Creating a World Free of Absolutes

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Personal Story

How often in our lives do we make decisions from a position of extremes?  Where did these extreme positions come from?  Are we born with them, or are they a learned trait?  I will not attempt to speak for the world in this, as this is a "Personal Story".  Instead I will speak from my own experiences.

An abusive Mother and an emotionally detached Father raised me in the early 1960's.  While she ranted and attacked, he detached, and the world shivered with fear of the impending Nuclear Crisis.  My 4 brothers’ and I played Army, Cowboys and Indians and tortured one another as brothers are want to do.  

I heard and I remembered... 

My Father, born in 1910, was a survivor of the Great Depression while my Mother, born in 1927 was shaped more by World War II.  Both had very extreme views on "those people" (Black, Asian, Jewish, etc) and their Religions, my Father was an ex Catholic and to his dying day detested the Church and embraced Evangelical Christianity; my Mother worshipped her illnesses and cursed God in what I believe was an attempt to get a rise out of Dad.  

Both held the extreme frugality of those raised in the times of want and rationing.  We boys had friends of varying skin tones and could have cared less what their religion was.  I recall being more interested in the latest bicycle or shiny bit of plastic than any intangible divinity that never answered my prayers.  

I heard and I remembered...  

As my Mother's illnesses progressed spurred on by here affinity for narcotics and depressants the family began to fracture.  Everyone seemed to withdraw into a safe space built up around themselves to avoid the drama.  We brother's never stopped loving one another, but we retreated to protect our sanity.  Or at least that is what I did.

I heard and I remembered...

The day before my 18th birthday I moved in with a 23-year-old woman I had met over the summer before my senior year.  I called my Father to inform him the morning of my Birthday and his only reaction was to ask me if I planned on finishing high school, which I did.  From that point on my life became a roller coaster of ups and downs; Married at 19, off to the Navy at 21, two children, a divorce, retired from the Navy, College, re-married and two more children.

I heard and I remembered and I acted...

My childhood was marked by extremes.  Most of the choices I have made over the years reflect my upbringing:  Abuse or apathy.  I now see how over the years I inflicted injuries (real or emotional) onto my self to continue my Mother's actions while simultaneously being detached to my own happiness in 'honor' of my Father.

Thanks to many patient people and gifted writers/teachers I have started to reflect on my life and to identify the places where I made choices which manifested the life I have lived based on the warped worldview of my childhood, a childhood colored in the shades my parents painted with.  But I do not fault them.  They did the best they could with the upbringing they were exposed to.

I now see thanks to these wonderful teachers and guides that we are 'educated' by the atmosphere in which we are raised.  We see and hear and are taught various views which we utilize as a basis for the world we manifest.  Abused as a child?  Then you are more likely to make decisions that 'abuse' yourself in the future.  Bad choices in relations, bad career choices, bad choices in friends are just a few of the symptoms.  Unemotional influences who were frugal in providing praise or affection?  Then you may refuse yourself the love of self that builds confidence and avoid opportunities for joy.

These are not my observations nor are they new.  Louise HayEmmett Fox Byron Katie, Eckhart Tolle and many others have brought this to my attention.  I have found solace in researching the philosophy of Stoicism and the writing of Marcus Aurelius.  All of these, at least for me, point to one single great truth:  

I heard, I remembered, I acted and I am responsible...  

If someone says a hurtful thing and it pains me, I am responsible.  I choose to be hurt, just as I choose to be happy.  No one can hurt me unless I allow it.  What about accidents, physical attacks, war and famine?  Surely those aren't my responsibility or choice.  Did I choose to be abused as a child?  

Although these things may not be avoidable, I can choose to move beyond them, or I can choose to languish in the 'poor me' mind set and continue to punish myself for others actions.  

I am reminded of a Buddhist Parable:

Once upon a time, long, long ago, there were 2 holy men traveling together through the countryside. They came upon a beautiful young woman sitting and sobbing by the side of a stream. She said she was afraid of drowning and asked them if they would help her cross to the other side of the water. Without saying a word, one of the monks picked up the girl and carried her to the other side of the stream where he gently put her down. She thanked him and went on her way. 

The two men then continued their journey. After a while, the monk said to the one who had carried the young woman, "How could you do such a thing? We have taken vows of chastity. It is forbidden to even talk to a woman let alone touch one." The other monk lovingly replied, "When I came to the other side of the stream, I put her down. Why are you still carrying her?"

So today I choose to put down the past and to walk forward in freedom.  I no longer have to live out the extremes of my childhood.  I no longer have to carry on the extreme actions of my parents.  Nor do I have to punish myself for my own extremes.  I am the best me I possibly can be right now, and that is all that matters.   

I heard, I remembered, I acted, I am responsible and I am aware...

I wish to give a personal thanks to Claudia Coniglio, my wife and partner in life, the one who teaches me the most on a daily basis what it means to live in love. 


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