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Brewer Burns

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Turn On The Lights

Myths from all around the world tell of a creature that is neither living nor dead, and feeds off the life blood of other living beings, notably humans. When exposed to sunlight, this creature burns into ash in an instance. Light destroys what can only exist in the darkness. The vampire can exist only in the darkness, in secret. In The Art of Happiness an interviewer asks the Dalai Lama how it is that he can relate so easily to those with whom he has nothing in common, not even a language. The Dalai Lama tells the interviewer that it is because he is able to be open with them and relate to them on the most basic of levels: because they are both humans, and share the human condition. In the Bible, when Jesus comes upon the men that are preparing to stone the adultress, he tells them that if any among them have not sinned, then he should cast the first stone. Since none of the men can say that they have not sinned, the adultress is released from her death sentence.

All of these stories speak to the power of self examination and the illumination, the bringing to light, of secrets. In the story of the vampire, we can see the vampire as a metaphor for secrets themselves. Kept inside and buried deep, they grow in power and suck the lifeblood from us. They literally steal our energy, because it takes so much mental and emotional energy to keep them hidden. The story of the adultress is often cited as an illustration of the evils of judging others (“judge not lest ye be judged”) but I think it also illuminates another important point. In the story, the men are preparing to carry out a death sentence against the woman because she has been cheating on her husband. The men were easily able to see her flaw, her sin, and judge her accordingly, and without mercy. What Jesus requires of them is to examine themselves. To look inside their own minds and be honest with themselves about their own failings, their own human frailties, their own sins. It’s easy to judge others and condemn them. It’s easy to point to another and say: I would never do as they have done. But it’s much, much more difficult to be honest with yourself about your own weaknesses.

Just recently we here in the U.S. have been treated to the public outing of a congressman, complete with the tantalizing details of his contacts, over the course of several years, with teenaged boys. We learned that Mr. Foley’s habit of grooming congressional pages was known to many people inside congress. This scandal is a seeming echo of the Jim West scandal. Mr. West’s proclivities were an open secret when he was in office in the state capital. Once he was elected as Mayor they were again an open secret. Even the young man that West sexually harassed was loathe to publicly out him. In fact, this person resigned his position on the Civil Rights Commission rather than outing West by filing a formal complaint against him. In both of these scandals, it was a secret, tightly held and protected, not just by the secret-holder himself, but by those around him, that caused his downfall.

What can we take away from each of these stories? Secrets, though buried deep, have a habit of coming out at the most inopportune times. Self-examination is a highly underrated activity. But most of all, in order to be a happy, healthy, well-functioning human being, you must first be honest with yourself, and then you must be honest and open with others. Hoarding secrets will do nothing other than drain you, and drain the happiness from your life.


At 11:16 AM, Anonymous John Hanscom said...

Well said.


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