Sunday, November 27, 2011

Those Were the Days: What it Means to be Human

I just saw what I think is a very clever commercial from Nando’s restaurants in South Africa. You can check out the link but in summary it has several dead dictators playing like kids to the tune of “Those were the days”. I won’t spoil the punch line. Now, I know some will think the video tasteless and perhaps making light of wrongs doings but I ask you to see the other message. Okay, the other “other” message — the one that is not funny and not tasteless. That is, the message that says regardless of the evil committed, a part of our humanity remains intact.

To be human means many things but it includes feeling sad, lonely, fearful and angry as well as the lighter sensations of joy, desire, playfulness and contentment. These feelings may be hidden behind layers of selfishness or cruelty but they are there, however untouched; however unexpressed. Those emotions are part of our humanity.

Every dictator was once a child. They were once a little baby, a new born with only curiosity and innocence to accompany them as they started walking the path of life. Who really knows what makes humans turn against their fellow beings in cruelty and cold-heartedness? What percentage is genetic? How much does the environment factor in? Or depending on your belief system is it part of a spiritual lesson? I don’t have the answers but I do know that everyone was once a baby: naive, curious and innocent. To be human is to recognize that we never lose that childlike essence, however hidden; however denied.

The video reminded me of an energy session I gave to a man in detox about ten years ago. I knew of this man, let’s call him “John”, or at least had heard of him, from his girlfriend, “Mary”. Mary had been a regular in several of the other agencies in which I worked. Through these sessions I heard stories of abuse at the hands of John. I also heard how she loved him and would never leave. Unfortunately, Mary died from complications of a fall… perhaps a push. John was suspected but never charged. About a month after she died, John applied for detox and appeared on my massage table.

It was almost more than I could handle having John in the room. He talked a lot of Mary: of his love for her and how sad he was that she was gone. Although he never mentioned his own failings, in fact, just the opposite, his grief was real; his misery complete. As a practitioner, I knew I had to do something to be present in that room for his humanity. The only thing I could think of was reminding myself how John was once an innocent babe. Connecting with that thought allowed me to see him in another light. I don’t know why or how he became the man he was, but at that moment it was unimportant. It was a small child, a child who lives within each and every one of us, who was reaching out. It was to him I offered compassion.

I never saw John again after that session so I don’t know if my attempt at open heartedness was helpful but I like to think it was. Maybe, just maybe, having that part of himself seen and heard helped him grow. Then again, maybe it didn’t. All I really know is that opening my heart helped me grow.

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