Dear Inner Circle,Every genuine meeting has an element of surprise. Talking to a young mum this week, we both marvelled how her two-year-old daughter, pointed her finger in the air at her father and said, “You’re a silly b*gger!” As a young parent I was often surprised by how fast our children learned our good and bad habits. Surprises are of different orders. This week a meeting surprised me to the point of paralysis. A woman who’d made an appointment to talk about her extended family, poured out her heart with story after story of her own childhood. In this territory perhaps I’m hard to surprise but on this day, I could hardly bear what I was hearing. One story led to another. It was not the unfolding of one story upon which the lady was determined to tell at length, but rather one story seemed to spark another from another time and with a different form of abuse. I felt like I was doing a few rounds with Mike Tyson. Here was a woman who, for most of her life, has been treated with less respect than we’d give to an animal. She was abused by men whose only motive was to cause her mother suffering to see her child abused. The child herself was not considered human. Yet, I was captured by something awesome in this moment. The woman and I were present to one another. I didn’t know anything except I was there and she was there. She was not me. She was no projection of mine. She was no ideal of mine but she was there, real and with me.We meet on a narrow ledge when we meet. On each side of the ledge is an abyss. On the one side is the abyss of individuality. In falling into this bottomless pit, all we care about is our desire to experience and our desire to use. People are of interest only to the extent that they yield a certain experience in me, or because they are useful to me. Philosophy and religion are of interest in this abyss only to the extent that they might yield a profit. On the other side of the ledge is the abyss of collectivity. This abyss often presents a deceptive appearance of community. In fact, it is community-based on the rejection of someone or some group. In order to belong to the ‘in’ group, it is essential to have no tolerance for the ‘out’ group. It never ceases to amaze me when I read about the European rejection of Jews among people who had lived peacefully with Jews all their lives. In the abyss the self must be surrendered to the ‘in’ group. The self disappears and no views outside the accepted set for the 'in' group will be tolerated. This abyss is a political animal created by people who only want a pure race or a white race or one nation.
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