Between Wonder and Contempt
There are a series of statements that happen quickly and some come with no thought at all. Things like, “I can’t believe you did that!”, or “What were you thinking?”, or “Did you plan that?”, or “How could you do that?”. These are moments of amazement and can be spoken in shock or as a result of being caught off guard and the words stumble onto the conversation path quickly and by running right over any form of barriers and restraints of decorum that we thought would work. On the one hand, that is cool and it shows our amazement level and just how constipated we really are about such things, that “this” would get past that barrier. On the other hand, it shows how reluctant to be flexible, to be fluid, to be accommodating to new thoughts we really are.
The problem of course is that the words on the page miss the intonation and edge that the spoken words carry. A lame version of this is to capitalize and punch with emoji or other shift+ keystrokes, but they are not the same. We know it when we say it. We know it when we hear it. It can simply be dismissed, or it can be an agent of action, to make the call to the sender to laugh or cry or both. It also misses the intensity of the gaze and the depth of the soul that is penetrating our own. It shows up in who turns away, when, and for what reason.
Contempt is a beast. A dragon that consumes hope, and spews that hope back, transformed into a fiery spray of shame, on the unsuspecting and the familiar alike, and without remorse. Like a leviathan that you can feel coming, before it even arrives you can smell and know like an old companion, as well knowing the reality of what it will do in and through you. It smears and permeates and soils all. It has no regard and is all consuming. Like frosting on the cake, it is in every bite and flavors all that it covers. While we may make our initial valiant defense, and attack blows with deft moves and adroit actions, it comes from the flank and reminds us of our mortality and vulnerability. The weapon of course is our own words, actions or thoughts. We have no defense against these, as we know them the minute they are used against us. They land deep and true. The next attack, for we can do well this first one, will come swifter and will use that last unhealed wound as the beginning of the next. The surprise of this attack is that the weapon used is the spate of lies and deceptions we used as a defense and a balm to suave the last wounds. Wiley and relentless, cunning and without remorse or yielding to entreaties, you know now the feeling of trepidation and fear. And you know it will not rest.
Wonder is not far different in behavior but of a different chemistry, therefore a different intent and result. Same words are used. Exclamations and questions are alike. The difference is first in the lilt of the voice, then in the eyes of the speaker. It is in the rush to your side and the embrace with the smile. Wonder is of a chemistry that it is as nuanced, perceived and contagious as shame, but welcomed and inhaled into our being. Tasted and found refreshing, enveloping like after a bath when you were young and you were wrapped in a warm towel by your grandmothers large and strengthening arms. You feel at ease with the world and it’s opportunities. You are accepted.
So where does wonder go and what is between it and contempt? Of course the journey is personal and of a million steps and re-steps in numbers of directions that cannot be made simple and or common, but still… there must possibly be a template that hits most of it, isn’t there? While it is trite to pretend you know the path, there are a few key junctions where the steps to contempt are taken as a choice. We could start with the 7 deadly sins, I suppose, and with each, the deaths of friendships and goals of value we discard due to the difficulty of the stories that need told to pretend we are still ok. But the big ones are too easy to go very far down this path. Lust, greed, & murder? We get those, and while we can slip on the first two we seldom go far and simply wont do the last. At least without a good cause. But the next one is a problem, Sloth. We start by not even acting like it is there and then when forced we simply make fun of the wrong definition of it. We pretend it is slow and laborious behavior, like the three towed animal and we are really wrong and twice for the dismissive attitude about it. You see, it seeps in like an odorless and tasteless miasma that affects the victim in a number of ways. At times it is simply weariness. At other times it is a sense of betrayal and the ensuing resentment of being overlooked for a position or a friendship of value. It starts with choppy sarcasm and snippy shots at easy targets and progresses as it gets stronger and gains skill. It works its way into places once thought off limits and ends up places we didn’t expect. Disconcerted at our behavior, we make commitments and self-recriminations to do better and trundle on.
We all know this path. Large or small, often or seldom, we know this path and its smoothness and curves. When we are young we are learning the path is a path of discovery and when we are old the scars are “life tattoos” that we can cover or show, as we so choose. The interesting thing is that while learning we are learning the parts of sloth that undermine our happiness, all the while the lessons about gaining that happiness back are right there along side. What is this elixir that removes the developing box of drudgery that is like a backpack of wounds and sorrows over the course of time and tragedy? It will sound simplistic, but it is forgiveness. It is the balm that softens the scars and covers the hurts in a film of vulnerability. At first it is for the violators and betrayers that cause the shock and wounds of discontent. Later on it shows up in the form of internalized self forgiveness that is found in the truth that we really did do our part as best we could, or the realization that we were the initiator of another’s wound causing them to retaliate. Still down the road we realize we were far from the innocent one and our actions were far from our best or the timing was a result of our own limp. Self-forgiveness is a sign of maturity some can only hope that their loved-ones will get to know at some point.
There is another though that is deeper and we are reluctant to do even more than that of self. It is to forgive God. Seemingly a heretical thought, it is about you not Him. It is always about you. Forgiving others is about you letting go of something you alone carry, resentment. The perpetrator is seldom bothered, and more seldom aware of, that which consumes. So too, with God wounds. While being aware that you are burdened, His reservoir of patience to wait (until it is time) for you to put it down, is in great supply. Amazing supply. You can resent and hold that until you are a bitter and hated person. Alone and justified by your unwillingness to let go is the core of the Scrooge heart. Everyone else has moved on and Ebenezer is filled with the wounded-ness of his beloved finding him cold. And he walks alone.
This is the story of Wonder. That small piece that is Awe when we realize it is within our power to forgive and receive peace for the tormented soul. Wonder, as that of a child that discovers something new. A small handful of gravel as common as any road would have, is transformed in the palm of a child handing it to a mom or a grandpa that paid attention. The tales of daring do and chivalry and kung-fu and pirates all come together in the attempt to slay the dragons and retrieve the treasures and right the wrongs of every story ever told. Wonder that we had lost it. Wonder that it came back, in the form of a friend with a drink of water, a call or a card. Wonder, that we remembered the taste of wonder, new one more time. And then shame calls. It reminds us we don’t deserve it, that it is not for us to taste. It is then that we must step back to the beginning and forgive. Our friends, our selves, our Maker. Our Friends that thought we were not worthy. Ourselves, for the same thing. Our Maker, for our forgetting that we were made worthy in the beginning and because He thought it worth the price to do so, first. We must remember to preach the good news to ourselves. We are worthy, and must remind ourselves of this very thing. Flawed, and amazingly so. Forgiven, and undeservedly so. Permanently and in such a manner as to be the fount of this river that is enough to cause wonder. Again. Amazingly enough. “How could you do that to ME!?!?!” Read it again… Wow. Tell a friend, it is ok.
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