We are lost without sincerity. To be immersed in lies; to constantly dissemble; to be treated as an object for someone else’s purposes; is to find our selves in the utmost precarity.
An apocryphal tale whose source I can no longer remember sticks with me. It’s of a moment of first encounter between a North American and some “Discoverer,” some hell-bent treasure-hunter arriving on these shores with visions of gold and spices and slaves to be had. The chief is summoned. He takes one look at this alien visitor and strikes him dead with his ceremonial club.
His only comment, “He was insane. Now he is at peace.”
We’ve strayed so far from the human expectation that we all look at each other as fellows and not the means to some perverted end. There was a deep recognition in this chief that we cannot live among those who are so trapped in their own lies that there is no glimmer of our native sincerity left in them.
It was, for him, a matter of hygiene to eliminate this contagion from their lands.
But the insanity kept coming. We’re now in the reverse situation. To expect sincerity is to be taken for mad.
Another image, this time from my own childhood. In the second grade, already becoming seasoned at surviving the horrors of that den of acculturation that was the big yellow school bus. There was a new kid. A tall, blond boy, big for his age. He had been home-schooled – very rare in those days in the late fifties. He boarded that bus. A lamb to slaughter. A vision of the Christ at the moment of His sacrifice.
He had no idea what was happening to him. He got off the bus with his clothes torn. Maybe worse, memory fails at summoning details….
Without knowing it at the time. Only feeling a sense of guilt and shame mixed with relief. Here was another easier target for the bullies. They would not pick on me that day…. I can still see the look on his face. The scariest part, what gave this incident its power to stick with me all these years, was that his look did not change.
It’s true; he boarded the bus smiling; happy at the prospect of a new adventure, new friends to be made. At the end his face was streaked with tears. But beneath the emotions of these conflicting moments, passing from a profound innocence to this first great break with his accustomed expectations, there remained his innate sincerity. Unbroken.
Innocence. I always thought it meant patsy. Isn’t that what we are lead to believe? That innocence is a lack. It wasn’t until I heard Krishnamurti use the term correctly. To be innocent is to be free from harm, harmless.
There are two sides to this. Sure to be harmless in one sense is to be an easy target. The harmless one will not fight back.
But what he was getting at was that innocence defends us from harm.
Not that it defends us from being hurt. Torn clothes are only among the slightest indignities we are subject to. But pain and misery are not suffering. And to be innocent is to be free from suffering.
It is sincerity that holds us in innocence.
Compassion is attention. Attention is compassion. Each only limited by the extent of our immersion in their unity.
Here is where sincerity lies. It lives – and gives us an opening into our own lives – at this level. To be insincere is to allow violence to tear apart this connection. Violence is absence. Absence is violence.
Here was the fatal flaw the chief recognized in his mad visitor. Here was the distance, the gap between our young Kimberly on that bus and his tormentors and those of us who stood aside and let it happen.
Behind the knowing smirk, there is shame at our complicity borne in our wink and a chuckle. Pretending our loss of innocence is some gain is the point of entry as violence takes over our souls.
All of our choices reside inside of us. Just as the only thing we truly have is our attention; we are the only ones who can steal this birthright from us.
What is mad is to choose to throw this all away.
The path leading from this precipice is illuminated by sincerity.
Let us follow its light.