This morning, sitting in church with my arm around my wife, I felt her stiffen up and begin looking nervous. I bent my head to her ear and asked; “What’s wrong?” “Wasp!” was her reply. I looked at the window behind us and there was the feared insect. My wife is allergic to any kind of sting and we did not have her Epi-pen. We hoped it would stay there and turned our attention back to the preacher. A few moments later the insect flew between us and landed on the top of a pew about 10 feet away. The woman sitting in front of us and directly behind the wasp saw it, took out a hymnal, and; “Whack!” No more bug, no more danger. We both breathed a sigh of relief.
Reflecting on the wasp’s last flight I am reminded that no matter the place or the time there is always and everywhere a danger lurking. Maybe it’s a sense of unworthiness, a reminder of a loved one gone too soon, a habit, a hurt, a hangup. We must be aware and empowered realizing we are not helpless. There is a difference between living life scared and living it vigilantly. Freedom comes from knowing your enemy not from having no enemies. The difference makes all the difference.
I was talking with a friend this week about the different masks we wear when we go different places. There’s a work mask, family mask, friend mask, public mask, and somewhere, often buried deep is our true authentic ourselves. The problem is that we become so accustomed to wearing masks we never take one off for too long or risk showing the world who we are under all the fantasy. The conversation continued and we wondered if any of the illusions we create could eventually lead us to allow others to see the genuine person.
The conversation continued and we wondered if any of the illusions we create could eventually lead us to allow others to see the genuine person. We are so accustomed to hiding the “real” us, the person we think people won’t like, that wearing masks become our default and our defense.
The question becomes how do we break free of this habit of wearing masks? Overcome the fear of our authentic selves not being good enough? How do we begin to discover who we are when concealing our true identity has been our goal for most of our life? This is the reason we are here now, the journey we are meant to travel, the discovery, not of a lifetime, but of life.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes
but in having new eyes.”
Stench of Death –
Earlier this week we had a visitor. I was getting ready for bed and was walking into the kitchen for something to drink. As I did a little furry rodent ran in front of me. I chased it into the reading room but by the time I flipped the light switch on it had vanished. Usually, mice aren’t a problem as the days get warmer and we’ve had an unusually warm winter so they’ve been few and far between. I set up a couple of traps and waited.
To my surprise, I didn’t catch one but four of them in less than 24 hours. Now, 5 days later, there’s no sign of mice anywhere. To dispose of them I used plastic store bags, tying them as air tight as I could get them and threw it into the kitchen waste basket. We’ve had a busy week and the trash can didn’t fill up as fast as it usually does. I forgot about the mice until we got back home from church today and there was a stench, a smell that made our noses crinkle and our eyes water. It was then I remembered the deceased creatures in our trash. I took the bag outside, sprayed Lysol in the can, replaced the bag and lit a scented candle.
It was a smelly and good lesson on dead things in our life. Whether it’s a relationship, a job, a habit, a hurt or a hangup if we don’t take care of things which will bring death to our physical, emotional or spiritual lives we will end with a stench surrounding us. Through self-awareness and spiritual guidance, we can identify the decay, clean it out of our lives and not be haunted any longer.
What We Know –
Wisdom begins when we realize we know nothing.
Philosophers tell us that everything changes, doesn’t stay the same. Mountains wear down, skies fall, mighty trees topple and the greatest among people are but a wisp of wind, sound, and fury signifying nothing.
Reducing our ego is one of the hardest wisdom disciplines. One of my favorite wisdom proverbs says; “Take compliments and criticisms with equal value.” Too often we believe the good and ignore the not so good. It’s easy to focus on what others like about us. We wrap ourselves in the words of friends, families, even those whose positivity drips off their tongue like poison, people who see us mere objects to use to further their objectives. Ego builds us up only to be pulled out from under us by someone with a bigger, stronger ego. We fight back and when one take on another, no one wins and out of control egos only destroy never heal.
Humility is wisdom’s greatest and most difficult lesson. Saying; “No” to puffery and stroking; “Yes” to a self-awareness that leads us to a place where our egos are not bruised, or quickly heal, from a careless word, a selfish act, a purposeful plan to defame, defraud, demolish. Wisdom tells us; “Smaller egos take less time to heal because the wound isn’t as big.”
Socrates once said; “There is true joy (bliss) when we realize we know, and are, nothing.”
I was talking with someone the other day and we were trying to come to grips with a few issues which needed to be addressed so this person could move forward in life. We wanted to learn from his past but not be chained to it. One of the questions I asked was; “Who, if anyone, can criticize you?” The question hung in the air. I continued; “If we aren’t capable of receiving information about areas of our lives in which we need to improve we will never grow beyond our perception of ourselves.”
Being critical of ourselves, allowing others to shed light on dark, perhaps unexplored places, of who we are isn’t easy. I’m not sure anyone enjoys receiving an insight from someone else that isn’t flattering or realizing for ourselves we have a long way to go and grow, in multiple areas of life.
Wisdom teaches us that perfection isn’t ours for the taking but progression is a possibility. To progress, however, we must be vulnerable to the perception of weakness, habit, hurt or hang-up in ourselves and possess the willingness to accept it and begin to change.
Yesterday, I arrived home to find a flock of Turkey Buzzards (or Turkey Vultures) inhabiting my front yard and circling overhead. Immediately I knew there was something dead nearby and the scavengers had found their afternoon meal. Luckily for me, not for the animal, it had been hit by a vehicle across the street.
Pulling into my driveway I sounded my truck horn to try to get the birds to scatter but apart from a few of them fluttering their wings I was mostly ignored. After parking I tried shooing them away by yelling and exaggerated posturing but they remained unconcerned. Their attention was on the meal being served not the crazy man making strange noises and acting even stranger. I gave up and went inside but every so often I would hear a driver honk their vehicle’s horn, rev the engine, threatening to run them over but the birds weren’t leaving until their appetite was satisfied.
Later I reflected upon the birds and the sign they were to me that something rotten was nearby. I wondered if, when we had an unpleasant habit, a putrid attitude, a relationship that was dying, a miserable personality, it would be helpful if a flock of menacing fowl would begin to follow us around. We’d be alerted and understand that the birds would only leave when what’s attracted them is removed.
Unfortunately, too often we’re the ones indulging, gorging ourselves on our cravings, rotten prejudices, stuffed egos, slanderous words, harmful actions, bitterness and self-pity.
Wisdom teaches us that self-awareness and humility are what keep us from becoming prey to, and becoming one of, the scavengers which seek to feast on our souls.