Monday, March 8, 2010

Monday Meditation: Caras y Corazones

Verne has a mullet. He’s rather unkempt and his teeth are, to be polite, not what you’d see on your local othodontist’s office posters. His clothes might best be described as threadbare. He sports an extensive tattoo collection on his forearms that you would hesitate to call art. He drives an old, yet pristine Trans Am with a bumper sticker that makes clear his support for the Second Amendment. He talks with a drawl that suggests a childhood below the Mason Dixon line. He does not use big words. He smells like wood and gasoline, and his fingernails are more dirty than clean. He’s married an eastern European woman nearly 10 years his junior. She came to the country illegally.

In your head, thanks to my description, you have an image of this man and, with that, certain attitudes about how he acts, what he believes, and the likelihood that you would associate with him on any personal level if you had the choice. If you were alone and saw him on the street, you might avoid him. You might say hello if you next to him in line at the store (we all like to think we’re at least that polite), but conversation might not go very far beyond that. If you saw him changing a tire in a parking lot, you might not offer to help and, if the reverse were true, you might refuse it if it were offered. You would have these preconceptions and perhaps others, and many would be valid because, whether we like to admit it or not, such judgments are part of our survival mechanism. If you acted on these judgments, as many of us would, you would be following instinct. In following our instinct, however we would become blind to the more complex truth of who Verne is.

Verne is the father of two young boys. They are well-adjusted, and very clearly love their father. He works long hours and is sometimes gone overnight. Even so, he always makes time for his children. He takes them hunting and fishing with him, and plays catch and tag with them while they’re waiting for the bus. He treats his wife (whose name I never determined) with respect and is unflinching in his commitment to helping someone who needs it. Without spending undo time sharing how I came to meet Verne, suffice it to say he is a good example of the Spanish proverb Caras vemos, corazones no sabemos (Faces we can see, hearts we don't know).

I’m meditating on this proverb today for two reasons. First, I caught myself in a moment of judgment and was reminded that I must always be on guard to avoid allowing such instinctive behavior to get in the way of knowing people as people. Second, I caught myself initially resisting (perhaps out of fear) an interaction with Verne. I forgot that, in order to know people as people, I need to let go of my sense of self and instead focus simply on the question, “How can I be of service?” This question is bound in the thought that the very nature of a human being is complete and unadulterated. When I remember to approach my interactions with other people as though they are pure in essence, I am much more able to see beyond the surface, to the truth of who they are.

“We prefer humility in others -- and if we prefer it in others -- we can also prefer it in ourselves.”

Buddhist Axiom

1 comment:

the passionate hairdresser said...

I just had a similar conversation with a friend on facebook....about how I really can't walk up to someone any more and tell them what I think about their conduct in public...I feel I have to look at everyone as a potential client, so I cannot turn my nose up at anyone...yet sometimes, it still happens & I catch myself. Sigh...