Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

The Enemy is Me!

Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself. ~Rumi

I began a recent post with Pogo’s quote “We have seen the enemy, and he is us.” The post was about a person who canceled a holiday party rather than invite people who voted for the presidential candidate he voted against. I noted the irony of discriminating against people because they voted for someone who discriminates. I ended the post by saying that the person who canceled the party was welcome at my table, along with those who voted for the other guy.

A friend later observed that my post was “morally smug in its own way, which is how I believe you characterized” the guy who canceled the party.

What?! Me?! You mean that while I’m pointing out the irony of someone judging others for voting for someone who judges others, I myself am judging? That while I am calling out someone for smugly excluding others, I am smugly including everyone? Is that any different?

A Course in Miracles says that we teach what we want to learn. True that, my friend, true that. In my frustration and sadness over the rancor that is splitting up friends and neighbors and families, I tried to pluck the speck from my brother’s eye, while overlooking the log in my own.

Furthermore, my friend asked, would I really welcome everyone to my table? Really? Well, okay, I wouldn’t literally sit down with a serial killer. So how is that different, my friend persisted, from not sitting down with people who don’t agree with my political views? In both cases, there is a choice being made to exclude someone.

I don’t have a good answer to that, except that in the physical world, good boundaries are healthy, and in extreme cases even necessary for survival. But in the realm of spirit, boundaries have a different impact. They block us from sacred union, which is what our spirits yearn for. If we can keep our heart doors open, then perhaps our understanding and compassion can lead to expanded connection, rather than alienation, in our physical world.

The best example I can think of is the Amish community who refused to hate the man who came into one of their schools and shot ten young girls, killing five of them. One author said that, had the killer not died on the scene, the community would have supported whatever consequences the law imposed, and then visited him in prison. Their example lit up the news around the world, and the story became not just one of soul crushing tragedy, but one of soul lifting beauty.

So my challenge is keep my heart open, to welcome, yes truly welcome, everyone to my heart table, if not to my literal table. Of course it’s not easy. And sometimes I fail. But that is where our practice is–at the edge of our comfort zone. The razor’s edge, as it has been aptly described.

Thanks to the friend who held up a mirror, to help me see where my own work lies.

Namaste–The divine in me greets the divine in you. I honor that place in you where, if you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, there is only one of us.

15 thoughts on “The Enemy is Me!”

  1. Doggone. That hit me right between the eyes. I've been "morally smug" also. I'm definitely asking Grace to lead me to a better path. Thank you for shining the light.

  2. Love, love, love the quote from Rumi, Galen. When we take it to heart, it certainly takes us down a notch or two about who we think we are, and what God intends for us to be.
    God intends for us to love one another, no matter what the superficial circumstances tell us. Easier said than done, I know from experience, as do you. I'm reminded so much here of Virginia's take, in my recent post, as to what it really means to be brothers and sisters in Christ. Let's keep praying that we can see it for ourselves, and act upon it accordingly. It's what God wants for all of His children.
    Thanks for this inspiration, my friend!

  3. So true, Martha. Your granddaughter spoke such simple truth. And it starts at home, doesn't it? I spoke with someone today who was struggling to "forgive" a close relative who voted for the candidate he opposed. I told him I hoped he found a way to reconnect. Thanks for your comment.

  4. You are so right…as I write I reread what I think about myself and I realize that I am not nearly as perfect or unbiased as I think I am. The log in my eye is big and it does hurt a lot.

    The serial killer is an outside my experience type of person so far as I know. But then they do hide out and fool everyone. Maybe we should say that we would include those that we know fully.

    In the end though, I think we need to remain true to our own beliefs and not hide out ourselves. In the end the question would be "Would the 'serial killer' invite me to his table if he knew me fully?"

    Thank you again Galen. Perfect.


  5. So true, Barbara, that we don't know fully most of the people in our lives. Maybe not any of them! Not always because they are deliberately hiding something, but because we are complex beings, and communication is inherently inadequate to convey our deepest truths.

  6. I don't know if this is the best verse for me to attach my question to; it's also related to the tai chi yielding: Yielding, going Yin, seems the prescribed response to Yang. The politics and reactions flying around right now are so Yang. Mary Tyler Moore just passed, and her characters were so Yin. People don't want to respond with Yin because that's not "taking a stand." In tai chi, we learn the difference between yielding and collapsing. Yielding isn't caving. I suspect the dinner party issue missed this distinction. Can you clarify what this distinction looks like in non-martial applications? How can we stake a stand in a Yin way, not simply caving? Can it go beyond just keeping your center? Maybe that host collapsed; keeping the center would have been to not let politics disrupt the guest list. I don't think you were being superior in your response. You were just keeping your center. That looks smug to people because they want you to feel what they feel. Staying "above" it sounds superior, but maybe it's really just how to yield.

  7. I just got home from seeing the movie Hidden Figures, about the African American women who played key roles in NASA's early space program during a time of segregation and discrimination.

    One woman's request for promotion to supervisor had been denied solely on the basis of race. Later, when she was asked to perform a critical function, she said she couldn't because that function could only be performed by a supervisor. She was finally promoted because they needed her unique and superior skills.

    To me, that is a perfect example of Yin success. She didn't force the issue, but she yielded in such a way that her well deserved promotion became the only way for the people above her to get the work done.

    Yin is the tree that bends in the wind and remains standing. Or my camellia that was bowed under our recent snow, then sprang back when the snow melted.

    Yin, in a way, was my response to the friend who made me take a look at my earlier post. I could have pushed back or denied her observation, but instead I took it in and used it for further exploration of the issue. Rather than digging in, I learned more about myself by considering her view.

    Mary Tyler Moore is a great example. How was she able to break through so many barriers, in her character roles as well as in her real life?

    You make a great distinction between yielding and caving or collapsing. Water is a great example. Put a rock in the way, and water just flows around it, continuing on its way unperturbed.

    One time I was walking down the sidewalk and passed a group of young men who were clearly looking for some trouble. As I walked by, one of them said something to me that was crude in a sexual way, obviously hoping I would be scared or offended. I could feel their energy as a group, waiting for my response.

    I looked the speaker in the eye and said, "Now when a woman my age gets some attention from a handsome young man such as yourself, then that is a good day. Thank you."

    They all just stood there, but as I turned to walk on, the young man said, "God bless you." I looked back at him. I could see that he was embarrassed by his behavior. I walked back, gave him a hug and returned the blessing.

    When my son was in special ed, I worked very successfully with the special ed people to get him the services he needed. I worked with everyone from a position of respect and teamwork, rather than as an adversary. One person observed that my son "got more services than any other child in the district." I replied that he didn't get any more, or any less, than the law required.

    Are these good examples of non-martial applications? Circling back to the movie I just saw, the civil rights movement is based on nonviolence, very yin. Hopefully this addresses your excellent question. Hope we can talk more about it.

  8. PS–Remember that yin and yang are parts of the same whole. So while we often associate yin with yielding in a good way, yin and yang both are part of an eternal dance of creation and energy. One can't exist without the other, and each contains within itself the seed of the other, as shown in the tai chi symbol.

  9. Galen, Thanks for your comment and reaction to my Thanksgiving post regarding "inclusion" as a reaction to your thoughtful and challenging posts about "inclusion" and your "heart door." You know what impact your post on your blog "No Way Cafe" has gotten dozens of us to think about inclusion, separation, decision making and removing the log in our eye.

    You made this comment, following your additional soul searching on this "inclusion" subject: "I don’t have a good answer to that, except that in the physical world, good boundaries are healthy, and in extreme cases even necessary for survival. But in the realm of spirit, boundaries have a different impact. They block us from sacred union, which is what our spirits yearn for. If we can keep our heart doors open, then perhaps our understanding and compassion can lead to expanded connection, rather than alienation, in our physical world."

    Not only do I find this comment as moving and thought provoking, it causes me to think about how often the I-Ching and Tao Te Ching stress Acceptance. I wonder if, rather than seeking inclusion, it is more important and meaningful to seek the attitude/virtue/practice of Acceptance in the Taoist sense of the word/non-action/attitude?

    I wonder if achieving Acceptance of those people/actions/ideas with whom/which we disagree, would enhance our ability to spiritually connect with the "Opposite". I wonder if Acceptance would reduce the tension of Opposites.

    Darn you, Galen…you have caused me to examine my conscience and re-evaluate how I have reacted to the Opposites…I why I reacted the way that I did when faced with that other guy or idea. Do I Repulse the Monkey because he is a Monkey or because I am yielding?

  10. Ha! Sorry about that! No, not really. This is a tough issue, and I've had lots of interesting conversations with folks lately. In fact, I'm headed out soon to have tea with a friend who is married to someone from Iran–more conversation about inclusion/acceptance.

    Your reference to Repulse the Monkey reminded me of a 4 hour (!) conversation I had with one of my martial arts teachers about this. How is this concept of acceptance/yielding manifested in martial arts, and then how do you take that and bring it back into daily life?

    Related to that, we have a saying in martial arts–Don't insist, don't resist. Well, "resist" is a word being used now to rally the effort to resist certain actions being taken by the current administration, and in a broader sense, to resist the values of the administration. In the conversation with my instructor, we explored what this saying means in the political context. How do you stand up or advocate for what you think is right without insisting or resisting? Hmmm. Four hours later, no clear conclusion.

    in Repulse the Monkey, there is an apparent yielding, but it draws the monkey into your forward hand. The monkey's own force defeats him.

    I'm rambling. And perhaps that is the point. This is not something we will figure out in a rational way. If we open ourselves, we enter the mystery. And that is where acceptance comes in perhaps, accepting the uncertainty or unknowing.

    Now I'm REALLY rambling! Let's keep the conversation going! Darn you right back! My brain hurts! Ha!

  11. I prefer to think of "rambling" (in my quirky world) as theorizing or argument building. Others think I am rambling or being defensive…tomato/Tomato…

    At any rate, I think you understand where I am going when I think of Acceptance and Yielding as opening my "heart door" to the Opposite without or avoiding inclusion of the Opposite directly into my physical presence or decision-making priorities.

    Perhaps, if I accomplish Acceptance and perform Yielding of the Opposite I may learn more about the Opposite. Perhaps the Opposite will become less different. Perhaps the Opposite will not challenge my ego…or me their's…if I yield, control their "force" and reconsider my position. ???

  12. "Perhaps the Opposite will become less different." Yes, well said. Your comment reminded me of Chapter 2 of the Tao Te Ching which deals with the interrelationship of opposites. I ended my post on that chapter with this quotation:

    As long as words are used to denote a truth, duality is inevitable; however, such duality is not the truth. All divisions are illusory. ~Yaga Vasistha

    Again, thank you for engaging in this discussion with me.

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