Socially, it's pretty obvious stuff, but on a personal level it is frequently adorned and camouflaged -- the willingness and perhaps need to tell a wonderful story that then, invariably, trips up any honest story-teller.
On the social front, for example, a Catholic church in South Riding, Va., recently announced that it would no longer allow girls to act as altar servers. The decision was left to individual pastors by (what I imagine to be) a sensibly gun-shy hierarchy and Corpus Christi church's pastor, Michael Taylor, made his decision. No more girls.
An institution that touted its vision of inclusiveness fell into a more obvious version of exclusivity. The feel-good (Christian) story had some bad-news aspects. Mostly, the bad-news trip-stones were overlooked: Overall, this was a good news story -- an institution or belief system that wove a wondrous and redemptive tale that parishioners, as believers, clearly credited.
OK -- I imagine anyone can think of a social setting in which things are seen in shades of grey even though the heart's desire is for something black and white. The 'adults' in the crowd may pat themselves on the back for seeing life in shades of grey. They are 'realists.' Applause, applause, applause! 'Realists' assume they can overlook minor peccadilloes as they tell a marvelous social story.
But then there are the stories told within -- the means by which someone might define his or her life ... the intentions and beliefs and inspiring formats and, well, the defining stuff, the stuff that makes life bearable or meaningful or joyous or ... something similar. Little and large, these are the stories anyone might get out of bed with in the morning. "I am me and here I am."
In Buddhism, there are the lines
Wishing to entice the blindThis is not some believer's wise crack ... a warning that all and sundry may claim to understand and then show every example of not understanding. It is just an observation that happens to be true: Any story, any belief system, any heart-felt enclosure that structures a meaning or explanation for this life ... any at all ... well, it just means we're cruisin' for a bruisin'.
The Buddha has playfully let words
Escape his golden mouth.
Heaven and earth have ever since
Been filled with entangling briars.
Does this mean that all stories are useless and without value? Not at all. Everyone has their stories, often pretty refined and holy. But the uses to which those stories are put varies. Some buy in and, invariably, get bruised. Some nibble around the edges, being sort-of convinced. And some dismiss all stories out of hand ... and thereby create yet another story.
Stories R Us. And it's OK. We need intention and effort to lead our lives. But we also long for some peace of mind, some understanding that is not at the whim of endless bruises, endless thorns, endless well-intentioned lies. So it behooves us to don our stories with care, apply ourselves to their dictates AND recognize that where we may require stories and beliefs and explanations and meanings, life -- the very life we cannot escape -- does not. Life includes stories but is not bound by them. So ... how about it ... what is this life without our help and hoorahs?
It's worth a look, I think. No story is the story is no story ... something like that?