“The Christian Mysticism of life become lucid … and often, nay usually, the solution is more or less unutterable in words.” — William James, “The Varieties of Religious Experience”
I don’t remember who came to my door. I don’t remember what he said. I do remember he was angry.
I had just finished reading a book called “Summerhill” by an English schoolmaster, A.S. Neill. Its theme was ‘freedom, not license’. Each student in Neill’s school was free to do what he wanted as long as the conduct didn’t hurt someone else. The community Neill had created was a free, creative, loving, respectful, responsible interaction of unique human beings.
Recently, I’d been involved in disciplinary battles with one of my preschool sons. The battles resulted in increasingly destructive behavior in him and increased frustration in me. I decided to give Neill’s methods a try, with my own children and with other people in my life.
The man at the door wasn’t hurting me. I decided to allow him to vent his anger. I didn’t do it because it was something I ought to do. I did it because I chose to do it. I experienced acceptance of the anger and no desire to retaliate. Suddenly, the anger stopped.
Nothing changed. My house, the door, the living room, the man, were all still there, just as they had been five minutes before.
Yet everything changed. Suddenly, I understood the meaning of words I’d been taught as a child: “But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Matthew 6:39.
My five-year-old son Bill began wetting the bed after his youngest brother was born. At first, I ignored the bedwetting. Perhaps it would disappear. When it didn’t, I explained to Bill why he was too big a boy to wet the bed. The wetting continued. I reasoned with him, threatened him, screamed at him, and spanked him. The wetting continued. I felt angry and frustrated.