Last week I cut back my double knock out rose bushes. Here’s the crazy thing. I have had these rose bushes for ten years. Every year when I cut them back, I get all scratched up, I struggle like nobody’s business, and often I fail. When my sons help, they do a decent job. I figured I just didn’t have the needed physical strength. Ten years of struggling.
This week, a neighbor offered to loan me her electric shears. Electric shears? I didn’t know there was such a thing. Next day, another neighbor offered me his shears. No, thank you, I explained. I will wait for the electric. I am not strong enough to cut the thicker branches. He insisted it would be easy. Something about the shape of the shears. I insisted I couldn’t. I’ve tried big, little, old, new, whatever shears. All with the same result. He continued to insist to where it almost felt like an insult to not accept his kind and assured offer. So, the next day I took his shears to my bushes.
The branches fell right off. Somehow the long handles with the very short clipper did the trick. Right. Simple physics. I couldn’t believe it. TEN YEARS of bloody, hot, fighting with the bushes, and these magic clippers existed all along. It was actually fun! It was like point and zap. The thick branches cut through like butter.
Under my nose all these years…this simple physics formula. Yet I had no idea I was even missing something.
What else don’t I know?
I thought about the spiritual/emotional ideal I’ve been struggling with for years. Every religious and humanistic teaching I know teaches love your neighbor as yourself. Hillel, a famed Rabbi who lived over 2000 years ago has this story.
A man asked Rabbi Hillel, can you explain the Torah to me while standing on one leg? The Rabbi answered, “What is hateful to you, do not do to another. This is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation – go and learn.” *Talmud (Shabbat 31a)
Soooo, the instructions seem pretty clear. Love your fellow man and woman (and love yourself).
Easy for the people I love and already like. Medium for the neutral people with whom I don’t have much contact. Very very hard for the people I don’t care for, who I think wronged me, who might have hurt people I love, or who do mean things. I don’t get it. How do you love these people?
I know, I know. I don’t have to like the actions. I can love the essence of the person, etc, etc.
Easier said than done. At least for me.
Now back to the shear metaphor. In endeavoring to love all my fellows, I’ve tried praying, asking advice, willing positivity. I feel like maybe in all these years, I’ve inched along a whole twelve inches?.
After the “clipper” unveiling, I wondered…just wondered…the same way I’ve gone bloody all these years with the wrong clippers, I wonder if there is something similar in this “love your fellow as yourself” thing. Some way to love others that skips the hot struggle? Are there “spiritual clippers? Some way to use “physics” to find the ease in loving my fellow?
I don’t have the answer.
The question itself though, gives me hope. Kind of tickles me.
As for my perturbed thoughts and feelings, it’s possible, just possible, that some nice neighbor, one of these days, is going to reveal, knowing or unbeknownst to even them, the spiritual physics of how to cut through the question like butter.
The answer now lies in space ready to be discovered. Because….if the easy rose trimming is possible, and who knew? then this is too.
p.s. quick epilogue: About a month before the rose revelation, I had discovered my first solid ground on this “love your neighbor as yourself” thing.
I’d certainly heard the concept of restraint of pen and tongue (and email) for years and years. But it suddenly came to me: when I encounter situations that rub me the wrong way, I can (unless called upon by conscience to speak out), keep my mouth shut. JUST DO NOT MAKE IT WORSE. Being from New York, and to some extent fitting the N.Y. stereotype, that had not been a top tool in my kit. Okay, I won’t blame New York. I was not great at restraint. Sometimes the simplest simplest ideas…Well, this was a happy revelation.
So for now, as I await the wisdom of my neighbor, I’ll practice self restraint. It’ll keep me busy. ©
If you think your friends might enjoy this, please share! (on left for desktop, or below on smart phone). Thank you for visiting and come back any time