Tuesday, August 30, 2016

My Five Commandments

I know from working with elementary-aged children that no one can keep more than five rules in their head at one time.

Although these are inspired by Gretchen Rubin's Twelve Commandments in her happiness project, I've settled on five that feel right to me. Number 1, 3 and 4 are loosely based on my "Discipline, Empathy and Grace" mantra.

1. Wake up early.

2. Words have meaning.

3. Walk a mile.

4. Look up!

5. Change the backdrop.

Each one of the above strikes me as simple and deep enough to remain resonant. The first is pretty self-explanatory; the second, "words have meaning," is the thing that gets me up each morning. So much evil is rooted in intentionally ambiguous language.

My evolving idea of the sacred includes, first and foremost, a reverence for language. It cannot solve the world's problems. It cannot say even what we most need it to say. But it is the best tool we have, and the more we can agree on the meanings of words, the more we can be speak and be understood.

My third commandment, walking a mile, is a reminder to exercise - literally at the very least walk a mile each day. But also, to walk a mile in another's shoes. I'm working on a blog post right now about queer #BlackLivesMatter leader Patrisse Cullors that will be richer for more time taken. The more distant someone's experience is from mine, the more reading required.

Look up! "When I look down, I just miss all the good stuff / when I look up, I just trip over things." That's Ani DiFranco, on the terrible application of opportunity cost in life choices. For my part, I intend that "look up!" encompass both catching all the good stuff and paying attention well enough that I'm not tripping over things. There's magic in a well-placed exclamation point.

This week is a good reminder that my travel radius has gotten shorter. Walking a mile in another's shoes is easier when you "change the backdrop," by traveling outside of your comfort zone. When I hear podcasts about the Syrian refugee crisis in Greece, my empathy is awakened more because I visited the Temple of Olympus, beside the former psychiatric asylum that is now a refugee camp. Travel and exposure lead to increased empathy and understanding, if you're paying attention.

It's been fifteen years since I was in Greece. It was another lifetime for me, and for that country. I suppose the devoutly religious see change of that magnitude and cling to their religion as comfort.

I see it and say, I need to get out more. There's a lot of work to be done.

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