Someone recently confided their deep resentment toward a loved one of theirs over (as they put it) being judged too harshly.
“How do you know?” - I inquired.
“The way she acts.”
Fair enough. However, it did get me thinking about this idea because I hear it all the time. We fear or resent being judged. Judged by whom? Anyone - our friends, colleagues, acquaintances, siblings, parents, certainly our partners and frequently, it seems, complete strangers or people we’ve not known previously. But what does it mean to be judged? Let’s presume my haughty mother-in-law proclaims, insensitively and without subtlety over dinner in front of everyone…”I never imagined you of all people could compete at that level…” An observation or statement of this tone or slant clearly has an effect on a lot of people. Again, my question what does it mean…to judged by another person? Is it an assessment of guilt or innocence? Does it imply punishment, retribution, restitution and how are these are administered and regulated, under what authority? Already the reader is saying to themselves…well…I don’t mean like that!
And at this we agree. More accurately we are miffed by someone’s apparent opinion of us based on what he have done or said (and even more frequently, second hand news that may or may not have any basis in fact).
Someone judges me? – So what?
I like Buddhist (and Cree) philosophy: there are no good or bad events only the different degrees by which we react, if we must. Let’s say I walk up to Gordon Campbell and state unequivocally: I deplore what you do and I judge you to be immoral. – This man will probably shake my hand, thank me and ask that I write a letter to his secretary. He doesn’t have time to worry about my judgment of him; he’s busy changing the world (tell me that’s not the truth).
Another friend voices their near-constant oppression by Christianity. To hear them speak is to hear described a relentless onslaught of dogma and inescapable ideology on a daily basis. I’m not sure what that looks like because in my daily experience I encounter Christianity very little if at all. My best guess is that one of or all of this person’s parents or grandparents (the one possessing the greatest degree of impression on them) has had or continues to have a profound relationship with “something Christian” and it thereby colors everything they experience. Then again…who’s to say? In my experience there are daily connections in literary references because I read tons in the English language or simply in everyday conversation (again these are only references). I do not (nor am I forced to) read the bible, attend church or other institutions, watch religious or Christian programming or read such material, hang out with zealous (or otherwise) Christians. I see plenty of churches around town but all things considered I am impressed (rather than oppressed) by one or two for purely aesthetic reasons (as a side bar, I have experienced few man-made things as impressive as seeing firsthand Michelangelo’s work at Vatican City’s, Sistine Chapel in Rome, quite awe inspiring – damn those renaissance men, hey waitta minute…I wanna be one).
In short, Christianity has little impact on my daily life. Of course I am an Indian (that’s right, you heard me) and so I am painfully aware of what many of my people have experienced and this is as far as I will go with this thought other than to say to say; my experience of Christianity cannot compare to this type of trauma but I do have the opportunity (and responsibility) to see that it never happens again on my watch under any policy or circumstance.
Another good friend well on his way to exploring his spiritual self and the wider world was lamenting the fact that back at home, a person or two close to him had apparently remained unchanged in their thinking or behavior during all his time away. It saddened him because his personal growth seemed unmatched by those close to him, people he loves and cares for deeply and he was left feeling uneasy while engaged in conversation with them because of the oppressive quality of his experience. I think we can all relate to this at times but he remains optimistic and we discussed that time does wonders and if nothing else, he remains available and open and he understands that people can change. He has a sense of gratitude that there is even a perceptible difference because it indicates his own growth. They remain mutually loving and supportive and there isn’t much more we can reasonably ask of others if we cannot always have the “meeting of the minds” that suits our preference. He is contented and lifted with the things in his heart and as of that conversation it was enough for him.
I witnessed a wonderful perspective provided by Cree artist, Tomson Highway, during a lecture given at Toronto some years ago. He said that Christian mythology presents the notion that we are immersed in constant judgment by an imposing God who actually cast us out of the garden of paradise because we ate a piece of fruit. Someone sinned for us and we spend our entire lives trying to atone for that transgression (I am paraphrasing, of course). But then he spoke Plains mythology and how it presents our creator as a benevolent force that has us as equal to our environment - actually part of it…we articulate this with (among other things) language to effect that the trees and mountains are our relatives. We’re in paradise, it’s all around us to be enjoyed and taken care of and we never leave it as we are spirits and we are here forever.
We’re endowed with the beautiful gift of choice. Love something, revere it, worship it, honor and respect it and see how it makes you feel…exploit it and you will be doomed to live with niggling doubt and an overwrought psyche. I heard it said: to sit alone with my conscience will be judgment enough for me.
It’s why I like artists. Typically they’re fresh thinkers, original idea finders. If you want good insight on the society/culture of a given time and place look to the arts and its various forms produced in that period. It can tell you a lot. This choice I spoke of is powerful knowledge because of its transformative potential - nothing actually happens without ideas first. Tyrants of this age (think powerful global conglomerates and several governments) know this well and history has shown that artists and other creative types are often the first to be oppressed.
Am I oppressed? I choose to say I am not. Certainly there are challenges but I am presented with unprecedented opportunities many, many others will never know. It is complicated and daunting but would Indians of any age say it has ever been otherwise lo these past 500 years or so? Probably not.
Eleanor Roosevelt said: no one can make you feel inferior without your consent. Or as Junior in Oliver Stone’s film, Platoon, advises: Simple, free yer mind and the ass will follow…
© 2010 Champsteen Publishing