When I was 15 years old, at an Outward Bound school, there was a very simple lesson about community. We were sitting in a place we called "The logs." It was four trees laying on their side that formed a square. In the center were a stick and a log, laying on the ground. One of the teachers asked us to pick up the stick, which we easily did. We were then asked, one by one to pick up the log and carry it out of the square. Quickly we realized that wasn't going to happen, and it didn't. Then we were invited to do it as a team. Voilà! Quickly, and with zero difficulties it was done.
The teachers Chief Vicki and Chief Greg explained that whether we're hiking, whitewater rafting, or climbing mountains, there are going to be a lot of things that we can easily do on our own. At the same time, there are other things we had to be able to be humble enough to admit, that we needed each other. It didn't always matter whether we liked or loved each other "Perfectly." At certain critical points, we had to put principles before personality, be there to lend support to each other, to complete what needed to be done safely. There was also the awareness that no matter what, everyone got to complete the task... and we did it together, as a point of honor, mutual respect, and integrity. That point became super clear for me, when I was hanging off of a 250-foot cliff-face, scared as all-get-out, panicking cause I lost my footing. It was my friends that got me through it. That experience strengthen my connection to my friends, turned out to be an unexpected moment of bonding, and influenced how I related to the word trust, cause they didn't just let go of the rope.
What as a teenager was described as a "Team," was what I've come to know as Sangha... community... groupism... applied, lived, and practiced is a spiritual principle, reflecting healthy or friendly association. I've been incredibly fortunate to experience it not just in Outward Bound, but on baseball and soccer teams, Recovery fellowships, Buddhist meditation practice communities, and honestly as an American. And as an American, the place where I was fortunate to see and experience it in a very unique way was standing in the middle of Arlington National Cemetery.
At the top of a hill there's a house, surrounded by literally thousands of headstones marking places where soldiers are laid, to defend the principle of not just democracy, but freedom... and they used their bodies to do it, not just for themselves... but all of us. Whether we can comprehend it or not... we are the beneficiary of their efforts, as a form of inheritance, which we share. That house belonged to the confederate general, Robert E. Lee. One of the points of the cemetery surrounding the house is an obvious lesson. When we fight and struggle against each other, the cost and consequence are endless rows and miles of suffering. It's better to sit down, work and reason things out as a team... and support each other than be driven and pushed by misguided ideas that don't honor our true strength... our ability to Love. This sadly is a lesson that's been lost. Each of us could be invited to walk within the ocean of grass and stone, gazing at the sacrifice we have made to have our way of life. That is no small thing. While sharing this story could appear random... my sharing it is surely not.
The other morning... 12:36AM I got a call. It was my ex-wife calling about Bear. As soon as I heard the word Bear, I was terrified. My reactive thought registering, still fuzzy was the words, "Airport... get there." As she went on, she told me about someone's breaking into Bear's vehicle while he and his friends were bowling. I was kinda relieved. Then it was, the police were called, the truck tossed, and the thieves got away with the 6 kids' backpacks that had computers, and many other things reflecting the lives of teenagers that mean everything to them. Difficult! Discouraging! Anxiety and anger-provoking! And for me... powerlessness that I could not magically fix the scenario, back to the way it was before the robbery. I don't know if that's codependency, being a parent, or being a human being. It is as it is. I'm not interested in drilling down on that one.
Needless to say, I knew I could get Bear a new computer. I actually keep a spare machine locked in my office, in the event my primary device breaks. But the 5 other ones. It was way too much freight to carry, and some of the things are truly not replaceable, like one child... Issac's violin was made in 1910. I was told he was literally hyperventilating and passed out, he was so distraught. Recognizing they had to be in school Monday morning, optionally without the things they needed, I wanted to do something to help them. This was especially because, I was responsible for having the 3rd party alarm system to the vehicle installed, thought and felt terrible.
I posted a request for help to people that know me, kinda sending up a flair of distress, to help the kids. And what has happened as a result? People reach back for the kids. I can't, but we can.
Very very very real. It's humbling... and grounding... to re-experience the lesson learned on "The logs," as a teenager. Team is everything to me. It's a part of the foundation of who I am as a person. It's not just how I see myself surviving, but all of us. We really need each other, whether moments are ugly or not. It's a significant part of what makes us human. We can rise above circumstances, manifesting things not already in existence to meet a task or mission that helps improve a circumstance. Though as a monk, and priest my interactions with people are really describable or quantifiable... I am deeply appreciative of them because though people see me as helping so many when I need help, people respond. Nine Bows of appreciation for that.
Please takeaways the lessons as you will, from my journal. They're my personal points of reflection.
--Dignity and Grace