Reading: The Madman; Kahlil Gibran
“You ask me how I became a madman. It happened thus: One day, long before many gods were born, I woke from a deep sleep and found all my masks were stolen, the seven masks I have fashioned and worn in seven lives. I ran maskless through the streets shouting, ‘Thieves, thieves, the cursed thieves.’
“Men and women and children laughed at me and some ran to their houses in fear of me.
“And when I reached the market place, a youth standing on a house-top cried, ‘He is a madman.’ I looked up to behold him; the sun kissed my own naked face for the first time. For the first time. For the first time the sun kissed my own naked face and my soul was inflamed with love for the sun, and I wanted masks no more. And as if in a trance I cried, ‘Blessed, blessed are the thieves who stole my masks.
“And thus I became a madman.
“And I have found both safety and freedom in my madness: the freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood, for those who understand us enslave something in us.
“But let me not be too proud of my safety. Even a thief in jail is safe from another thief.”
Reading: Genesis 2: 25 — 27
“They were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” (Then they ate the forbidden fruit and, the story says,) “their eyes were opened and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.” Genesis 3:7
What is this knowledge which causes us to be expelled from Eden to lose our innocence, and to cover ourselves?
What is the nature of this thing we call ‘shame?” And the desire to take off the masks’ to be ‘exposed,’ and thus to feel a greater sense of authenticity?
We sometimes say to children, “Shame on you!” Or to an adult, “Have you no shame!?”
Mark Twain put bluntly: “Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to.”
Shame doesn’t have to be taught. It’s not the same as guilt. It’s closer kin to embarrassment.
Why are we sometimes ashamed about illness, lack of money or having too much money, failure, divorce?
There was a Unitarian church which had a sign out front: “We don’t do guilt.” A photo of that sign made the cover of World magazine a year or so ago.
At first I smiled with a little unjustified pride when I saw that photograph. But then, almost as quickly, I cringed. We Unitarian Universalists have sometimes failed to acknowledge the healthy and necessary side of guilt and shame.
The ‘other’ religions have a reputation for ‘doing guilt.’ Guilt trips, we say. As if we were superior in this regard. Well, truth be told, we’re not!
There is something natural and necessary about a sense of guilt or shame? The word guilt is from the Old English word for crime. A crime is a violation or an offense against others, and it ought to be followed by a sense of shame!
Popularized psychology and new age religion sometimes suggest that we can and should do away with guilt and shame. They seem to suggest that to realize our true or full humanity, we have to dump all the guilt, get rid of all traces of shame.
Shame is not a disease or defect? It is a sign of our humanity! It’s a sign of conscience which makes us human. Adam and Eve were evicted from the paradise of ignorance once they ingested the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They knew, then, that good and evil were located within themselves.
Obviously shame and guilt can be repressive. Too much shame and guilt can hold us down and take away a sense of self-respect.
The truly liberated person can and must be free enough to feel a sense of shame in several forms, one of which, at least, has a religious element.
Moses was told to take the shoes from his feet and turn his face away from God, out of respect or a sense of ‘awe.’
There’s a relationship between this sense of ‘awe,’ which is the spiritual or religious sense, and a sense of shame.
We humans are complicated creatures.
We want to be known. We need to be known. If we are not known, or do not feel known, we cannot feel loved or ‘connected.’ One cannot truly love what one does not know. To be loved, then, we must be known.
That’s what Gibran’s poem, The Madman, is about: it’s about feeling loved by feeling known; it’s about accepting oneself as one is, flaws and faults and all.
But being known or revealed is a risk. We need a sense of privacy. We weave a variety of fig leaves!
We want and need to be known, but we need to know that it is our decision to reveal, or not to reveal ourselves.
Albert Schweitzer, in his Memories of Childhood and Youth, said:
“We are each a secret to the other. To know one another cannot mean to know everything about each other; it means to feel mutual affection and confidence, and to believe in one another. We must not try to force our way into the personality of another. To analyze others is a rude commencement, for there is a modesty of the soul which we must recognize just as we do that of the body. No one has a right to say to another: ‘Because we belong to each other as we do, I have a right to know all your thoughts.’
Not even a mother may treat her child in that way. All demands of this sort are foolish and unwholesome. In this matter giving is the only valuable process; it is only giving that stimulates. Impart as much as you can of your spiritual being to those who are on the road with you, and accept as something precious what comes back to you from them.”
Intimacy without privacy is ‘exposure.’ Intrusion. We require, need a sense of privacy; it’s the soul’s protection.
“Privacy: The quality or condition of being secluded from the presence or view of others. free from unsanctioned intrusion: a person’s right to privacy.” “being concealed; secrecy.”
With little children we play the game of peecaboo. A child thinks that when she cannot see you, you cannot see her.
You may remember the metaphor of Jo Hari’s window. It’s a window with four panes: in the first one there are things about me that you know and I know. In the second are things about me that I know but you don’t know. In the third are things about me that you know but I don’t know. And in the fourth there are things about me that neither you nor I ‘know.’
There ought to be a way of preventing someone from breaking and entering! “Impart what you can of your spiritual journey and accept as something precious what comes back to you from them.”
There was a story in the New York Times recently about a new telephone which can detect changes in the modulation of a voice that would indicated if a person is telling the truth.
It’s worth reading:
The Telltale Phone NY Time story: 5/8/99
“You can buy a phone at the Counter Spy Shop on Madison Avenue (it’s expensive, $3,900) that can detect the changes that occur in a personÕs voice when he is lying.”
“The phones come with videos that instruct you to ask innocent questions; what’s the date, how do you spell your name. The person’s answers establish a pattern of readings for truthful responses against which you measure the rest of his remarks.”
“The Sharper Image offers something called the Truth Quest Phone, which is able to detect subtle and suspicious modulations in the voice of the person you are talking to. It costs only $129, and no training is involved.”
“What’s in the cross hairs here, of course, is the inner life; the brooding and ambiguous element of our natures that we work so hard to conceal under even the most ordinary circumstances.”
“Our personalities might be thought of as collections of behaviors and gestures assembled, rehearsed and performed to prevent others from knowing what we really think.”
“Imagine the vexations once everyone has such a phone trying to offer thanks for the wedding gift duplicated by seven other guests; having to prepare and carefully deliver commonplace remarks like, “Honestly, I no longer think about it.”
“The shallow, the disingenuous; the easy way out; will become a highway to humiliation. We were never meant to live beside each other in perfect intimacy, and such devices will only prove it.”
“What’s left as a tactic is not the politician’s evasiveness, but a radical refinement of language. Something like the ascendancy of poetry; words so accurate they can’t be dismantled. The triumph, that is, of the inner life.”
We hope we can build relationships characterized by
honesty and openness that allow opportunities for self-revelation and a growing authenticity.
We want to be real together. Otherwise we feel isolated. Alone.
At the same time, we need to know that we have privacy. This is the theme of Robert Frost’s wonderful poem, Mending Wall:
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us as once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
”Stay where you are until our backs are turned!’
we wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There were it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbors.”
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
“Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.” I could say “Elves” to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there,
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shad of trees.
He will not ge behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “good fences make good neighbors.”
To mend the wall, to fix it, is to keep appropriate boundaries. That’s an essential ingredient in every relationship a sense of clear boundaries, a sense of safety from feeling invaded or violated.
At the same time, “something there is that doesn’t love a wall.” We don’t like to feel too great a space between us.
Something there is that doesn’t like limits, in general.
And, ‘something there is that appreciates boundaries.’
The confessional booth allows believing Catholics to reveal things in the privileged relationship to a priest because there’s something in us that wants to tell someone, without putting relationships at risk.
The priest listens, but can’t reveal what he’s heard.
In the preface to the prayer he taught, Jesus instructed his friends: “when you pray, go into your closet and shut the door and pray in secret”
We need a sense of privacy to deal with our shame!
Orthodox Jews cover their heads with a prayer shawl; they go in to that private place to pray. Spirituality requires a sense of privacy, and an ‘intimacy’ with God. Otherwise, as Jesus said, it’s a public display and may be simply for show pretense hypocrisy.
There it is. We need privacy. A sense of shame is built in to our human nature we fear being exposed. But we wish to be revealed.
We’ll leave you with some lines from a Robert Frost poem he titled Revelation:
We make ourselves a place apart
Behind light words that tease and flout,
But oh, the agitated heart
Till someone really finds us out.
‘Tis pity if the case require
(Or so we say) that in the end
We speak the literal to inspire
The understanding of a friend.
But so with all, from babes that play
At hide and seek to God afar,
So all who hide too well away
Must speak and tell us where they are.