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25 August 2016 @ 09:31 pm
Tao of the Day: You're Welcome  
Love dances through the cosmos,
binding together all that is.
Every living thing is welcomed
with never a word of criticism.

Welcome each other
with the same expansiveness.
What pleases you
and does not please you
is of no importance.
Welcome is all that matters.

Can you merely notice the things you like or dislike,
without attaching importance to them
or altering the nature of your openness and acceptance?
What will be your first words
when next you meet your beloved?
Will they speak of spacious welcoming?

from William Martin's The Couple's Tao Te Ching

After my grandma died, my dad decided to start going to church. For a brief while, mom and Chris joined us, but neither had the attention span for it. I liked the quiet, and I liked time with my dad. I liked the singing, and so much of the moral storytelling of the remarkable Reverend Ramsey. I follow a different path now, but I always have a warm place in my heart for Presbyterians, and people of any faith who show a certain warmth towards all of their fellow humans regardless of race, creed or any other identifier someone less welcoming might find objectionable. When I discovered the Taoist Institute in Greenwood was in the basement of a Presbyterian Church, it made me smile. I don't go there often, but whenever I've been, it has a strange sense of homecoming for me.

Each Sunday, when we entered the Church, Reverend Ramsey would be there to greet us at the door, make eye contact, shake hands. "You're welcome," he would say, and we would say, "Thank you." At 8, I was initially perplexed by this, thinking - based on only a rote understanding - that he was doing it backwards. But as I stuck with church, and youth group, and Sunday school (before his successor lost patience with me), I learned that Revered Ramsey was a patient and intentional man. The a-ha moment took awhile.

Reverend Ramsey understood a lot of things that I still yet do not understand, but sometimes I begin to understand how much I still have to learn.

I believe that if I'd told Revered Ramsey my teenage worries that I might be "different" than a lot of the other kids, he would've stood at the church door and said, "You're welcome."

I've rarely embodied this ideal in my personal relationships.

Of all my relationships, my roommate situation with Ian probably came the closest. We cohabitated so well, and I both felt welcome and safe there, and I think the reverse was also true. I didn't judge Ian, and Ian didn't judge me. We didn't leave each other passive aggressive notes the way his previous roommate used to leave him. I would raid his room for piles of dishes when we started running out, and do dishes. He'd eventually get squicked by the carpet and spontaneously vacuum. We would throw our pajamas into the dryer on cold winter nights to warm them up before bed. It was a quiet place where I didn't have to use my always-failing words to communicate often. I didn't feel any pressure to speak unless I actually wanted to, and I don't think he did either. Left to my druthers, I'd mostly rather not to speak, and Ian let me have my druthers. He welcomed me as I was - good days, bad days, quiet days, hyper days.

I'd rather write, and read, and make small suggestive noises that someone else can understand on most days. I would rather be Wall-E or R2D2 than an actual human being who has to use these imprecise, faulty words to try to convey my thoughts, especially out loud. The slower act of writing makes me more coherent, gives me the opportunity to refine my thoughts to approximate my intention more faithfully. His biggest demand of me while we lived together was to check out different games he liked. My biggest demands of him were, once, I couldn't get out of bed after surgery and needed help, and a few times, I was so depressed I thought it might be best if someone was around just to ensure I didn't opt for a permanent logout in a sudden spike of ambition. Of the former, I think I eventually begged another friend to come help when I realized there was no rushing him. Of the latter, he came through admirably. And when he moved suddenly to San Francisco right as Daniel and I were breaking up, he promised he'd come back to watch the Despicable Me sequel with me, and he did.

We didn't have to do anything to make things relatively copacetic for ourselves. We just innately treated each other with that spacious welcoming this passage talks about.

In our short beginning of a romantic relationship, I've already asked Nat to pick up after herself at my place and clean out the passenger side of her car (because, as the passage suggests, "it displeased me"), to not grump at me when I wake up before she does (actually, I think she volunteered that), to give me the benefit of the doubt if she starts getting angry at me instead of assuming the worst. She's asked for a few things, too; mostly letting her sleep in, but also a communication request that might be beyond my current skill set.

Navigating the practicalities of this passage has difficulties for me in the daily minutiae.

As I read and retyped the passage, I thought how much I crave that in my life - that spacious welcoming, that acceptance - and yet how rarely I think conversely to myself: I crave providing that spacious welcoming. I have a few friends who I believe would argue that I am welcoming and non-judgmental, and others who would be bewildered by this declaration. I don't have a map on how to get from where I am to this lofty goal, but I want to start trying to sketch some drafts, trying to discover what works, trying to figure out how one integrates an ideal into the practicalities of modern American living. Hmm.
vaxhacker on August 26th, 2016 05:44 am (UTC)
Thank you for sharing this. Very insightful and well put.
(Anonymous) on August 26th, 2016 07:18 am (UTC)
Funny, I didn't immediately understand the "backwards" "you're welcome." What are we saying when we say it the "right" way?

This is a better way of explaining what I want out of relationships. I would have called it - space to be myself. I'm egotistical enough to think I deserve it, and self cemtered enough to forget to pass it along.

...maybe it isn't forgetting. For me, in my little pocket of a life, you have to pass a threshold before you're entirely welcome. Really, my little pocket family is it, with the necessity of peace and happiness for my kids trying me to the urgency of not letting dishes or laundry mess up my day, our life, their childhoods. Without that anchor, I don't know how I could have learned to ever grant the space to others I insist on having myself.

I don't have the anchor at work and I act as if half the world should be set on fire. And even when I grant the other half the right to live, they're wholly unwelcome to be anything but what I think they should be. I will take the world to the mat on PRINCIPLE.

What if I could learn from the peace I protect at home - the welcoming environment I have to have - and find the same kind of peace throughout my life.

You're doing the right thing.

Also, bring back the tao of the day.
Kburgunder on August 27th, 2016 03:48 am (UTC)
Right? I'd learned "you're welcome" as The Response(tm) to "thank you", but what does that actually mean?