My mother was not a big collector of things, so each of the few knickknacks she left after her death had significance for her and, later, for me. “Oh, your father gave me that on our first wedding anniversary,” she would say of a particular piece. Or, “That’s from my mother – my sisters all wanted it, but I ended up with it.” I can place, in memory, each trinket in my childhood homes: the pink ceramic girl with the flower basket always sat on an end table, the small pewter bell occupied a shelf on a bookcase.
I remember as a child asking Mom one day about the little statue she had of the monkeys. Three of them sat side by side on a brown ceramic log. The first had two hands covering his eyes, the second had two hands covering his ears, and the third’s hands covered his mouth. “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil,” Mom explained.
Mom had high expectations for humanity and a simple plan of execution – everyone just needs to be kind to everyone else. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
Christ frequently called his followers to have the “eyes to see” and “ears to hear.”
– “A man went out to sow . . . let anyone with ears to hear listen” (Luke 8:8).
– “Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? . . . Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” (Mark 4:21-23).
“Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear,” (Matthew 13:16).
When the disciples of John the Baptist questioned Jesus about whether or not he was the Christ, Jesus told them to report to John what they had seen and heard: “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them” (Matthew 11:4-5).
Having heard and seen ourselves, are we not obliged to speak? Have we not heard and seen those who can say, “Was blind, and now I see”? Are there not those we know who once were crippled by addiction and now walk freely? Do we not all have stories in our lives of healing – physical, emotional, spiritual?
Ken Wilbur, in his essay Translation versus Transformation, makes the dismal observation that much of what passes for spirituality today, especially in the West, is a dilution of anything substantial and is mostly a religion of comfort and contentment. The word “soul” is now a hot item in book titles, “but all soul really means,” says Wilbur, “is simply the ego in drag.” Likewise the word “spiritual” is “on everybody’s lips, but usually all it really means is any intense egoic feeling.”
Only a few – “usually a very, very small minority,” says Wilbur – dare to do the hard work that leads to the radical transformation of true authenticity “by shattering what the world takes as legitimate.” And the majority, satisfied with a watered-down religion, are not able or not inclined to jump into the Jordan in response to John the Baptist’s call for true repentance.
Shall the minority then keep silence, circle the wagons around the small camp of the Kingdom lived here and now and cease shouting itself hoarse into a culture that turns a deaf ear to what it has to say?
No, says Wilbur. For, “Any realization of depth carries a terrible burden: those who are allowed to see are simultaneously saddled with the obligation to communicate that vision. You were allowed to see the truth under the agreement that you would communicate it to others. If you have seen, you simply must speak out.”
“The only significance of life,” said writer and social activist Leo Tolstoy, consists in helping to establish the Kingdom of God; and this can be done only by means of the acknowledgment and profession of the truth by each one of us.” (from The Kingdom of God is Within You, chapter 12).
We see, we hear, we speak the good news that evil will be overcome by good; that the darkness cannot overcome the light of Christ.
Speak, Lord, for your servants are listening (1 Samuel 3:9), and then, really, we are going to open our mouths.
Marjorie George is editor of ReflectionsOnline and Reflections magazine. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.