Trees are so green. Still. I love the lingering days mid-October, the temperature drops one degree lower each day. Slowly, so slowly the dahlias and sunflowers descend into a frosted land. Summer grips us tighter this year. Its talons hold on fiercely even as its fire fades. Do I love summer more than I fear winter? Once Bar St. John said that she harbored a hate towards mockingbirds. How very absurd. I was baffled beyond belief that Bar would say that. This clear woman was loved by Quakers. She played the harp and loved the world until the butterflies ate out of her hand. Could she even harbor a drop of hate. She detested mockingbirds because they were pilfering off others. She begrudged their chasing off smaller songbirds. She thought their sound was obnoxious, copying other birds without singing their own song.
She said, “I realized that my dislike was not changing the mockingbird at all. Humans have little effect on the cares of this bird. We aren’t that important. So any hate that I have prevents me from loving.” One morning she woke up happy to be back in her own bed. She heard a familiar cacophony. Barb had been visiting a sick person out of town. It was a symphony of beauty. She knew the birdsong of cardinals and mourning doves and the twittering of sparrows. She heard the mockingbird. And she blessed it and welcomed it. Imitating the song of others could be useful. Music composers borrowed a phrase of music often and added their own style to it. Bar was sure mockingbirds were loved by God. The birds were on earth for a purpose and her hate was only corrosive to herself.
Was Bar, a seer, giving me instruction in that preposterous task to love your enemy?’ Wasn’t she talking about the mundane? Changing your attitude about an annoying bird is like shaking off a creepy fear of a dark room. Or how we get used to the clicking of the electric heater. Or deciding that we can mop up a child’s vomit and it won’t kill us. Or is changing an old assumption about mockingbirds as pests rather sublime? I mean, think about it. This is not a simple task. Hate comes in many shrouds and we need to unveil them. I hate the Tea Party movement. I hate the military generals who derail world peace. I hate garbage, I hate pale green, I hate sleet in November. You get the picture. But what good does any of that feeling do? Anger is energizing: and hate? Hate is destructive.
Loving your best friend is as hard as loving your enemy. It’s just when I consider loving someone who has hurt me, I slam into my sense of personal integrity. Such love often unloosens my grip of self-preservation. I spend more time licking my wounds than pouring a drink for my enemy. I spend more time hesitating and building my case than walking over to the other side. Xenophobia is so limiting. It’s so inside the box. It’s so retro. Fear of mockingbirds, or of another person is worse than retro. Fear is so Jurassic Age; it’s at least 2 millennium old.
Yes, the mockingbird has a song that I can learn to love. I can only surmise how Jesus went about â€˜loving your enemy.’ I can only imagine what that Quaker lioness Margaret Fell meant when she claims, “We [Friends] do deny and bear our testimony against all strife, wars, and contentions that come from the lusts that war in the members, and that war against the soul.” (letter to King Charles 1660). I’m guessing that Fell is saying that when I participate in war on the outside, my soul is also at war. Isn’t the US in a state of endless war? I am a small mammal, trying to learn heavenly ways. We Quakers sign onto a peace testimony but our practice flounders. Quakers commit to peace, and the path is muddy with hidden sand traps. I’ve dedicated my life to learning how to treat others with respect. That is a stepping stone to loving others. Have I learned how to treat others? Golly. I’m as good at making peace as a cat swimming against the tide.
And I laugh at Colbert’s March to Keep Fear alive at the Washington Monument on Oct 30th. but I don’t have anything against the Rally to Restore Sanity. Does Jon Stewart want to clean out the destructive forces in our political ruckus? Doesn’t he want to create an attitude change to political mockingbirds? Humor does open doors for peace to happen.
I love Bar St. John even though she died 10 years ago. Love will conquer fear. I will dwell in the house of love with friends. I will work on the seeds of hate inside me. And when I am called I’ll venture into loving my enemies. We are all called to do this. I just hope I only have to do it until I can a full-time job. Like I can’t love my enemies all the time, can I? Maybe just every election day.