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Morning Sun
  • OKIE IN EXILE: The search for happiness ends with reconciliation

  • Jacob and his father-in-law Laban did not have what you would call a good relationship. They had cheated each other back and forth for years. They were too much alike to ever get along and both of them became mature enough to realize that. As a result they built a big pile of rocks and said to each other you stay on your side and I will stay on my side and there will be peace.

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  • Jacob and his father-in-law Laban did not have what you would call a good relationship. They had cheated each other back and forth for years. They were too much alike to ever get along and both of them became mature enough to realize that. As a result they built a big pile of rocks and said to each other you stay on your side and I will stay on my side and there will be peace.
    That worked for them.
    It would be great if everyone loved everyone else. I used to try the “I’m OK; you’re OK” thing, but, as I do get out in the world, I’ve seen too many who are not OK. There are total bastards in the world, my friends. And, some would argue, I am one of them at least occasionally.
    The secret to finding happiness in this view of the world is wrapped up in the word reconciliation.
    My view of reconciliation has changed. There was a time when it was much more in line with the “I’m okay; you’re okay” thing. That point of view does have its advantages. It’s cheap for one thing. You don’t have to think. Indeed, thinking too much is contra-indicated.
    Reconciliation is not cheap. Reconciliation requires seeking to understand what has gone on. Not only do you have to understand your position, but you have to get into the shoes of your enemy. Sometimes this means understanding that they are not “okay,” and, sometimes, this means understanding that you are not “okay.”
    In that great movie musical Paint Your Wagon, Ben Rumson is going mad with paranoia because he has the only wife for a hundred miles around. He’s brought before the rest of the miners because he’s become violently deranged. They ask him if he can stop being crazy, and he says, “Sorry, boys, I can’t help you.”
    While being able to control himself would’ve been better, his self-knowledge that he was incapable of this sort of control was a step forward.  Given this knowledge, they were closer to reconciliation.
    One thing that confuses us from the Christian tradition is the idea that we are supposed to love everyone.  I am not saying that we aren’t.  What I will say is that Jesus says we are to love God, to love our neighbor, and to love our enemies.
    Did you see that last bit? He didn’t say not to have enemies; he said to love them.
    We are to seek out reality. We are to understand that reality the best we can. We are to deal with it.
    As I read this, I am reminded that I’m not the first one to tread along this path. Reinhold Niebuhr wrote a prayer that has since been applied by Alcoholics Anonymous: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.
    Page 2 of 2 - This is a wonderful prayer; don’t get me wrong. I wonder if perhaps serenity, courage, and wisdom should run through all three parts. Sometimes accepting what you can’t change takes more courage than serenity.  Something wisdom tells us that there are things we shouldn’t change even though we can.  Sometimes serenity comes in the acceptance which proceeds from wisdom.
    This attitude does not fit well with the modern age. We are encouraged to change the way things are. We control nature and tailor it to our needs. The idea of accepting reality is anathema.
    But here’s the thing. Reality wins and therefore we must become reconciled to it if we are to be at peace. Or, perhaps, we have to be reconciled to not being at peace.
    We have a choice.
    Bobby Winters, a native of Harden City, Oklahoma, is Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Mathematics at Pittsburg State University.
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