by Brandon Nappi
Dear Sophia and Ellie,
In our divided times, there are many prophets of doom eager to fan the flames of your fear. They will try to convince you to join their tribe with a promise of security. They will feed your anger and entice you with safety from the threats of enemies. Their invitation may, for a moment, comfort your anxious heart and relieve a worried mind. Be aware of the temptation to fear uncertainty so much that you rush to seek solutions before fully understanding our problems. False certainty is lead ballast posing as a life raft.
No matter how clever, slogans will not heal our country and political parties will not calm our restlessness. The pursuit of outer change in our world relies upon inner change in our hearts. Otherwise, we risk replicating the same cycles of greed, judgment and oppression under the banner of our cause, movement or political party.
Perhaps a father is too quick to give unsolicited advice, so in this wintertime of our nation, I will simply share with you what I am trying to cultivate in my own heart. Perhaps overhearing a father’s encouragement to himself will be useful to you in this or some future moment of confusion.
My counsel to myself,
Keep your heart soft, for cynicism is infectious and paranoia addictive. Be aware of your habit to assume the worst intentions of those with whom you disagree while elevating your own. Within all of us is the evolutionary drive to seek sameness and to fight difference. Hold this tendency in careful awareness and seek humility as a balm for your own arrogance. After all, no single person or group holds a monopoly on the truth. Each of us contains a small piece of it, and therefore all of us are needed to discover the truth in its fullness.
Seek justice with every cell of your being, but do not let your yearning for justice embitter your spirit. The most potent poison is the hardened heart and the judgmental mind. From time to time, a strident voice may obscure the inner whispering of wisdom. May a spirit of gentle humility allow the acknowledgement of your inevitable failings and imperfections. May you tame the flood of anger into a river of compassion. May righteous anger and lovingkindness be the two wings that allow you to soar.
Listen more than you speak, and speak only to the degree that you act with compassion. May you be known for the depth of your attention and the quality of your presence. Remember that light and dark are constant companions, and so the potential for love and hatred are both alive within you.
Occasionally, you will forget the values that you most treasure. Do not be overwhelmed by disappointment in yourself for most of us need to lose ourselves before finding ourselves.
Keeping the heart soft and open is why you sit silently on a meditation cushion. Waking up is steadfast work. There are easier and less lonely roads to travel. Each day you must choose. The roads you choose to travel will determine the person you become. Wherever your journey takes you, I encourage you to drink deeply from the limitless wellspring of courage and love that lives within you.