tl;dr!? As the sun turns us through another Holiday Season, take time to welcome, entertain, and even be grateful for all connections to others — the good, the bad, and the ugly. We’re only human.
The poem ‘The Guest House’ by Rumi, encourages us to be kind to our “guests” and we are all our guests and we are all in a mood. Look inward. Short-term VRBO renters can blow through absolutely delighted and in love with the sub-optimal digs and accommodations in the morning only to be replaced in the afternoon by the long-term rent-free tenants who disregard any attempt at eviction and show up when we most need them to stay away, stay in, and stay repressed. Rumi tells us: ‘welcome them all regardless!’ Oh, it’s a mood.
That belly-button is deep. That belly button is human. That belly button is me and all my alternate
Today in the run-up to the annual groupthink holiday we call Thanksgiving — at table we are thankful for everything but politics or religion — I think back to the holiday tables of my youth which were different. The oldest and most revered attendees held forth with their own views on politics AND religion and it was, well, it was educational entertainment.
Old hearing aids were like big ear buds. Powered by a battery pack which many women attached to their brassieres, the white skin colored covered wires delivered power from the battery pack held close to the bosom up to the ears. When Great Aunt Eunice* finished her defense of the Pope and President Johnson, she paid full attention to Grandpa’s alternative nonsense until he turned his head and she could sneak a reach deep into her bosom to shut off her hearing aid. Grandpa’s continued dynamic counter-argument, no matter how well organized, supported, and defended fell on deaf ears.
Great Aunt E. smiled. She nodded. She egged him on. Today I wonder what she was really thinking. “Monday? Groceries? Where to stop on the trek back to the Cities? What kind of crazy is my brother-in-law and isn’t it time to be going?”
Ah, those were the days even as they were not!
But I digress.
And by “look out,” I mean, look about and around.
Consider an alternate reading of Rumi’s poem that turns outward. It is not about you. It is not about your navel. It is not about how you feel but who you are.
Metaphorically, everyone of us is a “guest house.”
Some guest houses are labeled. We can see from the sign hung out front what to expect of the interior.
Some guest houses welcome anyone and everyone! All are welcome here. And there is warmth and laughter and love and problems are hidden in the basement of the sub-conscious, as one does.
Some guest houses have well-manicured lawns and picture perfect exteriors even while once in the door, the interior is in shambles. Or even worse, the interior is completely empty and there is no there, there.
Some guest houses require membership. Entry is conferred at birth, or by a rite of passage, or a social or psychological entrance fee designed to let only the “right” people in. Keep “others” out. And upon closer inspection they are not a guest house but a prison.
And then the unwelcome surprise of a guest house that is put together inside and out until a passing comment on current events unearths an escape room so dark you wish you never knew. The fear of “the other” whoever “the other” might be undermines every artifice and you know that someday, maybe even “today,” “the other” is you. These guest houses are the worst. You didn’t see it coming because they look just.like.you.but …
“Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
Jelaluddin Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks
Rumi instructs us to treat each guest honorably. And that is the hard work — difficult conversations, understanding, patience, and truth. Change doesn’t happen suddenly until it does. Conversion to a different point-of-view is unlikely in one sitting, but plant the seed. Seek to understand and be understood.
The great bard Sting sings:
“They go crazy in congregation,
They only get better one-by-one.Sting, “All This Time,” lyrics
Listen. Be patient. Be kind.
Be thankful for the difficult relationships. Know that they need you, too. They only get better one-by-one.
*Great Aunt Eunice: Not her real name.