Prejudice is a great time saver. You can form opinions without having to get the facts... E. B. White
I am a serious book junkie and I have passed my obsession on to my boys. When we moved back from Minneapolis, we schlepped about 16,000 pounds of assorted stuff and it was estimated (by the Moving Company Estimator) that 4,500 pounds of it was books. That means that more than 1/4 of the total weight of all of our worldly possessions is in the form of the written word.
Our various collections include beautiful art and photography books, row after row of cookbooks, a whole room of Homeopathy books, not to mention shelves of fiction, non-fiction, biography, spirituality, gardening, sewing, knitting and countless children’s books.
We keep books in the car, in our bags and backpacks, and in just about every room in the house. Personally, I like to have at least four books in progress at any given time spanning genres and satisfying my fickle moods.
On this blog, and in my practice, I frequently make book recommendations in the how-to, spirituality and “personal development” departments. But fiction, well fiction is really personal.
Yet I just read a work of fiction that got me thinking. The book is called American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld and it is a fictional account of the life of (soon-to-be-ex) First Lady, Laura Bush. Were it not for the fact that the book was featured on the cover of the NY Times book review and in the NY Times Style section that very same day, I might have passed it by as it would not have appeared on my usual radar.
Once I started the book, however, I could not possibly put it down. Yes, Sittenfeld is a compelling writer. And yes, there is something undeniably sensationalistic about a fictionalized biography. But (deep breath) what really got me is that I started to have a bit of compassion for George Bush.
(Pause to allow Liberal readers to regain consciousness…)
Quoting from the NY Times Book Review: “In her Salon essay Ms. Sittenfeld described herself as “a staunch enough liberal that I take would-be epithets such as ‘flaming,’ ‘knee-jerk’ and ‘bleeding heart’ as compliments,” and a registered Democrat who regards George W. Bush’s policies as misguided at best “and at worst evil.” And in this novel Ms. Sittenfeld seems incapable of mustering any sympathy for Charlie the president.”
Clearly, Sittenfeld is not the president of the GWB fan club.
Yet midway through the book I felt a palpable waning of my usual ire. And at that point it occurred to me that this is what happens when Homeopaths read fiction. Because at its core, Homeopathy is about simply seeing a person for who they are. It is about seeing symptoms and expressions of pathology as an aberration from the true nature of the “self” but not as The Self.
Samuel Hahnemann, the man who introduced Homeopathic medicine back in the 18th Century, wrote The Organon of Medicine (weighing in at just over 1 lb in leather-covered hardback) as his treatise on medical philosophy and the healing arts. In the sixth aphorism of The Organon he introduces the concept of the Unprejudiced Observer as it relates to the practitioner’s ability to perceive and understand the presentation of symptoms—and as such, understand the inherent imbalance from which the person is suffering.
Being an Unprejudiced Observer is, in my opinion, the key to being a good Homeopath—but also, a good person. It is the nature of the Buddha. It is the emptiness that allows the truth to unfold—the truth that holds the very essence of who we are. In all its pain. In all its suffering. In all its beauty.
If we can withhold judgment (especially of those who tweak us down to our very core) we are likely to lower our stress levels, our blood pressure, our therapy bills, and maybe even our weight.
So on this Election Day 2008, I wish you all well as we collectively move toward hope and away from prejudice.