Driving home from my dog walk, listening to CBC – and there was the feeling – that “Aha!” That wonderful knowing that something was happening and I’d better pay attention. I did – I listened with everything I had.
I experienced at least 20 minutes of “Aha.”
Now the problem with these moments is that they are difficult to express in words. The context was a former white supremacist who had done evil things to others and who had changed. He had written a book, confessing the awful things he had done and how his life’s work now was at least twofold: self-forgiveness and atonement. And in the course of this, to hopefully change others so that they too might see another way of being.
A Sikh man who co-authored the book was also on the program – a man who had had a opposite experience – that of his father being shot to death in a temple and the rage that came with that. He talked about the Sikh principal of Chardi Kala, meaning “relentless optimism.”
It is the superior and glorious state of mind in which there is no fear, jealousy or enmity and there is a constant celestial bliss of self-dignity, self-abundance and grandeur of soul.
That last bit is a lot to absorb – like the Buddhist Nirvana. But two concepts in the program stopped me: relentless optimism and self-forgiveness.
I’m not new to the idea of self-forgiveness. I’ve had enough self-hatred in my life to understand that you have to forgive yourself and love yourself in order to give to others. But listening to Arno (former white supremacist) I understood that you don’t have a sudden experience of forgiving and loving and moving on. It is a life’s work. It never stops. And I know that when I need to work on this most is when I shut off my vulnerability – when I shut down. This is a difficult thing to admit because even writing that feels vulnerable.
But this concept of not just optimism but relentless optimism. This made my heart leap.
What it said to me was optimism in spite of every reason on earth to abandon hope. Optimism despite all the negativity, most importantly, the negativity I direct toward myself.
The optimism that says not only, Yes I can” but also “Yes I am.”
And listening to these flawed human beings – as we are all imperfect – I also saw how a life – every life – is worth living and is important. Even if it influences only one person, that ripple in the ocean of thoughts, emotions and ideas, makes a difference.