Friday, February 21, 2014


“Until you heal the wounds of your past, you are going to bleed.  You can bandage the bleeding with food, with alcohol, with drugs, with work, with cigarettes, with sex; but eventually, it will all ooze through and stain your life.  You must find the strength to open the wounds, stick your hands inside, pull out the core of the pain that is holding you in your past, the memories and make peace with them.”
   —-Iyanla Vanzant 


Today, I am healing from surgery, from lasers cutting eyelid skin, sutures lifting and resizing my eyelids, restoring my peripheral vision  I am healing so that I can experience the world in a richer, more complete way.

This morning, I walked down the lane, greeting the early morning sky with a new enthusiasm, with literally a new vision of the new day.  I am re-experiencing the miracle of sight, and of experiencing the world.

Now, my task is to heal.  I rest, I sleep, I eat healthy foods, I manage my pain, and I tend to my wounds.  All of my day’s tasks is focused on my healing from my surgery.  Time is on my side, as I rest and heal, and do the work that is needed to do to recover, to take care of my body, and to celebrate the precious gift of sight.

As I lay back, ice pack on my eyes, letting the cold sink into the skin, into my head, into the wounds, I let the miracle of the cold bring fresh blood to the wounds, more nutrients, more of my life force.  My nature is to seek warm, to be comforted by heat, to soak up the sun and bask in the cozy comfort of my bed, reveling in the last bit of drowziness before my day begins.

Yet, it is the cold, the adversity, that brings the healing.  To be tested, to be on the edge, and to have to struggle a bit, against the cold, that makes my body stronger, that brings the healing energies I need.  

This process is a metaphor of my struggles as a man, to be able to see my wounds, and to take the steps I need to heal, and to be a complete, whole man.

As I grew up, and as I lived through childhood, teenage life, adolescence, and young adulthood, I was wounded.  I struggled, and my questions of who I was and what I was all about were unanswered, even mocked, ridiculed.  I faced violence, indifference, degradation, and falsehoods.  I was led into the wilderness, and then laughed at when I became lost, uncertain as to where I should walk to find my future, my sense of place, my sense of being in this world.

Love of self, and love of others remained a mystery to me, and I was left in the cold, unsure of who I was, unsure of what my role in this world was to be.  I was lost and needed to be found, and to find myself.

Those wounds did not bleed like the wounds on my eyes this week.  Those wounds were not so easily treated, with sutures, and salves, and the healing powers and potions of my surgeons and nurses.  Those wounds were not easily cleansed by sleep, and food, and the loving care of my family.  

Yet, those wounds were the most painful, and the most dehumanizing.  I was led to believe they did not exist, yet they were the most infectious, the most unnerving, the hardest to treat.  

Other men embraced me, encouraging me to push my shoulders back, to open my eyes, and embrace these wounds, and to embrace the challenges of becoming a whole man, a healthy man, a man who has his place in the world, and a destiny to fulfill.  

Yes, I am a good person, I am a child of God, I am healthy, and strong, and I have purpose in my life.  I have a place in this planet, and I am valued.  I am important, and capable of fulfilling my destiny.

I have work to do.  I have missions to accomplish.  I have tasks to complete, and I am called to be a citizen of the world, and to do good in my life.  And, in preparing for that work, in undertaking that work, I must tend to my wounds, and I must do the healing that is needed in order to be healthy, to be strong.

Real health, and real strength comes from embracing my manhood, from seeing my wounds, and treating them.  It is my task to open them, and less the puss and infection drain away, and then it is time for the healing.  I have a duty to heal, and to give time to myself to be tender with myself, to clean the infection, and to medicate myself with unconditional love and understanding, with acceptance, and with a friendship with God, so that I become healed.

Others helped me.  Others showed me the paths to take, and the medications to use.  Others offered advice and direction, and comfort.  But, most of all, they offered me unconditional love and acceptance, of who I was, and who I was becoming.  They accepted me on my journey, and offered support, and kindness, and understanding.  They offered patience with me, giving me time to grow, and to heal.  

The real work was done deep inside of me.  I needed time and confidence, I needed to find my own tools, and to learn how to use them.  I needed to go deep, and to connect with God, and to find who I am really am.  

I needed to be on my journey, and to take on the leadership that my soul needed to move ahead in life.  I am the captain of my ship, and I needed to take the wheel, and to sail through the storms, and to plot my course to the safe harbors.  Yet, I needed to be tested and to discover, for myself, that I am strong, that I am capable, that I am filled with love, and that, if I put my soul into a struggle, then I will succeed, and I will find my destiny.

Today, I heal.  Today, I move on, learning, accepting, meeting the challenges of today.  Today, I embrace my manhood, my humanity, my cloak of being a child of God.  I am loved, and I am loving.  I know my destiny.

—-Neal Lemery, 2/21/2014

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Towards Becoming A Better Person: Ubuntu

Towards Becoming A Complete Person

In the Xhosa culture of South Africa, there is a word, ubuntu.  Roughly translated, it is the concept of "a  person is a person through other persons".  That is, I am not who I am really meant to be in this life, unless I am in service to, and compassionate towards other persons.  It is only through empathy, compassion, and service that I fulfill my mission in this life to God to be whole, to be complete.  One's life is not fulfilled and does not have complete and honest meaning unless one is of service to others, and is fully compassionate.

Desmond Tutu writes of this concept, this essence of culture and humanity, in his book, God is Not A Christian: Speaking Truth in Times of Crisis. (2011).

Much of Western thought is exemplified by Descartes' maxim, "I think, therefore, I am."  Yet, Archbishop Tutu urges us to think outside of Western thought, and view our lives in terms of "I am because I belong."  We need other human beings to survive, and to find real meaning in our lives.

Each of us is different, and we each have gifts.  Our gifts are not the gifts of our neighbors, and our neighbors' gifts are not ours.  In that, we have need for each other.

"Ubuntu speaks of spiritual attributes such as generosity, hospitality, compassion, caring, sharing.  You could be affluent in material possession, but still be without ubuntu.  This concept speaks of how people are more important than things, than profits, than material possessions.  It speaks about the intrinsic worth of people not dependent on extraneous things such as status, race, creed, gender or achievement."  (Tutu, p 22)

In Xhosa culture, ubuntu is cherished and coveted more than anything else.  This quality in people distinguishes people from other animals.

Western society has made enormous progress, because of our personal drive and initiative.  Yet, there are substantial costs to this "progress".  People are lonely, and there is an obsession with achievement and success.  Such a culture views failure as a personal, even moral, disaster.  We tend to not forgive and to accept people who have "failed" in the eyes of society.

Such a culture does not give much value to forgiveness and compassion.  We tend to not understand suffering, or to identify with people who are suffering, including ourselves.  In that experience and view, we risk becoming less human, less fulfilled.

In other cultures, such as the Maori of New Zealand, and Aborigines in Australia, each person is highly valued, and each person has a a clear identity and role in their culture.  Everyone has value, and everyone's participation in society has a cherished value in that society.  Everyone is worthy, and everyone has a story to tell.

Indeed, we are here so that we can tell our story, and the story of our people.  In that story is the connection with others, with living our lives with and through other people.  And, as we go about our lives, we are in service to and living for the benefit of others.  Compassion and forgiveness, rehabilitation, and acceptance, are all strong and cherished values.  In life, we are here to help others connect with God, with their people, and with the stories of our brothers and sisters, our neighbors, and with the world.  We are interconnected, and in that interconnectedness, there is love and purpose.

Not that the Xhosa, the Maori, or the Aborigines have perfect, ideal cultures, and not that they are always happy and fulfilled.  Like any people, they have their problems, and their stresses, as well as their struggles and deep questions.  Yet, they have a strong sense of community and they deeply value every member.  Everyone has a role to play, and a mission in their lives to serve others, to be a part of the greater whole.

Forgiveness is a challenging topic.  Contemplating true forgiveness, for me, is often a struggle and a dilemma.  I do not find easy answers and easy solutions to the hard questions and the difficult anxieties and challenges I have about many things.

Yet, if I approach my wrestling matches with a sense of Ubuntu, and passion towards finding forgiveness deep inside of my soul, then I can see that much of my struggles are eased, and that there is a way out of the wilderness, and that I am moving forward on my path to trying to live better, to live more honestly.  The burdens I have are lifted a bit, and I can see a glimmer of the Light ahead in my journey.

Neal Lemery