Archive for June 19th, 2011

He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

Remember Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Imp of the Perverse?”  In each of us exists the ingrained capacity to self destruct.  When you stand at the precipice looking down, the imp urges you to take one step closer to the edge.  You know you’re driving, but you think you’ll have that one last drink.  You’ve typed it and you just know you shouldn’t hit SEND, but you do.  The rational mind recoils, but the id whispers, “Why not?”

When you’ve heard the verse I quote above, isn’t your first response usually something like, “Oh, those bad, bad hypocrites.”  Last week I read an editorial in the Wall Street Journal by James Taranto about Anthony Weiner (who is apparently possessed by the largest and most perverse imp in the Western Hemisphere).  Weiner’s fellow Democrats have denounced his transgressions, but somewhere soto voce you know folks are saying, “At least he’s not a hypocrite. . . . Especially one of those family-values conservative hypocrites.”  Does that mean Liberals have no moral values to transgress in the first place?  Weiner, in his public life, was an adamant feminist and would most vehemently denounce anything that degraded or subjugated women.  And so, about those tweets and photos . . . ?

But Jesus’ challenge to the Pharisees isn’t about hypocrisy.  It’s purpose isn’t to condemn.  After the self-righteous slink away, doesn’t Jesus look up and say, “Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?” She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”

Rather than hypocrisy, I say this story is about humility.  And I define humility as mindfulness, specifically being mindful that we share common desires, weaknesses, and failings with every other human creature.  My sister Mary Ellen, as a psychologist, uses mindfulness techniques to treat a number of emotional and psychophysiologic distresses. It can’t be an easy process.  At least to me, it doesn’t seem to come naturally.  How effortless is it for me to tool down the highway recounting to myself all the bad qualities of someone who’s done me wrong, enumerating all the reasons I’m justified in despising them until I enter some anti-Zen state of sour despairing mind-crud.  Practicing humility and compassion by comparison seem like work.  Mary Ellen, help!

Does any of this provide context for the poem I’m featuring today?  Perhaps just this: that every fault I see in people and in the society around me, every screwed up priority, every exploitation, every just plain meanness, I see in myself as well.  Here, today, I’m dropping my stone.


.     .     .     .     .

little mouse

What we throw away:
shall I make a list?
The brown spot and the whole
apple around it;
the purple spot

and the addict’s arm
and the whole man.  Mostly
what’s hard to look at or easy
to look past.  An empty wallet full
of bus rides home; the child

crying in the detergent aisle;
a dark man who laughs
in another language.  Thinking
we can have what we’ve killed
to keep.  And my soul, too,

is small and gray
as all the rest.  Yesterday
I nibbled crumbs and was happy
until someone told me
they were crumbs.

.     .     .     .     .


[from little mouse,© Bill Griffin, Main Street Rag Publishing, 2011; first appeared in Iodine Vol 10 Nr. 1, Spring/Summer 2009]




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