Some uncommon thoughts
March 16, 2012
If I could describe myself in one word it would be “amazed.” I am amazed at the sheer goodness of the people around me. I am blessed with family, friends and community that truly appreciate each other and strive to work for the good of one another. That’s why, I believe, I find myself so perplexed at the climate of anger and hostility so prevalent in our country. Rather than simply complain about the complaining, I searched my library for a book that has graced its shelf since 1990. Robert Fulghum wrote, “All I Really Needed To Know, I Learned In Kindergarten” (uncommon thoughts on common things). He wrote as a philosopher of life and a pastor, and I find his words instructive for these days. Please allow me to quote from its pages:
“In the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific some villagers practice a unique form of logging. If a tree is too large to be felled with an ax, the natives cut it down by yelling at it. (Can’t lay my hands on the article, but I swear I read it.) Woodsmen with special powers creep up on a tree just at dawn and suddenly scream at the top of their lungs. They continue this for 30 days. The tree dies and falls over. The theory is that the hollering kills the spirit of the tree. According to the villagers, it always works. Ah, those poor naïve innocents. Such quaintly charmed habits of the jungle. Screaming at trees, indeed. How primitive. Too bad they don’t have the advantages of modern technology and the scientific mind. Me? I yell at my wife. And yell at the telephone and the lawn mower. And yell at the TV and the newspaper and my children. I’ve even been known to shake my fist and yell at the sky at times. Man next door yells at his car a lot. And this summer I heard him yell at a stepladder for most of an afternoon. We modern, urban, educated folks yell at traffic and umpires and bills and banks and machines – especially machines. Machines and relatives get most of the yelling. Don’t know what good it does. Machines and things just sit there. Even kicking doesn’t always help. As for people, well, the Solomon Islanders may have a point. Yelling at living things does tend to kill the spirit in them. Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will break our hearts. (“All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum, copyright 1986, pages 19 and 20).
Those wise words remind me of two scriptures: The sixth chapter of Joshua tells the story of how Jericho was delivered to Joshua by marching around the great city for six days bearing the symbols of their faith. Upon the seventh day Joshua commanded the people to “Shout!” and the walls of Jericho fell flat (Joshua 6:15-17). All three Synoptic Gospels recount Jesus’ answer to the question, “What is the greatest commandment?” “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind. And the second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:34-40).
Just last Saturday I was privileged to talk with a real kindergarten teacher. I met her at a memorial service for a friend who was described by all who knew him as a sweet and gentle man. I asked her about the rhetoric and language of our day and she replied, “Some of those ‘big boys’ just need a long time out!” It seems our kindergarten teachers really did teach us everything we needed to know. Just think, if such uncommon thoughts were more common among us perhaps our words could be more gentle.