was the priest, Eli, who was calling him, he got up and asked Eli why he had called him. The story is in 1 Samuel 3 and I won’t go into further detail… but I found it interesting that Samuel had this experience at night when he was trying to sleep. Is it possible that there’s this voice that “calls” each one of us, but, like the voice that another prophet (Elijah) heard on the mountain, it can’t be heard in the thunder of life, but only when we are quiet and able to listen? I think almost all my neighbors know that I spend about an hour every morning listening (or meditating and praying), and sometimes I “hear” that voice but more often not… but every morning I express my desire in a prayer to have ears that are open to hear, and eyes that are open to see. Maybe the answer to that prayer comes when I’m trying to sleep. On the other hand, maybe it was something I ate.
Anyway, a lot went through my mind last night but I won’t share it all here. I’ve been thinking quite a bit (and not just last night) about our last gathering. If you were there, you will know what I’m referring to; if you weren’t, it might be enough just to write that there was a very clear expression of anger and hurt that made everyone very uncomfortable and continued until another neighbor interrupted. She said that one of the reasons she was coming to the gatherings was that they were for her, a refuge, a safe and comfortable place to come away from the stress and strain of the week. Another neighbor echoed her feelings. I mentioned that the main reason I had started the gatherings was so that we could learn how to be neighbors – neighbors care for one another – and we need to learn how to do that. Some of us grew up in homes where caring for one another just didn’t happen and so we didn’t learn how to do it… and even if we know how, we can always improve with practice.
I’m really glad that the expression of anger and pain happened – even though it was uncomfortable. I think maybe some healing took place… or at least the opportunity for healing was there. Our gatherings really are not for personal therapy – we are not trying to “cure” anyone – although that may be a byproduct. Our gathering is a microcosm of our society, so, if there is a “cure”, it’s the beginning of a much larger “cure”. Because we are all connected, there is no such thing as an individual healing.
Learning to be neighbors and learning to care for one another is really like learning a new language. Language expresses our understanding of reality, our view of the world. Unfortunately, the language we hear most often is an expression of rage, of disappointment, disapproval, condemnation, disgust, bitterness and discouragement. We form patterns of speech ourselves that express destructive feelings and thoughts. We hear that language in our heads in our ‘self” talk and the destructive patterns become habit – an addiction we can’t break in isolation from others. If you grow up in China, you’ll speak Chinese. If you grow up in an atmosphere of hostility, you’ll know a lot of cuss words.
I believe it is very, very important that, in the process of learning to become neighbors, that we learn to speak a language expressing encouragement, hope, compassion, cheerfulness, kindness… the language of love. That’s what the sign on our refrigerator means:
We speak love here… Please become fluent.