I love this grave stone. The iron sculptures of angels hovering near its face-stone hold a light and at night the grave stone takes on a very different character. This sculpture set of angels can go either way for me. Sometimes it looks delightful and whimsical. Other times the angels take on a more sinister evil-fairy look to me. And of course, that has a lot to do with what is going on inside me when I glance at them.
Our outlook on the world around us can similarly shift and so quickly, and so easily. One moment something seems benign, in another moment charming, and in another …creepy. It is so tempting to label the things we see. We western Christians love to label things. It is our life fetish. Our addiction. This is good. This is bad. A slippery slope to narcissism.
The problem is that all that needs to happen is for the light to shift and suddenly, something which seemed charming takes on a creepy tone or vise versa. This thing or situation or person makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. This other thing makes me feel angry. And so I label them – so that the judgement I have made is cemented into place. What a silly, exhausting way to live.
I find it much more satisfying and healthy, when possible (and sometimes it takes hard work) to replace judgement and anger, fear and labeling with curiosity.
Curiosity is a gift. If I had any power in the church, I would suggest curiosity be made a sacrament. The irony is that the very people who would vote me down do so because of the very labeling and judging which curiosity detoxifies.
So when I get angry, I notice the feeling and I simply repeat, three times, in my mind “anger”….””anger”….”anger.” I notice what I am feeling. I notice that something I have just labelled has inspired anger in me. It might even be righteous anger. But I suspend, to the extent it is possible, the judgement of the judgement and simply name what I am feeling. And by simply naming it, I can convert it from whatever bile-producing emotion I feel, to a kinder, gentler internal disposition – curiosity.
Curiosity is gentle. It is humble. It does not puff me up or make me judge-of-all-I-survey. It is hard work because I so want to stay in the judging mode, the condemning mode, the napoleonic mode. I want to enjoy the adrenaline rush of being sure and being right, not realizing that such feelings emerge only because I am afraid of a sometimes frightening world in which change is the only surety.
Curiosity is such a wonderful, gentle, good posture in this crazy, hard, wonderful life. Curiosity allows the angels to simply be what they seem to be and with an awareness that there are many ways to look at them. Curiosity is a life-skill which could soften hearts, warm souls and welcome peace. “Is that true?” “Can you be absolutely sure that’s true?” and then….after some time…”What else could that be instead?”
There are no AA meetings for judgers -only for alcoholics and drug addicts and sex addicts and food addicts. The irony is that none of those things, in and of themselves, generally, threaten peace as much as they mostly threaten wellness. I want AA meetings for labelers and judgers.
“Hi, my name is Charles and I judge things. I am addicted to myself.”
“Hi, we are church.” “We judge things.” “We are addicted to being sure.” “We love jesus and will kill or at least look down on those who disagree with our own little view of Jesus.”
Those JA (Judging Anonymous) meetings might bring us world peace. Or at least religious peace. Or family peace. Or human peace.