Thursday, May 6, 2010

Made for Goodness

I am amazed and saddened at how restless I am for what I do not have. There is so much around me which speaks to what I do have and yet I sit in my swing with coffee and as I watch Kai run around I see a bit of myself in him. When I am playing with him he is entirely focused on my arm - actually, the ball in my hand at the end of my arm. His eyes never leave that ball. His muscles are tight, his body slightly crouched so that he can leap in any direction and his eyes flick back and forth between my eyes and that ball - trying to read me - is he throwing it into the pasture or into the yard?

But when I am not throwing the ball he goes to plan "b" which is his stick collection. The swing sits under a huge tree facing the pasture and about 20 feet from the swing, next to the bon-fire pit Kai circles his collection of large sticks. He goes into the forest to find new ones almost every day, he will be gone for 10 minutes and then come prancing back into the yard with a stick in his mouth twice his length; balancing it by biting it in the center and carying it like a trapeze artist with the two ends jutting out six feet on either side of his black, silly, determined face. My friends are amazed at how big the saplings are that he considers "a stick" with which to play. He likes a challenge.

So as I sit in my swing, I watch him running from one stick to another. Pick up one, shake it, chew it, drop it, chew it a bit more, see another stick out of the corner of his eye, leave the one stick, get the next stick, shake it like a dead bird, parade it around the yard to the tune of "We are the Champions" or the Olympic theme, only to start the whole process again.

Though I laugh at his scattered greed, I silently note that I see the same thing in myself. I have one thing and want another. The wanting of the other makes me unable to see and be grateful for the thing I have; be it as small as the desire for corned beef hash when all I have in the house is fresh eggs, still warm from chicken-buts or be it large, like wanting a new friend when I am barely keeping my current friendships fed and watered with time and presence, love an affection.

In Desmond Tutu's life-changing new little book "Made for Goodness" - a book which has forever changed my life - he and his daughter Mpho note that we humans are made for goodness and that our choosing of greed and envy and lust and any other non-good thing is simply that - a choice. He argues that though we are not perfect, we are on a trajectory for choosing more and more good and less and less evils. And he acknowledges that this transformation is hard, internal work which many are simply unwilling to do for how scary and seemingly limiting it can feel.

But I so want to see - really see - what I have, and be so grateful for it -even in its imperfections. I want to be peaceful with what I have been given by God's grace, willing to hold on to it and thank God for it rather than simply drop it and run to some other thing - some new and enticing anesthesis for life's pain.

Tutu says this:

“The goal of human life is not to wring the greatest personal pleasure out of every moment. The goal of human life is to live beyond the small, narrow prison of our own cares, wants and worries. By learning to choose what is good and right ... in choosing what is good and right, we give ourselves the keys to true freedom." (p. 76)

The art of life's pain is not pulling away from it or making a fast change to somehow duck out from under it - we are trained to react to physical pain this way - but internal pain needs to be held, and rocked and sat with and even loved into healing.

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