Confident, yet educable

My first love was a jazz musician, and one Christmas when I was home from college I asked him to teach me his piano method, which allowed you to play from chord symbols, assigning the root, the third, the melody note and the fifth to different hands.

We went through our first lesson, and at the end he asked, "Are you sure you've got it?" I replied, looking at him askance, "Excuse me, I'm a national merit scholar, and this isn't rocket science."

Of course, the next week when he came back to check on my progress, I'd gotten the third and the fifth in the wrong hands -- and to this day I can't remember which goes in which hand. It was the first of a lifetime of teaching moments: it seems that whenever I assume I know something -- those are the times when I end up falling flat on my face.

How can we have the courage of our convictions and yet remain open and educable? Mother Teresa tells us "It is your duty and mine to speak the truth." But what IS truth? And is what is true for me necessarily true for you? Will what is true for me today still be true tomorrow?

As I age I am more and more aware that my convictions can be challenged, and challenged effectively; that there are things I KNOW that in fact I must unlearn; it makes me uncomfortable and even anxious about ever making any kind of statement -- and yet, even as I question myself, I am more confident now than I was when I was younger.

So I loved what I read in Peterson's Run With the Horses this morning: "There are frenzied efforts in our culture to salvage ruined self-esteem by bolstering people with reassurance and affirmation, by telling them that they are terrific, that they are number one, and that they had better treat themselves to a good time. But the result is not larger persons but smaller ones -- pygmy egos.

How can we become important without becoming self-important; confident without being arrogant, dignified without looking ridiculous

I think the only possible answer is that we need to be constantly aware that the world, that life, that truth is something way larger than we can ever fully comprehend.  We need to understand that our perspective is vital and unique, but not the only perspective; that there is a larger Divine unity that is capable of embracing both my truth and yours, even if they appear initially to be opposite.

In the face of all the vituperation that passes for truth these days, it seems doubly important that those of us who can find a way to stand with confidence in this middle place must speak up, must refuse to spread hate, must deepen the meditative process that gives us strength to continue standing here. 

It reminds me again of the circumstances Yeats described in his poem, The Second Coming:

"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity."

I wish I could believe with him that

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand."


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