My friend and colleague, Sylvia Brallier, posts a sort of “Thought For the Day” on Facebook. This morning she wrote, “I believe in the potential of the human spirit to rise above where it’s been”. Just that. A simple statement, or affirmation, if you will.
Despite my respect for her writings, I don’t always give them the attention they deserve. You know how it is on Facebook (or anywhere on the interwebs, for that matter): we’re all afflicted with attention deficit disorder as we flit about like humming birds, briefly tasting this, then that, long since having forgotten (unlike humming birds) what we were seeking in the first place.
I nearly flitted away from this statement, too, but something about it caught me. After a moment I realized that what I was doing was wondering if it was true for me: do I, actually, believe in the human spirit’s potential? For that matter, what the heck does that mean? At ten o’clock, on what had been a day full of lazy potential, I was shocked to realize that I had no clear idea of what this phrase, so commonly used by all us New-Agey, Neo-Pagany types, means to me. Damn.
Okay, I’m not going to wade into whatever the Great Minds of Western (much less Eastern) philosophy have to say on the subject. I’m not even going to check Wikipedia. What I want to know is, what do I mean, when I use the term, “potential of the human spirit”? Pretty simple question, right? Right.
Here goes (deep breath): I think it means having the ability to accept the connectivity of all things AND to have compassion for all beings, as well as for oneself. That’s two things, I know; maybe three, but I can’t boil it down any further, and the second part only makes sense if I accept the first. (Bows to small patter of applause.)
But, I’ve cleverly changed the subject, haven’t I? It’s nice to have some clarity about what I think the phrase means, but do I believe what Sylvia has written? At first blush, I think I’ve kind of got to, wouldn’t you say? I mean, I am a shrink, and if I don’t believe in the ability of the human spirit to better itself, I’m a fraud. If I don’t believe in my client’s ability to discover compassion for themselves and others, I’m just warming the chair, right? Happily (whew!), I do. I’ve been doing this gig, in one form or another, for nearly twenty-five years, and in that time I’ve seen, again and again, people reaching out, overcoming hopelessness, fear and desperation, for faith in themselves and, yes, for love. Sometimes that person has been me. I believe in it.That’s why I do it.
What makes Sylvia’s sentence really work for me, though, is its last six words: “to rise above where it’s been”. Notice that we’re not talking Nirvana here, or Heaven, or any kind of transcendence or enlightenment, necessarily; we’re talking about being better. Better than we were. Maybe better than we thought we could be. In the twelve step groups, they talk about “progress, not perfection”. That’s what we’re talking about, too. Whoever you are, wherever your head is at, you can be better. Better at this “being human” thing, that we all struggle with, whether we know it or not. You can be better.
So, yes, I do believe in the potential of the human spirit to rise above where it’s been, and I’m glad to have worked that through. I think the Giant’s game is still on. If you’re not doing anything better, later, it might be interesting for you to ask yourself if you believe in it, too. Play with your own definitions of “human spirit” if you like. Drop me a line and let me know what you come up with and how it feels. Love to hear from you.
In the meantime, thank you Sylvia, and Happy Trails to you all……