September 25, 2015, Prescott- I spent the day with groups of students, in a couple of Band Rooms- one at Prescott High School, the other at Mile High Middle School. Supervising band, for someone who can barely read notes, is an interesting stretch of my exchequer. Two or three students lead the class, actually, and I am there mostly to maintain order. There are always a few who challenge the authority of whoever is leading the class. Today, however, I needed only remind the assemblage that it is the upcoming concert that matters, and not the whims of the moment. The young people set back to work.
Challenges to authority have always been the lot of the common man. They most always result from a disconnect between the aspirations of the worker and the “Big Picture” agenda of the overlord. So it is with our current crop of candidates for President, with their immediate predecessor and with the Pope of Rome. Seven billion souls are each going to see things differently from their neighbours, from their family members, and even from their former selves-or later selves, for that matter. Baha’u’llah states, with regard to a married couple, “Between them is a barrier, that they overpass not.” By this, He is referring to the DNA-rooted individuality of every soul who ever lived on this planet, and of every soul who will ever live.
I think of this, while pondering the current visit to the United States, by the philosopher king formerly known as Jorge Bergoglio. Pope Francis I is astride two worlds, and receives advice and criticism from those in each world, and from those who regard themselves as living in neither. On the one hand, he seeks to define humaneness as ‘seeing each and every person as a true human being, an individual worthy of respect.’ On the other hand, he, along with every other man who is in a position of sectarian authority- with the possible exception of the Archbishop of Canterbury, sets limits on 50 % of the populace. Women are given only a certain place in the papal firmament- and there is, to his mind, to be no deviation.
Everyone of us has a duality about us. We have higher aspirations, most of which have to do with doing right by other people, and by the environment in which we live. Then, there is the “Me” factor. Self-preservation is a constant weight on our upwardly-springing feet. From time immemorial, this self-centeredness has been given a countenance: The demon. Putting a face on something, especially on a vile something, separates it from us. We go to great lengths to lengthen this distance- with talk of Satan walking the Earth and infesting the minds of the wayward.
In the end, though, it falls to the individual to rescue him/herself. The only one who can take me out of my lower nature is yours truly. The only one who can overcome the deeply-ingrained senses of racism, sexism, class prejudice and nativism that infest so many, is the person who is weighed down by them. Others can only stand aside and criticize, point fingers, or turn their faces away in disgust. They may also offer constructive criticism, which is welcomed by any sincere soul. The change, however, comes from within.
As Krishna is credited with saying: “Point a finger at another, and, behold three fingers pointing back at you!” Godspeed to Senor Bergoglio, and to all who seek a better world. Let them continue to push away the weight that ties them down.