As I was singing at church today, I found that I was listening first to those around me. I consciously tried to listen for my voice, which I eventually separated from the others. As the song progressed, I then heard a blending of my voice with the others, and finally I could make out individual voices around me. It took both concentration and letting go to hear my voice and the voices of others. Each voice was distinct, but at the same time they were part of the whole!
In a similar manner, I wonder how often we recognize what others have contributed to who we have become: individuals, adding to the collective awareness. Consider parents and grandparents, siblings and friends, teachers and mentors, work and church colleagues... so many people, known and unknown, who have influenced our lives!
|Shadows of who we are and what we have become|
(photo from The Brink of Chaos blog)
I have come to enjoy Joyce Johnson Rouse's song, Standing on the Shoulders. The first verse describes how I am stronger and wiser - how we are stronger and wiser - because of the longing and vision of others:
I am standing on the shoulders of the ones who came before me
I am stronger for their courage, I am wiser for their words
I am lifted by their longing for a fair and brighter future
I am grateful for their vision, for their toiling on this Earth
|How many ladders do you carry to your Centre Court?|
(photo from Daily Mail)
And thus, a paradox: Standing on the Shoulders -- reaching heights because of others, and moving down the Ladder of Inference -- exploring the depths of shared reality, pulls at who we are, individually and communally, as we seek to understand the experience with collective wisdom.
Recognizing that we stand on the shoulders of others can also produce humility (Latin: humilitas = grounded, from the earth). That is, realizing that the heights we have achieved is due in part by the work of others, grounds us - brings us down to earth. Using the Ladder of Inference is also humbling and grounds us in the facts that we may have in common. Inquiring into what another person saw, heard, felt or experienced challenges me to consider and possibly let go of the meanings I assigned to that same event. Maybe reality encompasses all of our truths?
A friend shared the following quote with me from C. S. Lewis (Mere Christianity): "True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less." To me, this speaks of balance: the ability to hear my voice and the voices of others, individually and collectively.
Questions to consider this week:
- Whose shoulders am I standing on?
- What achievements have I attained with the help of others?
- Am I aware of climbing Ladders that separate me from others?
- In what ways this week am I invited to move away from my Centre Court and seek to consider the voices and experiences of others?
May this week bring you security in being grounded, both in the heights you achieve with others and in the depths of individual and collective awareness!