Saturday, September 18, 2010

Do Unto Others

"So in everything, do unto others as you would have them do unto you." (Matthew 7:12)

Examined through either a spiritual or a sociobiological lens (game theory and Prisoner's Dilemma), this verse is one of the oldest and most sage pieces of instruction. I would go even further to say that the "do unto others" rule is axiomatic, fundamental to the shape, order, and harmony of the Universe.

The time I spend cross stitching is a time of meditation and reflection for me. I love to work on projects that reflect my values, and I savor the physicality of using my hands to manifest those values. So a few months ago, I started looking for a "do unto others" cross stitch pattern---which is not easily found, my friends. There were a couple of candidates, though, and I finally decided a few weeks ago which one to order from a small company online.

On August 30th, I called North Carolina and spoke to a nice woman operating from her home. To make a very long and humorous story extremely short, the pattern never came...first she thought she hadn't sent it, and then she thought she did, then she thought she'd charged my card but then it turned out she didn't. And the latest installment: she had sent it but misspelled so much of my information that it came back to her. She wrote last night promising again that it is on its way but needing my card information again---I think I am going to wait until it arrives, however, and then pay by check.

There was a time when I would have: a) been much more stressed by all of this; b) been more judgmental; c) been more primed to anger at the inefficiency. For sure, I am presently baffled, and I went through a couple moments of worry about having given her my credit card information in the first place. I've also learned lessons about perhaps not using online sellers who are unaffiliated with major companies. I really do think, though, that this lady is above-board and just a little confused; I don't think she is trying to cheat me. I've certainly been wrong about people's motives MANY times in my life, often ascribing them better motives than they have turned out to have. However, I am not as capable of being cynical about humanity as maybe I sometimes should be.

Surprisingly though, I see more of a cosmic sense of humor in all of this. We have had many e-mail exchanges now, and I am able to write back to her from a really friendly place inside of myself. Here I thought that I would reflect and learn my greatest truths about "doing unto others" while I stitched my project, but it has turned out that I have been required to put the idea of "doing unto others" into practice right now. I have had to be patient and to try to stand in her shoes, and I have had to remember how I would want to be treated if I were her...each time I have sat down to write an e-mail. Funny how life works, yes?

As one of my favorite characters in literature says, " You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view--until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." When Harper Lee created Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, she gave us all a beacon of truth.

Whether I actually receive the pattern/chart now, I have already had to do the work of realigning my heart attitude to embrace fully the idea of "doing unto others." This is probably a lesson I will need to keep learning, though. I often find myself working (and sometimes failing) to avoid gossip and the little dramas that crop up between people---or that people intentionally try to create. I wish that avoiding speaking ill of anyone came more naturally to me and that I could have good (or in some cases, neutral) and non-judgmental thoughts about everyone all the time. If we could meet all people with a heart opening to listening to them or just simply taking them as they come, the world would be a better place. That doesn't mean we have to accept all people as part of the daily fabric of our lives---because, let's face it, some people would seek to poison others out of their own unhappiness, and we have to know which relationships are healthy and which ones are not. We have to know when to make our own boundaries for those who would seek to hurt us. Yet this does not mean that we cannot have civility and compassion in our hearts for those same individuals, right? This is one of the traits in myself I work on...and continue to need to work on.

I should know the fate of my cross stitch pattern by---what do we think, Readers: Monday or Tuesday? If she sent it yesterday, then by early next week it will be here...or not. We will see. I can only laugh either way.

In the meantime, I started sorting floss for an "herbs and spices" cross stitch for the kitchen. I have yet to take my first stitch on it though. I might decide to work the "do unto others" cross stitch first.

If it comes. ;-)