The author Lauren Groff wrote a short story (the name of which escapes me at the moment) in which the following is said: “There’s the man who hisses nasties as he stands under the light outside a bodega with bars over its windows. I put on my don’t-mess-with-me face, and he has yet to do more than hiss, but there is a part of me that is more than ready, that wants to use what’s building up inside of me.” Just because someone has not been locked up does not mean that they do not have the potential, or the desire, to commit criminal acts. And when we do not reflect upon what’s brewing inside of us sometimes the pot boils over, leaving us stunned by the side of the road! And sometimes in jail!
For the past two years as I have contended with my prostate cancer I have been forced to become aware of my own boiling pot! In that cancer feeds upon testosterone, one of the therapies for my cancer is that of getting a hormone shot which counters the production of testosterone, the result of which is that I am often subjected to the rushing tide of terrible incoming hot-flashes! This can happen during the day but also at night, causing me to wake up drenched, burning up, and throwing off sheets and blankets! This experience has grown in me an existential understanding of, and sympathy for, what menopausal women are forced to go through! The upside of these hot-flashes (if there can be said to be an “upside”) is that they have forced me to become more aware of what I am feeling and of how those feelings can affect my behavior. In the midst of yet another hot-flash tsunami, I often feel irritable and in need of a scapegoat for my misery: a wrong tone of voice, an inconvenience, a disappointment… any of them will do as an excuse! Through reflection about the role that this shot plays in my interactions with people I have certainly become more aware of what my inner child wants at times… and of my ongoing need to discipline him!
Today discipline is not a popular concept, partly because of the “ME-centric culture” in which we live. Our culture teaches us the erroneous gospel of Self which stresses that no one has the right to tell us what to do or what not to do! The thing about “rights”, however, is that they have limits! While I have the right to say what’s on my mind, I do not have the right to yell “FIRE” in a movie theater, just because I feel like it because to do so might cause a stampede that injures or kills others. On the Civic level, our “rights” end where the welfare of others begins! In the Spiritual realm, with the effort of some reflection the excessive focus on “rights” (what we have coming to us) can become tempered by the growth of a sense of gratitude… if we take the time to reflect upon what we “have”: gratitude that I am safe… unlike so many in our world. Gratitude that I have something to eat today… unlike so many in our world. Gratitude that I am alive.
No one likes to be told what they cannot do, but living among other people requires that there be rules that protect the well-being of all, the transgression of which require punishment of some kind. Not all criminals, however, are locked up; some still walk the streets, and some have their own brand of “hot-flashes!” Whether fueled by shots or selfishness, we are all capable of easy crimes. Reflection, on the other hand, requires some work!