One of the things I enjoy doing is going through a bag of hand-me-down clothing from one of my sisters. As I hold the pieces of clothing in my hands, I imagine beading or fabric painting or adding an applique to make it uniquely mine. An old dressy brocade jacket becomes “just the right fussy” accessory to give life back to my worn and faded jeans. As I sorted my new wardrobe additions, I thought about Mira Kirshenbaum’s #2 Reason–self-acceptance to explain why things happen. I realized that my sister’s hand-me-downs helped me to see life’s troubles in a different more valuable way.
Insightfully, Kirshenbaum observes that as we grow up, we’re trained into a hand-me-down culture with an emphasis on material goods and dog-eat-dog ways. This type of culture doesn’t lead to a wholesome, balanced, and happy life. She argues that, from a personal perspective, a material culture totally disregards who we are and our true purpose for being here on earth. Moreover, she writes that this type of culture requires membership in a Cosmic Kindergarten to help us make sense of things that happen.
Additionally, Kirshenbaum sees a materialistic culture as negative and binding; it places us into a mistrustful, dark and fearful position. She writes “…many of us live like spies in an enemy land, vigilant against ourselves in case we might be found out…” (p. 82). The darkness of this position is only broken when we accept ourselves for who we really are—spirit beings with good and bad qualities. And that is why things happen–to free us from this darkness and lead us into self-acceptance.
In comparison, the apostle Paul enlarges our understanding in regard to both self-acceptance and living within a materialistic culture (see his first letter to the Church at Corinth). He finds that to truly understand who we are, we must go beyond seeing ourselves as isolated. Instead, we need to seek out and accept nothing less than a direct and mature relationship with God. This relationship leads us into a free and spacious life within a community beyond the reach of a materialistic and crushing culture.
To walk in the fullness of life, according to the apostle Paul, we must go beyond being “the creaking of a rusty gate,” “sounding brass,” “tinkling cymbal,” or “unprofitable” soul. Instead, we must focus on “that which is perfect” or a relationship of love with God, ourselves, and others. He reasons that love brings us face-to-face with a true reality—a reality that a materialistic culture denies.
Like Kirshenbaum, I agree that self-acceptance is a key factor in making sense of life. However, I don’t think that we stay in a never ending state of a Cosmic Kindergarten subject to darkness and fear. St. Paul held that the desire to go beyond the state of being “tinkling cymbals” and “nothing” is the key to a true understanding of life and love. This desire leads us to a place where we can make sense of our experiences–good or bad. And, for me, self-acceptance sustained by a love of God, self, and others, has an additional benefit in that it opens a door understanding–out of a Cosmic Kindergarten–toward becoming a mature spirit being.
As I sorted through my sister’s hand-me-down clothes and readied them for washing, I realized that the love of my family, friends, and neighbors helped me to sort out the hurts and bruises that I’ve suffered over the years. I’ve come to truly appreciate those things that helped me make sense of this crazy world. And, without a doubt, I’ve learned that my direct relationship with God has brought me to an indispensable place of acceptance toward myself and others.
Living life’s way in 2014