I have a friend who is very close to me. He reads every one of the observations posted here and has done so since I began the practice in 2007. Sometimes he likes what I have written and sometimes he does not, but he is never shy about letting me know what he thinks, one way or another. Thus, there are days when I’m glad that he reads my reflections and other days when I’m not.
I guess I experienced one of those latter occasions last week. He challenged me on my tendency to write these essays in terms of “we” and “our,” whether referring to Winds of Peace or to the population at large. He wondered if I shouldn’t make my challenges more personal. “Not everyone is the same,” he reminds me, as if I didn’t already know. I responded by defending my practice in the name of anonymity and inclusiveness: if readers might be touched in some way or possibly see themselves in the words, they can choose to take them to heart or not. If they don’t identify with what I have to say, they can at least understand that I haven’t attempted to indict or accuse anyone. If the shoe fits, it’s to be worn.
Of course, my friend raises the idea from the perspective of one who might not recognize himself as someone who could benefit from greater introspection. If he did so, he’d be grateful that I write for the broadest audience in order to preserve anonymity. But taking his challenge to heart, I decided to offer some observations about his own circumstances, to be as direct and personal as I can be. Naturally, I will not go so far as to use his name. That way, maybe others will identify with my descriptions of him, while at the same time his privacy will be preserved.
He is a generous fellow, kind to family and friends and quick to offer smiles and greetings to strangers. Yet I think he has adopted a rather miserly perspective when faced with bigger issues, like homelessness or global and local hunger. He gives, but given his circumstances, he could do so much more.
He can be moved to tears and express emotion at injustices and will often rail loudly against the powers and circumstances that conspire to marginalize vast segments of the world’s population. But I have noticed that he is equally quick to turn away from such realities in an effort to insulate himself or numb the emotions. He can become curiously inert. He is an eager onlooker but reticent participant.
He has spoken loudly in criticism of the power of the wealthy and the inordinate influences that such people exercise in nearly every venue of life. I have frequently reminded him, however, that on the “global wealth continuum,” for every person on that scale above him at whom he points in judgement, there are many more looking up and pointing at him, as well.
He speaks often about the disparities of education, opportunity and material success. I have even heard him speak to audiences on such topics; he can make a convincing case about the dire impacts of such gaps. Yet from my own perspective, his life is one that has been earmarked by education, opportunity and success, realities undeserved but which he has never eschewed.
He is a “green” guy, having embraced lots of evolving technologies for renewable energy in his home and transportation. I admire that in him, but the size of his home(s) and the comforts with which he has surrounded himself perhaps belie the depth of his commitment. More modest accommodations might be more convincing.
He attends church regularly. I think that’s a good sign, one that suggests a search for grounding and meaning beyond himself and the unknowns which characterize life. I also happen to know that he is relatively inactive in church affairs beyond the weekly service itself, perhaps another expression of insulation and independence, or maybe just another symptom of a stingy soul.
Well, I have been more than personal in my reflections here. I could say more but I do not intend injury with my comments. In responding to him in this way, I simply want to offer a juxtaposition of perceptions regarding someone I care about, a fellow who, like most of the rest of us, tries but falls short of who and what he could be. I’m sure that I’ll be the first to know his reactions to all of this. I suspect that he will mirror my own observations. And I’m sure he’ll have some words for me….