Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Tolerance and Pity, oh my

A few weeks ago I reacted strongly to a statement made by someone in my spiritual discussion group. As I am still stewing and chewing, I thought it best to explore why two words can set my blood a boil. The two offending words, "tolerance" and "pity." As a writer I am amazed at the power words have, they initiate world movements, hurt and also heal. I started to play around in the dictionary, flipping the pages with my self righteous indignation. How can someone say they pity another? Yes, she said that she pitied the other sick people out there. It may seem harmless and possibly even compassionate, but pity seems to be a feeling that is removed from the object or person to which it is directed. If I pity you, I am in effect in a better position than you, maybe I am not as sick as you so feel pity for your condition.  The same goes with tolerance, it suggests a separation between tolerator and toleratee (not exactly a word but stay with me here.) The Bhagavad Gita says, "They live in wisdom who see themselves in all and all in them, who have renounced every selfish desire and sense craving tormenting the heart" (2: 55). I am the person I pity, I tolerate or I anger toward. I am that woman who pities others, I am the woman who feels anger at the use of a condescending word. Now what to do with it? Do I have to be right? Well, kind of, but then if I were to say, go to God and just ask for a little, what, empathy? We are all connected. I see in others, I react to the things others do and say, things that I still have inside. My reaction tells me that I need to look at my own life, my own spiritual practice and see where I have been sliding. Have I been meditating? No. Journaling? No. Today freezing rains pelts the Berkshires and I am tucked safely in my apartment, a fire in the fireplace, teenager listening to music, quiet music, and all is well. I can take this time, this time without the hustle of my busy overfilled life and quiet down, breathe and pray. I can journal and maybe even meditate, the very things that bring balance and serenity back in. I can feel empathy, and I can let go of something said over fourteen days ago. Maybe. Progress not perfection right?

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