What is the origin of terrible fears that so hinder us in making our heart's desire; a better world to live in ? I believe that the origins of fear, of dissidence, and of the different, and of loss, as well as the fear of the ugly and the dirty; are to be found in the fears that many of us experience in childhood.
"Some" parents can make children feel that they have to merit their love, that it is a reward for good behavior.
Children, under these conditions, feel that they have to be perfect, match up to their parents norms before love is deserved.
I always thought that the true "worth" of a person was something to be proved; the unique value of each person is not acknowledged to be an intrinsic quality. In his book "The Road Of Mankind", Jewish philosopher Martin Buber says that "with each new person who is born into this world, there is something new that has never existed before, something totally new and unique... It is this unique and exceptional quality that each person is called to develope". But; how can children feel that they are unique if they have to fit their parents norms ?
It is only when children are accepted as they are, with their unique gifts, and limits; when they are listened to and respected. It is then that they will be able to later on in life, learn how to appreciate and accept others. Love and respect, like fear and prejudice, are legacies passed on from one person to the next.
The movement from seeking approval to taking responsibility, to being open to those who are different, implies a shift of consciousness. It is as if a shell is broken and gradually; the real person is able to emerge. One major reason for our propensity to gang together in mutually exclusive groups, is because most of us experience love only in the most imperfect way. When I discover that I am accepted and loved as a person, with my strengths and weaknesses; When I discover that I carry within myself a secret, the secret of my uniqueness, then I can begin to open up to others and respect their secret. It is then that the fear of others begins to dissolve; inclusion, friendship, a feeling of brotherhood/sisterhood begins to emerge. As we become more conscious of the uniqueness of others, we become aware of our common humanity.
We are all fundamentally the same, no matter what our age, gender, race, culture, religion, limits or disabilities may be.
We all have vulnerable hearts and need to be loved and appreciated. We have all been wounded in our hearts and have lost trust in what is deepest in us. We all want to be valued, and to be able to develope our capacities and grow to greater freedom. However; until we realize that we belong to a common humanity, that we need each other, we will continue to hide behind feelings of elitism and superiority and behind walls of prejudice, judgement, disdain, and all those negative traits that these feelings engender.
Each human being, however small or weak, has some-thing to bring to humanity. In our beautiful universe, there are stars, suns, solar systems, and galaxies astonishingly complex; but, in our earthly domain there exist a multitude of small life filled with animals and plant life that are important because of their beauty, their healing qualities, and their capacity to sustain life. Every part of the human body is important and has a role to play in our overall well-being. In the same way, each and every person big or small, has a role to play in this world.
As we start to really get to know others, as we begin to listen to each others stories, things begin to change. We no longer judge each other according to group identity, but according to those personal heart-to-heart encounters. We begin the movement from exclusion to inclusion, from fear to trust, from closedness to openness, from judgement and prejudice, to forgiveness and understanding. It is a movement of the human heart. We begin to see each other as brothers and sisters in humanity.
We are no longer governed by fear, but the heart.
How do we all move from exclusion to inclusion ? When I talk about "inclusion" of people, whether they are those with physical and mental disabilities, beggars on the street, female and male rape victims or people suffering with Aids, Multiple Sclerosis, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis-(ALS)-Lou Gehrig's Disease, Parkinson's, and a vast array of terminal diseases.
I am not talking only about starting up special schools, or residences or creating good soup kitchens or new hospitals, and special health-care facilities. These are of course, necessary.
I am not just saying that we should be kind to such people because they are human beings. Nor is it a question of "normalizing" them in order that they can be like people who are better off...participating in church services, going to the movies, or enjoying the local swimming pool.
When I speak of inclusion of those who are "marginalized", I am affirming that they have a gift to give to all, to each of us as individuals, to the larger forms of human organization, and to society in general. The excluded, I believe, live certain values that we all need to discover and live ourselves before we can become truly human. It is not just a question of performing good deeds for those who are excluded, but of being open and vulnerable to them in order to receive the life that they can offer; it is to become their friends. If we start to include the disadvantaged in our lives and enter into heart-felt relationships with them, those who are marginalized in society will change things in us.
They will call us to be people of mutual trust, to take time to listen and be with each other. They will call us out from our individualism and need for power, into belonging to each other and being open to others. If society as a whole were to truly embrace those who are marginalized; it would breakdown the prejudices and protective walls that gave rise to exclusion in the first place, affecting our human organizations, revealing new ways of being and walking together. So the one-way street, where those on the top tell those at the bottom what to do, what to think, and how to be, becomes a two-way street, where we listen to what they, the "outsiders", the "strangers", have to say, and we accept what they have to give,
That is a simpler and more profound understanding of what it means to be truly human.
If we start to see people at the bottom as friends, as people with gifts to bring to others, then the social pyramid, with the powerful, the knowledgeable, and the wealthy on top, becomes a place of belonging where each person finds their place of belonging where we live in mutual trust.
Our society shuns weakness and glorifies strength. By embracing weakness however; we learn new ways of living and discover greater compassion, trust, and understanding. This spirit of inclusion has extraordinary implications for the way we all live our lives and build our communities. Is this a Utopian vision ? If it is lived at the grassroots level in families, communities, and in other places of belonging, this vision can gradually permeate our societies and humanize them. I am not suggesting for a moment that each one of us must welcome into our homes all those who are marginalized. I am suggesting that if each one of us with our gifts and weaknesses, our capacities and our needs, opens our heart to a few people who are different and become their friends, and receive life from them, our societies would change. This truly then is the way of the human heart.
No affliction nor temptation, no guilt nor power of sin, no wounded spirit nor terrified conscious should induce us to despair comfort from God.
Today well lived...makes every tomorrow a vision of Hope.