Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Gumption

On Friday evening, I had just missed the bus on the third segment of my daily commute and the next one wasn't due for thirty minutes, so I decided to walk the ten minutes back to the townhouse I live in.

The road, Powell, is a two lane major highway that is heavily trafficked. Unfortunately, there are no sidewalks, so this meant walking along the road and sometimes on the muddy ground next to the road. My back was to the cars, as I walked the same side of the street as cars going in the same direction I was heading.

At one point, I heard something shatter on the pavement. When I saw that it was a block of ice, I looked to see where it came from. On the street on my left, a pick-up truck had stopped (which is dangerous to do when there's no turn lane, stop sign, or traffic light). Another block of ice was thrown my way and missed. The truck sped off like the cowards that they are. I wasn't hit at all, which prompted me to immediately thank my daimon spirit guide (or "guardian angel" in common parlance). I believe that I'm well protected, as I have witnessed this time and time again in dangerous situations I've been in. Even though I wasn't hit, I was stunned that someone would stop driving down the road to throw blocks of ice at a pedestrian. I did nothing to deserve such treatment. I was simply trying to get home sooner than waiting for the bus. In my hands, I was carrying a plastic container I had just bought at Target, with the other stuff I bought inside the container. I did not want to make that walk, but I didn't want to wait 30 minutes when it only takes ten minutes to walk that stretch of road.

I decided to post my experience on Facebook and I was stunned when a church member friend of my family back in Georgia seemed to blame me for "attracting" this treatment by "rednecks" in pick up trucks. The one complaint I have about where I live is that it is in a very low class neighbourhood. There are pockets of nice homes, surrounded by the cliche of redneck living (run down homes, rusted old cars serving as lawn ornaments, people with missing teeth, tattered clothing, ignorant speech, the smell of cigarette smoke everywhere). This is a cultural shock to me from downtown Portland. Its like stepping into a world inhabited by Jerry Springer guests!

Anyhow, the family friend has come to believe in Law of Attraction and wanted me to see the possibility that my subconscious might have attracted the very type of person I dislike (its true that I have never liked rednecks and ignorant people. Why would I? They have been very abusive to not only me or my brother, but to anyone who is not as ignorant and pasty white as they are). While I believe in Law of Attraction, I don't believe that everything that happens to a person is a reflection of some subconscious attraction. We still live in a world of free will and people aren't just playing roles by some hidden hand. Had I waited for the bus, would this event have even happened? What is my take-home lesson of this event? I'm not sure, but my feeling after it happened was that I feel sorry for those individuals in the pick up truck who must be hating life so much that they have to seek out convenient scapegoats to inflict their pain upon. I actually even felt strong enough about the situation to pray for them.

A debate ensued on Facebook, with my friends coming to my defense, which truly warmed my heart. I have great friends who stick up for me and I appreciate it. One thing that I learned about this church lady friend of my family a decade ago is that she has shown herself not to be a true friend to me. When I was in a dark time during the end of my internship in D.C. and working in a job I hated, she never displayed any empathy for me but seemed to prefer to blame me for whatever was wrong in my life, which shocked me because I was the empathetic ear for her when she complained about her ex-husband and the divorce in the late 1990s. I felt like I was only used for my empathy and she couldn't bother to return the favour when I needed a sympathetic friend. So, I moved on to other friends and moved away, not keeping in touch with her like I do with the friends I've come to cherish over the years.

What is a true friend? Well, part of friendship to me is loyalty. This doesn't mean that I agree with my friends on every opinion or issue or that I would be blind if they did something that brought problems upon themselves. I'll give an honest opinion if they want it. However, I view friendships as sacred that I would never blame my friends when something bad happens to them. I would never claim to know that their soul must have "invited" that experience. Perhaps it might be true or it might not. We really don't know for certain, so its best to just be the sympathetic comforter that people expect their friends to be during such moments. This lady proved once again that she is not a true friend. It was just one more opportunity to impose her spiritual beliefs on me, which is a continuous pattern that I have noticed.

I had met this lady in 1996, when I was shortly out of the Navy. My parents had invited her along with her children and parents over to eat at our house. Somehow, I had mentioned that I did not believe that Satan existed (we were probably talking about the previous fall's church retreat where some church members blamed a ferocious storm on Satan while I saw the storm as a force of nature that simply awed me with its power). Later, perhaps a few days or weeks afterwards, I had received a lengthy letter from this lady trying to convince me why Satan exists! I laughed when I finished reading the letter because I was stunned by the amount of time she took away from her parental responsibilities to write a lengthy letter to a guy she just met and trying to convince me that SATAN exists! What was wrong with that picture?!? I love my mom's viewpoint on Satan: "When you focus on God, your back is turned to Satan." The point is that if you only focus on God, who cares if Satan exists or not?

In 2001, when I tried to share details of the incredible spiritual experience I had and the past life experiences that correlated to my current life, she was dismissive of it because reincarnation was not possible. Even though I was not convinced of reincarnation until 1998, I was always open to the idea of it being true since I was in elementary school. The subject intrigued me enough to read up on it and ponder the possibilities. The shocker of shockers is that this lady now believes in reincarnation! After trying to discount my amazing spiritual experience in 2001! I bet she doesn't even believe in Satan anymore either.

Now, she claims to be an expert on Law of Attraction, to the point where she feels she has the right to give me "spiritual advice" about my personal experiences! Imagine the audacity of it all. The truth is, though, that she does not know me well enough to qualify as credible, especially when I know details about her life, which I believe she should focus on rather than trying to fix what she thinks does not work in my own life. I think I have a better success rate at manifesting the things I've wanted to experience in life than she does, so she's in no place to offer unsolicited spiritual advice. Its even more incredulous that she would offer spiritual advice to a person whose spiritual views she has come to believe as her own through her own spiritual development. In a spiritual sense, we agree on much but in a friendship sense, I have a hard time thinking of her as a true friend. Here's why...

With me, I don't require friends to believe the same as me. I actually like having a diverse group of friends who believe different things. What I don't like, though, are ideologues / fanatics. I used to think that I had a great diverse group of friends, but a trip to Utah in 2007 to visit three of my Mormon friends and to visit my alma mater for the first time since I left the school for the Washington Seminar, I learned otherwise. Even though my Mormon friends really believe that their church is true and we disagree on the church history due to our different heritage, the books I saw on the shelves of all three of my friends houses revealled similar tastes in literature and subject matter. Though we might be different spiritually, we still value education, tolerance, progressive politics, and living a quality life. That means we are in the same "class", what some social scientists call "the creative class" or "the educated class." None of my friends, for instance, find someone like Glenn Beck credible on anything, yet this lady does. I consider it a "cultural divide" that is unlikely to be bridged. Thus, it gave me great pleasure when one of my Mormon friends actually defended me from this lady's view that I had subconsciously invited rednecks to throw blocks of ice at me. Imagine that...a Mormon is defending me against a fellow Community of Christ member! I love this irony.

Another shock was that one of my favourite cousins defended me as well. Her father is the black sheep of the family (with his Republican, fundamentalist Christian views). My mom thinks of my dad's brother as a real life version of Clark Griswold's redneck brother in Christmas Vacation. Its funny to hear my mom point that out when we had watched that movie. That this guy's daughter could grow up under his oppressive and strict religious rules (he banned any movie that featured anything that contained horns, because it signified Satan. This meant that a film like Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was out because of Darth Maul, who was in the film for all of what, ten minutes?) and grow into this liberal, tolerant, open minded person just amazes me. Since she lives around rednecks in the Midwest, she sees the hate and violence that these people inflict on any person who happens onto their turf.

When I attended church on Sunday, the evangelist shared an experience he had last summer. He's an African American convert to the church and just an awesome guy. He shared that he was riding his bicycle on a beautiful summer day and just loving life when he felt something hit him. It was a Big Gulp cup filled with some kind of drink. The car drove past him and someone had leaned out the window and called him the "N-word." He said that his first reaction was that he didn't do anything to deserve that treatment. So he began to wonder what it says about a person who would do such a thing to a random stranger.

I was stunned to hear him share that experience just two days after having the same experience! I'm not the only one! But I was walking at 9:30 at night. It was interesting that we had the same thoughts after it happened. Most importantly, though, he was loving life and enjoying a beautiful day and riding a bicycle when this ugliness happened. When I was walking down Powell street on Friday night, my thoughts were on the ideas presented in the book that I'm reading: Beyond the Secret, which is a more spiritually accurate book written in response to the shallow materialism of The Secret. In fact, this book even states that you cannot attribute every event to being a Law of Attraction event, because we still live in a world of diversity and there are evil people who target anyone convenient or vulnerable. Its typical of conservatives, though, to "blame the victim." If you got shot, its your fault. If someone hates you, you must have done something to deserve it.

The point of this post is not to villainize someone (because despite this heated difference of opinion and my strong dislike for unsolicited advice from unqualified people, I think of this lady as "church family" with some interesting experiences in her own right) but to share my experience and thoughts about the kind of disrespect I received from a person who has no right to judge my spiritual views in regards to my own life. I am a better interpreter of my experience than this person would be, because I haven't really shared my life with her in the past decade as I have with people I consider my genuine and loyal friends. I've stated before and many of my friends understand this, I consider myself to be a true life Forrest Gump. What I love about that film and character is that he might be a simple man, but he has lived an extraordinary life that most people don't live. I'm reminded all the time that I'm no one important, yet my life experiences have taken me on board a submarine and an aircraft carrier, all over Europe, to South Africa and Asia, inside the White House and the U.S. Capitol building, meeting many of the famous people I've been wanting to meet, and becoming friends with some of the most awesome people ever. I have no complaints. I must be doing something right with my life to experience everything that I have.

The word "gumption" is defined as: "initiative, resourcefulness, courage, spunk, guts, common sense, shrewdness." I'll take it. I'll live the life I choose in the manner I see fit and people who want to second-guess and blame for the ugliness other people display, well go on ahead. If people focused on what they want their life to look like instead of worrying about other people's life experiences, they too will have amazing life experiences. I'm not willing to trade lives because I think I got a good deal going on.

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