Monday, January 19, 2015

(How) We Shall Overcome

--> Today was Martin Luther King Jr. Day. As I'm sure it has in many families, the occasion has given rise to a number of opportunities for dialogue. Early this morning, Samaya and I found ourselves alone in the kitchen, everyone else still asleep. As she watched BrainPop's movie of the week on Dr. King, I stood over the pancakes at the stove marveling at how even a kid's app portrayal of this man can move me to tears.
"Why did they kill him?" she wants to know.

We've had this conversation repeatedly in various forms: the 'why do people do bad things to good people?' conversation. I’m not very good at it. I never feel like I nail it. If I can barely wrap my mind around it, I'm pretty sure my five-year-old is mystified. But sometimes the universe gives you answers to questions before they are asked. And occasionally you notice. 

Last night I was listening to the first episode of the new NPR show, Invisibilia. A freelance IT guy was talking about how, after his wife left him, he really struggled to be around people. He was becoming more and more of a recluse. It struck him one night that he was afraid of was rejection. He decided that if he was going to overcome this debilitating fear, he would have to face it head on. And so he made it a personal goal to get rejected at least once every day. It was harder than he thought. 

“There just aren’t as many no’s out there as you might think.”

“We’re always, always telling stories to ourselves about the situation we’re in and about other people. And that story becomes a reality for us. And that’s the problem,” he concluded.

This really resonated with me. Assuming my husband is thinking and feeling things he absolutely is not is our single biggest source of contention as a couple. I have been repeatedly made aware of the fact that the stories I tell myself are OFTEN inaccurate. I don’t think I’m alone. 

So when Samaya asks me why Martin Luther King was killed, I say: “Because a man told himself a story about how white people were better than black people. A story that his father probably told him. And he wasn’t willing to listen to any other story but that one.

The only reason why someone would do something bad to someone good is because they got the story all wrong.

We talk about how we all tell stories to ourselves constantly. And not all of them are true. For instance, she tells herself elaborate stories of monsters coming into her room at night. She’s terrified of cats and dogs. Of her brother falling down while walking, knocking out his teeth, and having to go to the hospital. And she can choose to believe these stories and be full of fear, or she can choose to challenge these stories and find out if they are true or not. And keep finding out. Because the thing about stories is that they are a product of the past. A new story is constantly being created. And it will never be exactly like the last story.

Abdu’l-Baha unequivocally asserted that, “the root cause of prejudice is blind imitation of the past.”

And it's anecdote:
“Among (Baha’u’llah’s) teachings is the independent investigation of reality, so that the world of humanity might be saved from the darkness of imitation and attain to the truth; might tear off and cast away this ragged and outgrown garment of 1,000 years ago and put on the robe woven in the utmost purity and holiness in the loom of reality. As reality is one and cannot admit of multiplicity, therefore different opinions must ultimately become fused into one.

How do we overcome prejudice? We investigate reality. Get to know each other. Become FRIENDS with one another. Realize that we are far more alike than we are different. And that those differences allow us to view more sides of the same truth. Like the blind men and the elephant, all our differing points of view, as if by magic, will fuse themselves into one reality. One human family.

On her way out the door to go to an indoor play place with the grandparents, I call to Samaya, “Make a new friend! That’s what Martin would have done.” 

She did, by the way. Her name is Lindsey.

No comments:

Post a Comment