Every dwelling place requires periodic cleaning. Our hearts are the apartments in which we dwell. They need cleaning too.
King David did some terrible things. He saw Bathsheba bathing, and she was (hmm) inspiring. David sent her soldier husband out on a suicide mission, so he could have her for a wife and still look magnanimous for taking in a widow. When his lust subsided enough for him to realize what an awful thing he had done, David begged God to change him, with these words:
“Create in me a clean heart.”
One of the most beloved of Welsh hymns concerns this idea. I sang it as a solo in church a few weeks back. It’s called “Calon Lân“.
Nid wy’n gofyn bywyd moethus,
Aur y byd na’i berlau mân:
Gofyn wyf am galon hapus,
Calon onest, calon lân.
I’d not ask a life that’s easy,
Gold and pearls so little mean,
Rather seek a heart that’s joyful,
Heart that’s honest, heart that’s clean.
The summer festival season is in full swing, and this year I have had time to enjoy it. When there were no patients at the clinic, I dropped by the annual Uptown Festival. As I arrived I heard the ululations of belly dancers. Women are better at it than men. The sound carries for blocks!
There was plenty of bad art, good music, locally grown food, and many kinds of crafts. My pal Larry and I watched people from husband-sitting areas, while our wives joyfully perused clothes at the boutique tents.Driftwood Art Objects
I was called back to take an x-ray of a patient who turned out to definitely need some serious heart cleaning. We sent him to the hospital.
I’ve begun believing there’s an inevitable trend toward gentleness. Not every kind of problem improves with time, but anger and fear and the violent actions stemming from them do get better. I came to this conclusion not through an academic or historical examination of crimes and wars, though that research also supports my theory. I just began to notice that all the monsters identifiable in my own childhood have been domesticated or reborn in less-threatening forms.
Wild animals respond defensively if you act like the kind of insensitive, aggressive predator they sense humans are able to be. But individuals on both sides can and do choose to tame each other, or themselves. Grey whales used to be nicknamed “devil fish” in the days when they fought back while being hunted. Now, in the lagoons of Baja Sur, they urge their new calves up to the tourist boats to be stroked and admired.
There were lots of versions of “the enemy” when I was a kid. The grownups in my neighborhood talked about the enemies they had fought overseas. I was scared of foreign enemies then. I’m not any more. If they come here, so what? It’s much harder for bad guys to hide here than in their own countries. I’m not convinced they are really up to the task. Very few people are willing to blow themselves up compared to how many are willing to defend against it. Also, bad guys become easier to make fun of as you get to know them better. Humor can be very empowering. Laughter is an under-employed weapon in the “war on terror”.
Some of the adults in my hometown were racists, and were bigoted toward those who professed religions different from theirs. That hasn’t gone away, but those biases are more occult overall than they were 50 years ago. I still consider it evidence of the taming trend.
My parents had been violent monsters when they got angry. They became different animals through personal losses and disease. I was the same way as a young man. The practice of music and the love offered by friends and strangers remade me. I wasn’t particularly interested in being tamed. I used to deride people who aspired to be “nice”. I did not equate niceness with compassion, as I do now. Despite my resistance, I changed anyway. It merely took longer than if I had been willing.
We’re getting a puppy to begin training toward being a guide dog in three weeks. I have the information, the equipment and the regimen to follow. I want to make sure my heart is clean and prepared. This little girl dog will need to be tamed and shaped very quickly. The sooner you start, and the more consistently you reinforce the right behavior, the better chance you give them of completing the training successfully. I’m excited to face the new challenge.