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Cogs

by on January 20, 2023

Cogs

by Marco M. Pardi

and Br. Mark Dohle

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Anon.

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply. All previous posts are open for comment.

At some point in my life I was exposed to pinball machines, those garish, noisy devices with a spring loaded trigger which send a steel ball caroming around a tilted board with various protruding cogs until it finally drops with a thunk into a hole at the bottom. I noticed that every such game board was almost equally topped with lighted illustrations of buxom beauties in supposedly provocative poses and formed a lasting opinion of who were the intended paying customers. I did not play. But, I did watch others, some quite ardent in their drive for high scores.

But wait! Watching people play, I noticed that what I had thought were obstacles (the protruding cogs) were actually little devices that awarded points when they were touched by the ball. If the ball simply dropped down the canyon of clear board without touching them before dropping into the hole there would be no points awarded. So a simple shift in my perspective put the game in a new light. But some of these encounters were deceptive; they hastened the ball toward the hole at the bottom of the board.

Nevertheless, I always take the opportunity to see things as metaphors for our lives. In this case, a barely disguised Freudian plunger hurls us into a conglomeration we charitably call a society. We are born. We figuratively bang into and bump people heedlessly through the brief spasm we call Life. While keeping score of what we’ve gained, we often ignore the lessons gained by what we perceive as loss.

But what of those whom we encounter, and those whom we miss entirely? Do we give a thought to what they’ve gained, or lost? Do we think of how their lives were made different by the encounter, or would have been different had we not done so? I

do find that giving much thought to these directions makes me uncomfortable in some ways; I feel vain, too self important. When someone refers to my college faculty career and calls me a teacher I inwardly recoil. To me, teacher sounds too elitist; I know something and you don’t so I will teach you. I prefer to feel I have put new information before someone and facilitated the process by which they discover its meaning. For me, the greatest reward in that career was not the money (that’s surprisingly abysmal), it was seeing the excitement of discovery in students’ faces. Whether they reached the same judgment as me was unimportant; they reached a judgment. Especially when assigning written papers I tried to make clear to students that I’m not here to teach you what to think, I’m here to help you develop how to think. What you think is your business; how you think is my business.

Of course, doing that successfully requires talking with people, not talking to people. One person I bumped into over twenty five years ago and have gained many points from through our numerous interactions since is the Cistercian monk Mark Dohle. As must be plain, his foundational premise is different from mine but his developments and applications of thought have values which must surely add to the wealth of our persnal developments, no matter the trajectory of our lives.

Their Roots in Trauma

by Br. Mark Dohle

Our interior lives are deeper than most understand. For there lurk angels, demons,and gods, not to mention passions, deep emotions, and overwhelming feelings of many different sorts. Their roots are in trauma. Perhaps that is why this world can seem more like a mental hospital than an actual world with rational, intelligent beings.

These inner realities can keep us locked away from one another. We use politics and religion more than anything else to do that. I am certainly not immune to the siren songs of ‘personal infallibility’.

Jesus tells us to love one another because in my mind it is the only way to bridge our own inner hell to others, and become free to see, embrace, and understand those around us. For we are truly mysteries to one another, as well as to ourselves. Yes, when we learn to seek others, we understand that they also mirror back to us important insights about ourselves. They do not become our enemies but friends.

Prayer connects us to the “Heart Of God”, and opens us up to feel for others, to have empathy, and to seek the beauty in those around us. As difficult as that can be, in grace healing comes, and prayer opens up our hearts to grace.

The human soul must be fed, and that happens through prayer, the reading of books, and Scriptures that shower light on our need for help from above, in that is our salvation.

To not pray can close us off from others leaving us only with ourselves, and our own ideas often against most others. We align with like-minded people and block out all else. We cannot see our own humanity in those who are ‘other’.

Perhaps that is what causes all of the insanity that fills human history: we do not pray from the heart.-Br.MD

Where Does Faith in God Lead?

By Br. Mark Dohle

Religion is always love, nothing but love.’ Haven’t I explained to you that you will be judged according to the measure of your love—on that alone?

Bossis, Gabrielle. He and I (Kindle Locations 4201-4203). Pauline Books and Media. Kindle Edition.

+++++++++

Truth, and Love, can’t be separated. However truth said without love is not about love at all, but more about control, or, the ‘Will to Power’.

Both Truth, and Love have to be embraced, it cannot be forced. The people who have influenced me the most are those who do not seek to manipulate or control me.

To force one’s love on someone, or to try to force another to see things the way I do, is in fact an act of evil. It does not mean that we do not speak the truth, but when we do, to keep the ‘Golden Rule’ in mind. How do I want to be treated? Think about it, pray about it, and then seek to be open to others, about your thoughts and beliefs.

To stereotype another can be another evil since we strip away the humanity of someone and force them into a specific mold, which probably does not exist anyway. In religion/politics, the most decisive and inflammatory subjects, we tend to stereotype more than any other those who disagree with us. We are seeing the

destructive fruit at this point in time in our history more than ever before. This is because of the many forms of communication, several offering anonymity, that are now easily available.

On line there are more communities that exist that only allow information that they already agree with. Yet, the more we talk at each other, the less that is said or listened to.

Is it any wonder that so many are lonely, and isolated in a world filled with instant access to news, and discussion? The grace of love allows us to build bridges so that we can speak to others of a different mindset without being offensive to each other.

Christian friend, and all friends, let us pray for all, and seek to see all that we come in contact with as a beloved child of God. We are not called to judge, but to speak truth, and to listen to others as we would like to be listened to. So many feel discounted, this leads to rage.-Br.MD

As Mark and I have made clear in our frank discussions, we do not share the same foundation. But we do share our value of how we communicate with others.

And speaking of that, I will take this opportunity to inform you of a stunning encounter I had recently. I walk my dog, or more likely get dragged, about the neighborhood early every morning. Often we encounter and exchange greetings with an elderly African-American man wearing a ball cap with various writing and military insignia on it. And this time I was close enough to ask him what was on his cap. He came closer and showed me. To say I was stunned almost silent would likely be the

understatement of 2023. He seemed pleased at my reaction, and I sincerely hope to sit down with him soon and interview him for a post I will provide for you.

As always, I am deeply honored by and grateful for the comments people are kind in offering on this site. Since this site is read in many countries around the world I will say I have no doubts that the world, as we know the better parts of it today, is what it is due to the bravery and fortitude of the man I had often passed but only recently met on my neighborhood street in the past few days. In that light I would hope people respond.

An ancient Indian proverb advises us: Life is a bridge. Cross over it but build no house upon it.

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10 Comments
  1. Tilly permalink

    Thank you Marco and Br Mark for sharing this collaborative post.
    I am in agreement that as humans, one of the most important characteristics or behaviors we can work to nurture and develop is our ability to reach out to others. If we can learn to do this with kindness, compassion, and a true sense of interest and curiosity, this one small thing truly can make positive change!
    I found it interesting to see the metaphor of the bridge appear both in describing how we can connect to other people, as well as to describe how we move through this life.
    Either way, we mustn’t stop crossing the bridge!

    Like

    • Thank you, Tilly. I’m reminded of a saying I heard years ago: “If you want to hear someone’s story, get on the subway dressed as a priest.” That may not be as true today as it once was, but I’m sure it still applies.

      Some of us seem to have a demeanor which is more inviting to other people, some of us not. For many years I was told I looked either angry or sad – when I was neither.

      Like

  2. mkdohle permalink

    Well said Tilly. For me a life long process. We can forget our commonality of experience, when that happens we are the poorer for it. Yes the bridge metaphor can take up down many interesting ways to contemplate how we reach our and listen to one another.

    Peace
    Mark

    Like

  3. mkdohle permalink

    Pin Ball! I used to love the sound they made. I did not play them often, but it was good to be rewarded so easily LOL. When I had a good run, a high score, I always thought it was luck, but accepted it.

    Looking forward to your post on what the man shared with you.

    Peace
    Mark

    Like

  4. Thanks, Mark. I’m hoping I can get an interview with the man.

    Like

  5. Mike Stamm permalink

    I particularly like your illustration, which I have printed out to put up somewhere in my house. And I’m looking forward to your interview with your walking acquaintance. As for the rest, it will take me several more readings to suss out all the good stuff that is there.

    I can’t agree, however, wit h your (understandable) feeling that the title “teacher” is elitist. It certainly can be, and in many cases, perhaps even most, it is applied to someone who merely goes through the motions. I have been lucky to have known several real honest-to-god teachers, some of whom did not think of themselves that way, or were not employed in that capacity, but who definitely deserved the title. “Teacher” and “librarian” are, with “doctor” and perhaps one or two others, the most important roles there are in our or any society, and that we treat them so shabbily is both to our society’s shame and may be the source of its ultimate collapse.

    Like

    • Thank you, Mike. Yes, the feelings I had regarding “teacher” were mixed. I certainly was aware that my years of schooling, degrees, and experience justly marked me as someone who knew more, at least about the given subjects, than the students. But it still didn’t sit well with me.

      I’ve also known people who were true teachers, though not always in the formal sense. One I can think of immediately was a grade school drop-out who helped to support his family by working in rail yards. He eventually became a train engineer, while reading an untold number of books.

      As the illustration hopefully shows, teachers are all around us, if we are open to recognizing them.

      Like

  6. Julie permalink

    Great thoughtful post, really enjoyed the pinball machine comparison.
    When I left my workplace of 21 years, 17 months ago, I was really surprised and a bit overwhelmed with what colleagues and senior managers said to me. I was spoken to with genuine words of appreciation and examples of help and support over the years that I hadn’t even realised I had done. It occurred to me that a lot of what we do is noticed and affects those around us much more than we ever realise. The people that spoke to me had never expressed this to me in anyway before. So, I feel the expression of gratefulness and love would help people as we all move through our lives far more than people realise.
    My intention is always to try and go about my life in a positive, uplifting way, it affirmed for me that an individuals manner, in all ways, is felt and the repercussions travel whether that is positive or negative. Often in life we don’t see the full effects of this, but it’s always happening.

    Like

    • Thank you, Julie. Knowing what I do of you, I have no doubt that each and every word spoken to you at your retirement was true and heartfelt.

      I completely agree that we affect the people we encounter, often in ways we will never know. I think some people see the pinball analogy as a reminder that all we do eventually goes down the drain anyway. But I wonder about the cascade effects we set in motion, and if they have done something to improve the lives of others.

      Like

  7. Dana permalink

    Thanks Mark and Marco for this post. Since I work with the public I try to hear and see others for who they are. It isn’t always easy, but I’ve learned to be a more sympathetic person and communicator through this channel. Over the years we’ve had a diverse group of individuals here who don’t always agree, and even that has helped me more than I can express. We don’t have to agree with others to be available for them, or to be kind.

    As ever, I’m looking forward to reading more posts like this, and I’m curious about the neighbor and his upcoming/interview story!

    Like

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