“Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking.”–Henry Louis Mencken
It would be foolish to assume that conscience can do its job — without its FIRST being the voice of a high dream.
In coaching, a high dream is “alert awareness” recognizing itself. A high dream IS our capacity to stand in the present and recognize what we want in the current moment … because it arises from who we know ourselves to be. We select what we perceive based on our desire for self-recognition.
“And I saw my reflection in the snow-covered hills / ‘Till Landslide brought me down.” – Stevie Nicks from the song Landslide
I went to visit my 83-year old mother yesterday. She struggles with Parkinson’s, a disease the makes everything harder.
And during our afternoon banter, she asks me: “Do you remember what the 5-year old boy says to his mother when asked to recite the golden rule? — “Do it to others before they do it to you.”
“Man stands in his own shadow and wonders why it’s dark.” – a Zen saying
Developmental shifts happen all the time. And they are very hard to spot.
In my last blog (…conscience as necessary forgiveness…), I described the developmental shift that happens when the intangible is more highly valued than the tangible. Necessary forgiveness re-establishes trust. Trust and forgiveness are what we give ourselves once we accept the intangible – both as an expectation and as an agreement. There is more than “heaven and earth” here – if we can learn to see it.
“That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the task itself has become easier, but that our ability to perform it has improved.” – Emerson
Whether we realize it or not, we carry a future orientation, a continuing belief in something more … something more for us and for the world we live in … and along with that belief comes disappointment.
Our ability to be conscientious … to do the right thing, to hold a sense of integrity about our actions and decisions … that capacity doesn’t include disappointment does it? Disappointment is supposed to come afterward … after we are done, learning, committing and doing, right? After we have exercised conscientious action … well, maybe not …
I don’t like being disappointed any more than you do!
“He drew a circle that shut me out —
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!”
–Outwitted, by Edwin Markham
Consider for a moment the mechanics of eye-sight: a small aperture that lets light in.
Surprising, right? “Love and I had wit to win: We drew a circle that took him in!” There is both metaphoric inclusion and line-of-sight inclusion. What we take in with our eyes is essentially light — a substitute for love.
OK — maybe I’m pushing it. Any act of conscience is a moral evaluation — a decision to see things in a certain way. Not quite the same thing as light (or love really). But still…
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
I don’t know about you, but I grew up in a family where verbal adages and maxims carried a whole lot more weight and meaning than what the words themselves might indicate. And I doubt that I’m alone in that.
As radical as it sounds, families are closed systems. Oh sure, families DO relate to other systems and in that sense they are open – but they are often treated as “closed” by virtue of their membership. The bond of blood creates a dividing line which culturally is hard to overcome. Not everyone can join.
“Everything that exists, even a stone, has two sides to its nature. It fiercely maintains is own individuality, its own solidity, and yet it reaches from itself in the subtlest flow of desire.” — DH Lawrence
I live in New England. It’s winter. And this morning I looked out from my second floor window and saw three gray squirrels on the trunk of an oak tree. And what I saw – as normal as it was – was fascinating: three squirrels in a territorial game. Up and down the tree they scampered. First one and then the other. Round and round they went. Over the truck and across many branches with real vitality and speed. An exuberant, lively expression in an otherwise frozen landscape.
And, at the highest point of my fascination, when they were running without constraint — “everything possible” seemed real. Conventional limits were irrelevant. “Everything possible” was the un-containable outreaching of life’s energy simply trying to satisfy itself.