Friday, May 23, 2008

Back to Spirituality

William James is a philosopher and early pioneer of defining pragmatism. One of his favorite sayings was the word "attending". The word is actually used as a saying in that we as individuals do not tend the needs of others, but attend through hearing, or listening in a certain way that we would be willing to sacrifice our own views to attend the views of others - so that we can know a person just a little better.

"Moving toward the place where we fit does not exclude efforts to shape the place toward which we are heading so that it will fit us. Spirituality is neither "conservative" nor "liberal", active nor passive, whatever those labels may connote.

Knowing how another human being lives and functions on the inside - how he or she handles the vicissitudes of life, copes with it's joys and frustrations, faces critical choices, meets failure and defeat as well as challenge and success - is what enables us to feel prepared for life.

It is the availability of appropriate individuals with whom we can identify, indviduals who also permit us to do so, which quiets the inner yearning of the need for preparedness, for external model that may serve as an internal guide for the self.

William James's "strenuous mood" is the opposite of the "easygoing mood" and the attitude of "I don't care." It is a positive attitude of care - care for oneself, one's family, the wider community, and possible future communities which may extend beyond the limits of one's individual life. The strenuous mood entails a personal identification of one's self with a wider range of people and communities, both present and future. It involves heightening one's sympathies and overcoming what James called that "certain blindness" in human beings which makes it difficult for us to appreciate and respect the inner meaning of another's experience.

But if we would listen, we must also tell; and if we would tell our stories, we need places where we can tell and listen. In this mutuality between telling and listening, between speaking and hearing, lies the deepest spiritual significance of mutual-aid and self-help groups. Those wrestling with spiritual dilemmas do not need answers but presence - permission to confront the delemma and struggle with it aloud.

Thus, if an essential component of spirituality is attending - listening - it is also a human truth that we are able to listen only when we know that in time, we will be able to tell our own story. And when we are able to tell our stories ... we learn respect for other peoples stories and for their need to tell them. The practice of telling stories gives birth to good listeners.

The world has always needed good listeners, for only good listeners are truthful tellers. Good listening involves the surrender of a self-centered view of the world ..."

~Don S. Browning - Pluralism and Personality~
~James Hillman - Selected Writings~

It's a lot to digest, however ...

Hopefully the above will shed a little light of where I've been coming from, in terms of thought process and how I view people and the world. An inquiry is not the same as judgment - one asks something about a person, while the other pushes them away. The two should never be confused with each other. In order to get to know a person, one must first inquire - but only through humility, the rejection of all attempts to control, can we truly be good listeners ...

"We may differ on many things, but what we respect is free inquiry, open-mindedness, and the pursuit of ideas for their own sake. We do not hold our convictions dogmatically."
~Christopher Hitchens~

Respect is taken, when respect is given ...

Namaste and Slainte

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