Connecting, simply and authentically, one human being with another — the importance of this practice emerged from our recent Confronting Racism session at TSoJ. Yes, there is a need to shift the unjust and biased social structures that inflict pain on all of us, even the privileged. However, that change can only happen when we are open and willing to become adept in making real contact with other people. No special conditions or efforts are needed.
Making eye contact, showing respect, listening, smiling, sympathizing, speaking truth, breathing, and engaging whatever the moment requires, such human contact is the stuff of healthy community and society. Being present to each other as vulnerable, intelligent beings is a crucial way of being mindful. Unless we seal ourselves off through technology, plastic bubbles, or addiction, we have hundreds of opportunities for human contact each day. Let’s use these opportunities to practice the middle way of non-suffering.
Liberals might be careful about looking for special opportunities to make contact with people of color or ‘minorities.’ After all, they might not want to be our special expression of liberalness for the day. Please notice how doing so is still framed in the perspective of ‘white’ and ‘other,’ ‘us’ and ‘them,’ even as we try to be a good liberal. Such is not, i think, the right emphasis. Nor am I saying it’s bad, just that it might be putting the cart before the donkey. No need to buy into constructs that are so often ruled by ignorance and malice. Let’s practice genuine human contact in all the opportunities that arise each day before we define who we are interacting with. Let’s focus on human beings, rather than ‘others,’ and ‘us’s.’
When it’s possible to expand and diversify our repertoire of human contacts, so much the better. Explore the great kaleidoscope of humanity without assuming certain groups are the norm, that is, ‘white.’ Please notice the differences — in skin color, gender, class, education, age, political affiliation, mental and physical ability, religious beliefs, and so many more. Please respect them. Don’t let whiteness erase them and don’t let them erase the shared humanity.
Genuine human contact across, between, and within difference is healthy, creative, alive. Wonderful stuff! But let’s not be too concerned with being good liberals going out of our way, reaching out with some awkwardness or even artificiality. Let the opportunities emerge and flow from the compassionate openness to genuine contact wherever it can happen, however our lives provide.
- postal worker
- check-out person
- dog walker
- homeless person
- service worker
Let our human interactions flow out of a life of genuine human contact that finds confidence in our shared humanity whatever the differences and samenesses. Let our compassion express just here.
[Information and audio from Buddha-Dhamma and Confronting Racism at Tender Shoot of Joy can be found here.]