We are so concerned with appearances. But not always without reason. Appearances are inevitably the first point of contact between ourselves and others. They form our initial impressions and help us interpret the world. But each person runs deep, and we sense strongly that appearances are a dim reflection of what lies inside.
Last Wednesday’s meeting began with a discussion of the merits of finding an organization to partner with in our community housing project. Such a partnership would help assuage the city’s concerns about the viability and stability of our project. Some in our group, however, expressed worry that a partnership may forfeit too much of our vision and influence in the development of the project.
I think we fear—perhaps it’s an unfounded fear—that the city is judges us on appearances. We struggle to articulate a vision for this project and to convince those whose approval is needed that we can operate a healthy and sustainable community in the Fraser Valley Inn.
I could not help but note the parallels between our concerns for the community and our later discussion about how we are perceived as individuals. In the second part of our meeting, Mark shared part of his journey and his striving towards accepting himself for who he is. His vulnerability with us was an invitation to a deeper place of knowing ourselves and knowing each other.
Members of the Northumbria Community on the island of Lindisfarne take a two-fold vow as part of their commitment to community. They say yes to the disciplines of availability and vulnerability. This means committing oneself to be present to God and to people, and then to the task of facing the truth about oneself. Most of us will face something else, a shadow of ourselves, something without depth or colour. But to be beholden to one another requires something more. It requires that we see ourselves as we are. We confront what Thomas Merton called the Unspeakable, the void within us that causes us to live in states of denial and illusion. We confront our unspoken assumptions about our identities with the aim of discerning ego from true self and discovering the value in us and in each person we meet.
At last Wednesday’s meeting, I sensed that our collective desire was to live in a deeper place of knowing ourselves and one another in the hope that we will come to accept ourselves and one another. Here, I find the convergence of two beliefs I hold deeply: first, Gandhi’s belief that Truth is God, and second, the biblical notion that God is Love. The more we experiment in Truth, the closer we are drawn to Love, and Love is the most powerful force in the universe.