“The journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single step…”
and continues with uncounted numbers of additional steps, each taken separately and sequentially.
In the Himalayas, if I recall correctly, among the Sherpa people, “hero” is defined as “One who takes one more step.”
So it is, I suppose, conceivable, that journeys can be started by anyone who can take a single step and often must be finished
From the 100th Psalm of the King James Bible….
A foundation which is an association of individuals committed to discovering, beginning, nurturing and carrying to completion the necessary communication for the purpose healing the injuries of Slavery.
We assert, based on our experience, that there is no issue that arises among people that cannot be resolved by complete communication.
We declare that all such communication is indeed a
Form is not limited. There is a single principle: Violence is not a form of communication. Heated exchange, emotional experience, disagreement and upsetting utterance may be features of any powerful interaction.
We listen fully, granting to all communication the assumption of truthfulness we would want others to grant to ours. Our reactions are our own and, as an integral part of our humanity, they may be included as a part of our communication. We are not required to agree with that which is communicated nor will we require agreement from others. We listen on purpose to hear the totality of what is communicated and we hold it as honest human experience.
Inquiry is a communication for requesting elaboration or information or for directing attention. It is one operation in the development of compassion. We inquire.
Ignorance is the simple lack of knowledge. Stupidity is insistent ignorance. Arrogance is the stance that my stupidity is superior to your knowledge. We fully realize that we are all ignorant, we will seek to reveal our stupidity, and realize we are likely to find ourselves arrogant, all within our commitment to further communication for the purpose of healing the injuries of Slavery.
I propose we finish a journey, you and I, that we do whatever it takes to complete a trek begun by our ancestors over four hundred years ago. Since it is a journey we ourselves did not originate, if we are to complete it we will have to discover precisely where along the way we are and in which direction we wish to go. We will disagree about these things, and much, much more. We will suspect each other and distrust each other and we will become infuriated with each other. In fact we already do, and we already have. Any number of highly educated, well-known, respected people will tell us, and I will not disagree, that what I am proposing is ridiculous. It is impossible, probably, uncomfortable, definitely. Dangerous, too, people may die along the way. Many already have.
No one in history has ever completed this journey. As far as I know no one has ever even considered it as a journey. I say it is, and I say we can complete it.
Why should you care what I say?
That’s easy: You shouldn’t. I have no standing in the world to propose this. No training, no degrees, no experience, so what I say is not what’s important. Please read and think critically for yourself about anything I say. What you think, what you find, what we learn, and what we DO is what will become important.
Communication: Everyone communicates. Anyone who hears the word “knows what it means”. Just for the sake of clarity, though, let’s look at communication and come to an agreement about how we’ll use it here.
Communication can be pretty basic. It can consist of any noticeable change, some detectable flicker of light, muscle movement, presence of a previously absent sound, absence of one previously present, something noticeably changes, and it means something. “One if by land…” “When the chanting stops…” There is one condition, then a change, and it means something. Clear enough: Assuming we all agree on the meaning.
Communication can be pretty complex, too: Philosophy, calculus, organic chemistry…. love. Decades can be spent discovering meanings, and discovering we don’t share meanings. Two lovers gaze into each other’s eyes, “I love you.” he says, meaning “I have a profoundly pleasant feeling when I’m near you and I want to keep having that feeling,” She replies, “I love you, too.” meaning “I see in you all that completes me as a person, and you’re the opposite of my father.” You and I now know something our two lovers do not: They don’t share a meaning of a term critical to their success as a couple. They may proceed to build an entire life on that foundation. How do you see their chances of success?
That is, perhaps, first among the fundamentals we must face: We must not assume we share common meanings for words we all know. There will be discomfort and tedium and annoyance as we confront the differences in how we mean what we say. Then there will open, sometimes for the very first time, a clearing, a space we have made for ourselves in which we KNOW we are all talking about the same thing and we KNOW what everyone means when they use the words because we will have agreed upon what the words mean.
When you bring to me your authentic human experience, relate it to me in an honest and forthright fashion and I listen to you intentionally and actively for the purpose of as completely as possible understanding what you are relating, and when you leave certain that I have completely heard what you said, that you are satisfied that you have left me with an experience of what you have related, we will have communicated.
Trust: In approaching this conversation, among the most fundamental requirements is the honoring of each utterance as authentic, the granting to it the power and the assumption of truth we would wish were it ours.
How can we be sure? How can we know?
Simple: We can’t. It is universal in human experience to have been told something, passionately and earnestly, even by someone close to us, something important, which later we found to be utterly false, and to find we have been utterly unable to tell. There is no indicator sensitive and reliable enough to alert us to a well-delivered lie. There is no way to guarantee we are not being deceived. How can we proceed in a matter of this magnitude, this serious, where there is such an ingrained, intentional history of deliberate deceit, deception, malevolence, hatred?
We must trust.
Trust, I assert, is a gift, an act of generosity. It is given by one person to another. It is given either on purpose and in a manner for which the giver is fully responsible, or it is given by obligation, by habit, without responsibility, based upon appearances, desires, hopes. It is the investing in another the certainty of honesty. Beyond all suspicions, history, appearances, it is purposely choosing to insist upon holding another as truthful. We will say to each other, “What you say, I say is truth.” and we will honor those words in the face of all other concerns and considerations. (See “Commitment”)
Why would anyone do that?
First, remember: It’s a gift. Second: You and I know that it is a gift and we are giving it with complete willingness and by our own choice. We would give each other this gift because we know trust is essential to our commitment to resolve the issues we have come together to address. It is, in fact, the only possible means of proceeding toward that end, and we know that. We must also be completely aware that when we give to another this gift, we expose ourselves to inevitability: betrayal.
We must be clear: When we give to others this gift of trust, when we choose on purpose to invest in another the certainty of truthfulness, that trust will be violated. In matters so profoundly powerful and complicated, that will take such a length of time to address, it is inevitable that the trust will be broken, in either fact or appearance, deliberately or by accident. It is certain, and we should acknowledge, for purposes of our own clarity, that there is no such thing as trustworthiness. The gift of trust is an act of grace, it cannot be earned and must not rest on the illusion that it can be earned, and the trust will be violated.
It is the act of a fool: The taking of absolute personal responsibility for investing in another the certainty of truthfulness in the face of all other concerns and considerations; the making senior to all other matters the commitment to proceed along the path that heads toward eliminating the remaining effects of Slavery.
When someone is trusted, have they no responsibility?
Only if they agree. You may give it or not and may take into consideration whether the recipient will be responsible for the gift, acknowledging the certainty of failure. You may consider the receipt of this gift from another and how you will be responsible for it. You may give it whether or not I agree. I may give it whether or not you agree. Each of us is wholly responsible and capable. Both parties will agree to respond when the trust is broken, no matter what happens, and address the issues till both are satisfied. (See “Communication, Commitment”) There will be a point of choice once again.
Compassion: We each have a lifetime of experience. This experience, in combination with other factors, shapes who we are. If we are to understand another, some comprehension of his or her life experience must be reached. Essential to our communication for healing the injuries of Slavery is the understanding, the deep and abiding comprehension, of other people’s life experiences, yet we are essentially alone, isolated in our individuality.
We have the capacity to imagine. Some of us are experts, all of us can do it, anyone can deepen it. We can imagine nearly anything. The more we learn about something, the more fully we can envision it and the more powerful and complete is our experience. Use of this imagination is one of the keys to compassion. It is the opening for the possibility of deeply understanding another’s life.
We can listen to another speak of life and imagine ourselves in that life. We can feel the reactions, notice the assumptions, distinguish the attitudes and prejudices, outlooks and ideas that become parts of our experience as we embrace the experience of another to get a growing sense of that person’s life. As we do this we can develop for ourselves a growing understanding of how another might have made choices, a deeper sense of a person’s or group’s actions or reactions, see from the inside the world in which they live. This is the beginning of compassion.
We must always be aware that our compassion, no matter how powerful or fully developed, is always short of the totality of the other’s experience. We must never assume that we have completely grasped that experience. We must also understand that the earnest compassionate understanding of another is always incomplete and not be impatient or condemning when we encounter the incompletion. Compassion continually seeks further enrichment and additional information as it is available, and will continually provide such information as it is requested.
Commitment: One of those simple ideas that is profound in its operation, commitment is the choice to make one idea, interpretation, promise, senior to any other circumstance at every moment, and to have one’s actions given by that. I have committed to be related to you. Thus, when I don’t like the way you are talking to me, being related to you is senior to that circumstance, and I stay in relationship with you when my reaction to your manner of speaking might be to leave.
Commitment is not “obligation.“
It is choice.
It is born of the responsibility for that choice and lives as the constant creation of it. It lives and expresses itself in the face of contrary evidence if it needs to, at times to the point of abstraction or even madness.
It can arise from culture, personality, circumstance. Its highest expression, perhaps, arises from inquiry, consideration, and vision. Out of these we choose, out of that choice comes action: We are literally given our lives by that commitment. We will create and innovate and draw from ourselves unthought-of and unimagined resources out of it.
Because there is no back door. We are committed. We have chosen and we create that choice anew and in the present at every opportunity. When we doubt, we create that choice. When the outcome is demonstrably unfavorable or arguably impossible, we create that choice.
At any and every moment in any and every circumstance we create, on our own responsibility and authority, that choice, not as victims of our past, but as creators in our present of our future.
Obviously one might exercise considerable discretion in making such choices, and one would be well advised to do just that. Commitment is an existential state altering all other existential states: One is simply not the same once committed, the world is not the same, there is a new center.
Commitment is the matrix for miracles.