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David’s Desk is my opportunity to share thoughts and tools for the spiritual journey. These letters are my personal insights and opinions and do not necessarily reflect the sentiments or thoughts of any other person in Lorian or of Lorian as a whole.
If you wish to share this letter with others, please feel free to do so; however the material is © 2014 by David Spangler. If you no longer wish to receive these letters please let us know at info@Lorian.org.
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David’s Desk #101 Being the Pope
Like so many Americans these past two weeks, I have been captivated watching Pope Francis visit the United States. It is not difficult to recognize a great soul at work and appreciate the sweetness of his spirit or the genuineness of his love. People of all faiths can be moved and inspired by his example.
With so much suspicion, fear, and hatred in our world, we are fortunate to have religious leaders such as Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama who can model trust, humility, compassion, and love for us. Both men have hearts that reach out beyond the boundaries of their respective traditions.
Much of the “rock star” atmosphere that accompanied the Pope while he was in Washington, D. C., New York, and Philadelphia could be explained as Catholics excited and eager to see and welcome the head of the church, the Vicar of Christ on Earth. But watching the crowds that lined the streets in these great cities, with people who had traveled hundreds of miles simply on the chance they might be able to glimpse him as he went by in his Popemobile, I felt there was more than just religious adulation at work. There’s a hunger in our society for examples of love and goodness, a hunger for a vision of human possibility that is not limited to images of people scrambling for wealth or power or defined by a warrior ethic. There is something heart-warming about seeing and listening to Pope Francis, as there is with the Dalai Lama, that goes beyond any specific message or religious teaching. One cannot help but rejoice to see demonstrated for us the “better angels of our nature.”
At the same time, watching the parades and processions with the streets filled with hundreds of thousands of onlookers, I felt that an important point might be missed. We take nothing away from Pope Francis, or the Dalai Lama, or other men and women like them who are exemplars of the best in our humanity to realize that when we take away the religious roles, the trappings, and the traditions that surround them, they are just people. They are human beings like the rest of us, possessed of no more special grace or holiness, no more secret powers or abilities, than are present in each of us if we choose to nourish and express the goodness within us.
This is the point that both Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama struggle to convey against tides of reverence and celebrity. As the Dalai Lama has said over and over, he is primarily “a simple monk.” And the Pope in a press conference on his plane en route back to the Vatican said something similar: “I am the servant of the servants of God.” Yes, they each carry the mantle and the burden of representing ancient traditions and acting as Heads of State as well, but the power of each of these men—what attracts us to them—is their groundedness in simply being human, a person struggling as we all struggle to bring blessing to the world.
What I thought as I watched the crowds lining the streets as the Pope went by was this: what if each of these people decided to be a “Pope” in their own lives, to give to others and to the non-human world around them just what they wish the Pope to give to them: love, blessing, goodness? The world would tremble with transformation.
I have no doubt that many of those present in the cities where the Pope visited as well as watching on television will be inspired to be more loving, more compassionate, more caring. This is the power of example, and I fully recognize this power. But if humanity is to make it successfully through this century, we will need more than just inspiration. We will need the realization that what these exemplars are and can do, we are and can do as well. Even Jesus said this: all that I have done you can do also and more besides.
After all, what will transform our world isn’t who we are while we line the streets and cheer for those who inspire us; it is who we are when we make our way home, back to our lives, back to mundane ordinariness of our daily round. It is here where the tyranny of the familiar can cause us to forget those shining moments when we saw a beloved and inspiring figure and felt warmed for a moment with a vision of our own potentials. It is here we must go beyond memory to embrace the moment we are in with a celebration of our own “Pope-ness”, our own “Dalai Lama-ness,” our own human possibilities to face the world with love and grace. We must act to be the love we wish to find in our world.
The truth is that which we hunger for will never be satisfied by the excitement of a parade or a loving figure on the television. It can only be satisfied by recognizing the spirit and goodness that lie within us and acting, however humbly, to offer them to our world.
David’s Desk is my opportunity to share thoughts and tools for the spiritual journey. These letters are my personal insights and opinions and do not necessarily reflect the sentiments or thoughts of any other person in Lorian or of Lorian as a whole. If you wish to share this letter with others, please feel free to do so; however the material is ©2015 by David Spangler.
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