BEYOND COPING - DIGNITY
The village girl, Anait, asked the Prince, who was traveling incognito, what his name was. He said, "Should I tell you the truth or a lie?" - "Whichever you think better matches your dignity," she responded.
Folk tale from Caucasus
On Friday evening just before Christmas I was in the bus full of dolled up young couples and groups going out, cheerfully chatting and laughing.
An unkempt older man tottered in, holding a cigarette in his raised hand. Sounding drunk, he loudly started asking one person after another for a light. Everyone silently turned their back to him. He persisted for a while, then slumped his body on the seat opposite to me, first swearing about not having a light, then talking loudly to the young girl sitting next to me and myself about our good looking knees.
I felt nauseated and very annoyed by the strong smell of alcohol and the stench emanating from his unwashed body and clothes. Same as the girl next to me and everyone else I turned away from him, towards the window, thinking in disgust, “Oh, here is sexual harassment, on top everything else! We need a policeman here, to get this drunkard out!.. But if I manage to convincingly fake how interested I am in the view out there, he should realize how insignificant he is to me and give up on talking to me.”
Staring meaninglessly at our pale reflections in the dark window, through which nothing could be seen, and focused on my pretense instead of on the drunk man, I realized that I felt off not only about his behavior, but also because I had judged everyone else for turning their back to him instead of telling him to stop being a nuisance. Worst of all, now I was doing exactly the same!
I had a hard time believing what I had caught myself in, but according to my father’s saying, “Life and mistakes are for learning - next time you’ll do better!”, which graciously saved me from being hard on myself, I took another, more honest look at the whole situation.
As I shifted beyond my insincere role play, I noticed that no more bad smell was coming my way. That was a sure sign I was healing some up till then unrecognised inner mental/emotional superiority stench too - like attracts like, no matter how much self-righteous perfume we might pour all over ourselves and our supposedly justified arrogance.
Feeling better for having opted for honesty instead of the usual worldly coping pretense (which I hated ever since I was a child, for having noticed that adults were unhappy because they did not live up to their inner truth, but hid it behind their mainly 'nice' social masks), I reminded myself of what I stood for - True Healing.
After having paid a high price for conflict in my life, steaming from the polarized ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ interpretation of each other’s ideas, feelings and behavior, since my midlife crisis in 1986 I searched for the all healing Truth.
I Knew naturally and with certainty that such integrative Truth can be found by holistic healing. The whole, healing Truth would include and transcend all the broken bits ofindividual and collective truths, by whose sharp edges one person can cut judgementally into another person's being.
The Whole Truth sets everyone free together by gently weaving the clashing individual perspectives into a win-win tapestry of peace. Such True Healing is a joint venture, reconciling the opponents who might have previously appeared to have been 'right' or 'wrong'.
Since the age of three I Knew Naturally, by my Whole Pristine Being, hence with absolute certainty, that I was going to find out how exactly to bring about that True Healing equally for all concerned.
As I reminded myself of that as my Life's Purpose, a deep calm spontaneously replaced the annoyance and anger that I had experienced for having joined in the collective, judgmental, ineffective, or even aggravating coping syndrome in this bus.
I reverted to what I had perceived from the very beginning of the drunk man’s show - his deeper truth would have been that he was desperately trying to get any attention, even negative, as the only thing he could aspire to on that Friday evening, other than drowning his loneliness in alcohol while other people were apparently happily going out together to Christmas parties (to drink quite a bit too).
I also recalled that where I am from, in former Yugoslavia, a man’s comments about nice women’s knees would have been considered a compliment rather than a sexual harassment, as it is in Australia. Being aware of such relativity of cultural value systems propelled me beyond them. I aligned myself wholly with the deeper, simpler human truth about the old man.
Finally able to look into his eyes, I noticed that they were blue and searching - like mine! From his eyes a feeling of our fellowship as Humans spread through my whole being, replacing my perception of him as an obnoxious drunk with simple, wholesome Knowingness of what to do.
Leaning towards him I touched his knee gently and said softly what I wished someone would have told him from the beginning, "I would appreciate it if you wouldn't speak so loudly. And you know that you are not allowed to smoke in the bus." He sat up, responded just as softly, "Oh, OK, sorry," put his cigarette into his shirt's pocket, and remained quiet. Now he kept looking at the dark window reflecting his own image.
Five minutes later, he looked at me, leaned towards me and barely touching my knee said warmly and softly, "You are a very good woman. God bless you!" I said, "Thanks, God bless you too." He stepped out of the bus, walking perfectly straight and centered, holding his head high.
I felt humbled and grateful for the experience. Joint Dignity takes but looking honestly beyond what meets the eye and beyond the usual social 'value' system. Then we can see and take the path to Peace, Beauty and Harmony - to Sustainability in all respects, human and environmental.
PS. The above text was originally in my folder articles. Since I find it inspiring, I have also put it into this folder inspiration.