Pressure Cooker and Potted Plant

Another from mid-2017…

“I don’t think I’m going to change your mind, and I don’t think you’re going to change mine. And that’s ok. We don’t have to agree. But I do want you to feel like we can talk about it.”

This was a big step for me, to assert my thoughts, to hear someone else’s, and to not instantly push to come to some point of agreement. It was a really personal issue, but we both came from perspectives very rooted in our pasts and in our present situation. It wasn’t likely to be resolved in one sitting, if at all, but we still needed to be able to function as friends.

Plato has taught that no thing can be both true and untrue in the same respect at the same time. And this foundational principle has driven philosophical inquiry from Plato’s time to our own. It’s a principle to which I am committed. And it’s a principle embedded in the Catholic tradition’s pursuit of truth.

This principle has also been a foundation for many of my insecurities. I’ve struggled throughout my life to win over others to my perspective. As a gay Catholic, I’ve written hundreds of pages working to justify the place I’ve found in the world. Everyone has a perspective on how best to live my life, and I’ve found myself in the center of a pressure cooker to live up to a million conflicting expectations. Getting others to accept my perspective and walk alongside me has often been my way of turning down the dial on the pressure cooker, lifting one more of those pressurizing expectations. But life doesn’t always work like that.

Coming to the truth of a thing in an honest way takes time, commitment, and a sense of wonder. Of course, wonder implies a thing that cannot be contained by my comprehension. Even if I wonder at myself, it is only because there is an essential mystery to my own being. Though I can penetrate deeply, I can never do so fully.

Wonder also requires us to take a step out of our concern for conceptual totality and dualistic clarity, and to just be with something. Man will always transcend computer, because his life can’t be written using a binary code. I can never fully escape the frameworks of my perspectives, but I can recognize that life’s most precious realities transcend, challenge, form, and reform those frameworks.

Some realities don’t hand themselves over to the initial viewer. You can’t see the potential for a seed unless you commit to watering and watching silently day after day. You don’t know the type of flower, or even if it is a flower, unless you give it the space to be what it is, entirely apart from your conceptions of what it might be. So, too, it is with people, and even more so. So perhaps it’s odd that we briefly hear parts of the stories of others and quickly commit to perspectives on what they might or should be or mean.

To see another, you must commit to the growing season. All you can do is water and watch, even if you think you might be growing a carnivorous plant. We’re used to buying full-grown plants at Home Depot, with little instruction cards, and a neat little pot marking off a fixed place in the world, and a growing solution selected by an “expert.” But we are not all potted plants.

The pressure cooker will always be on, and I’m starting to realize that the only way to get out of it is to get out of it. Others can have their own perspectives. And I can’t force people to simply adopt mine any more than I can honestly force my life into theirs. Aside from whatever all those people think of me, I’m not even sure what kind of plant I am. If you want to be my friend, we can water and watch.

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