Friday, March 30, 2007

Everybody is I

"The journey only took twelve minutes, but on this occasion that was long enough for a startling new truth to penetrate my ten-year-old consciousness so profoundly that it has affected almost everything I have done since that day.

As I sat on the front seat of the big green Maidstone and District bus, a sixpenny bit and a penny clutched in my hand ready for the conductor, a phrase I had read earlier repeated itself over and over in my mind.

“Everybody is I.”

For some reason I sensed an important inner core of meaning in the words. But I was unable to dig it out.

Everybody is I... Everybody is I ...

Suddenly I stiffened. Body erect, hands flat on the ledge of the window, I pressed my forehead against the glass and stared in amazement at the crowds on the pavement below. The true meaning of those three simple, but puzzling words had exploded into my mind, destroying the illusion that I was the center of the universe, and leaving me to cope, for the rest of my life, with a burden of knowledge. Every one of those people down there in the street, walking the pavements, driving cars, waiting for buses – every single one, whatever they were, whatever they looked like, whatever I thought of them, were as important to themselves as I was to myself!

I shook my head trying to clear it of this incredible notion. Everybody is I ... That funny, bent old lady with the mouth drooping on one side – she mattered, she was vital – central. The bus conductor who had interrupted my mental churning earlier; he wasn’t just a bit player in my world. He was the star in his own. He had a head full of thoughts and feelings; a life inside him; he was the reason that the earth went on turning. My own father and mother, my brothers, aunts, uncles, all my friends – all were “I”. Everybody was I, and at that moment I was somehow aware that I would probably never learn a more important lesson."

– Adrian Plass, from Growing Up Pains

I thought of this bit from Adrian Plass this morning when I read the words of Jesus in Luke 6:41,42. It’s where He exposes people who find fault with others for doing the same things they’re doing themselves, as hypocrites.

I wonder if part of our problem with specks and planks – things like complaining how people in church are unfriendly, but being standoffish ourselves, whining about bad drivers but bending the rules ourselves, all that hypocritical stuff – doesn’t have its roots here. Perhaps we’ve never learned the lesson that 10-year-old Adrian learned that day. We still think and act like we’re the center of the universe, and behave with great indulgence toward our egostically centered selves to boot.

I know I’ve been guilty. I need to grow up. Otherwise, how will I ever be able to obey that most unhypocritical command of Jesus just a few verses earlier: “And just as you want men to do to you, you do to them likewise” (Luke 6:31)?

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