Learning curve

Cornel West channels Martin Luther King Jr. to criticize Obama

Friday 2014-12-26

Learning happiness can take you out of your comfort zone.

So, there can be a learning curve as one comes to tolerate and manage greater degrees of happiness and prosperity than one has been accustomed to.

Some time ago, this short, very thin Korean immigrant with shoulder-length gray hair began coming to the shelter. When he first came here, he was in bad shape; he appeared to have no resources at all.

He had this heavy, blue quilt jacket that he wore at all times. He wore it in bed.

In recent weeks, I’ve seen him become more and more a complainer, and irritable. My take: his energies no longer being exhausted by a constant struggle for food and shelter, he now had energy to spare, and didn’t know enough to channel it into joy. It would have been a strange, new experience for him. So he chose instead to channel it into strife, as he was accustomed to.

In a future post I may tell a recent incident of finding myself doing the same thing.

It got to where, the past two mornings, he demanded help carrying his many little bags upstairs to breakfast. This makes no sense. You brought them in here; you carry them everywhere you go all day; and now you can’t take them upstairs?

There was a widespread belief that, the whole time he’s been here — about three months — he never changed a single piece of clothing. At checkin tonight, he was told he’d only be admitted if he’d accept a complete change of clothes.

He refused.

He wasn’t admitted.

(Note, 2015-01-26: I haven’t seen him since. Anywhere.)

This dynamic — choosing familiar pain over unaccustomed joy — explains how many individuals, and sometimes whole demographics, become treatment resistant.

I finally understand Cornel West: a highly educated malcontent.

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Earlier that day, I stopped a few blocks from the shelter and pondered the soul as being like a wind instrument — a flute, clarinet or trumpet.  The Holy Spirit blows through it, and as one exercises one’s attributes, one can produce beautiful music.

A high school classmate played trumpet.  His trumpet was on loan from the school, and had some serious dents in it.  This made certain notes hard to play correctly.

Some people are born with souls shaped like shards of glass — many sharp edges and dangerous points.  Disharmonious sounds are practically all they can produce.  Living life the Way Jesus taught will gradually re-shape one’s soul into a harmonious instrument; but that process can take many years.

In the meantime, there will be lots of disharmony.

Here is the learning curve again.

Wherever one is, is the place to begin.

Originally posted 2015-01-28.

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