Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Seeing and Loving People for Who they Really Are

Davy Jones has passed away today at age 66.

To say that the Monkees had a large impact on my life as a kid would be an understatement. I was 10 when I discovered them in 1978 in re-runs. My newly-found best friend and I watched the show religiously. We learned their songs, we learned to play guitar, we wrote and performed plays based on their shows, we memorized facts, learned to do real library research, went on record-hunting expeditions to resale shops. My young brain synapses formed with the Monkees right in the middle of it all. I exercised my already somewhat proficient skill at crushes on Davy first, and then on Michael Nesmith. To this very minute, if I hear Monkees music (especially songs other than the first five that come to everyone's mind when you say "Monkees music"), something kicks in deep in my limbic system to elicit a sense of pure, childlike joy and innocence.

And one day, I met Davy Jones.  I was 18, and they were doing their 20th reunion tour. They came to my home town; my friend and I were squished as close to the front as we could get. We loitered until they left the venue, and we followed them. I drove madly through town chasing their limo, somehow parked the thing, jumped out, ran into the hotel lobby. Micky and Peter had vanished, but Davy lingered to amuse folks like us. I wanted his autograph, but had nothing for him to sign but the shirt I wore (the one under my sweater). I pulled it out for him to sign. My eyes met his. And he sneered at me. Like I was pulling off dirty underwear for him to sign or something. He signed it, never letting up his disgusted look. I probably didn't say anything, even to ask him to sign.

My friend and I went to Burger King afterwards and meditated on what just happened. Suddenly I realized that this man was a mere human being. He had nothing to do, really, with that joy and innocence and my happy limbic system and everything I'd learned and gained. He was a tired, middle-aged man with a big enough ego to want to sign autographs.

I met him a few years later at a book signing, and he was smiling and polite and "friendly." Or well behaved. Like we all can manage to do when we're in public, usually. Nothing anyone can really take personally, because it is really all about not wanting to be a social embarrassment to oneself.

I don't fault him for his sneer, and I don't judge him. And of course, the fact is, he was a real person whom I didn't know. Like all of us, probably few people really knew him. Perhaps, like many, he didn't even really know himself, except in what he saw in other people.

My point is this: somewhere under this all, there's a lesson for me today. People are instruments in the hands of God, and we can learn truths or at least be led toward truths through people. We can love and be loved. Yet, wisdom says that it is God in and through all of the process Who leads, and Whom we seek.

It all gets hazy because of our souls being impure with sin and disordered attachments. Our desire to be known, our desire to be connected to others -- it can all get weird to the degree that we have this impurity of soul. Fame can seriously mess with people's minds; in their own minds they can cease to exist except as they are in the minds of other people. And even in relationship with people who aren't particularly famous, we can dishonor them by recreating them as extensions of our own minds instead of honoring them as the mysterious image of God as God created them.

But, we are made for connection with others, and worship is an element of that. Just not an idolizing kind of worship. We are made for heaven. We are made for God. "When I am lifted up, I will draw all men unto myself" Jesus said. Gathering at the cross, gathering around the glorified Lord in Eucharistic worship, and ultimately in the liturgy of heaven, we find the deep unity and harmony for which we are all created.

When I see another person whom I love, I must always think of the Lord, the source of that love and our fellowship itself. And I must bow my heart in worship, which ultimately means, "Lord, I surrender my entire life to You."

Every person is a divine call to my heart to worship our Creator.

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