Noble understanding

Dear President Trump,

Yesterday I drove behind a car with two noteworthy bumper stickers: “Do small things with great love” and “The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding.” As you may (or may not) know, the first is by Mother Theresa and the second is by Leonardo da Vinci. I wrote to you on January 14th about the first quote when I told you about Gary Lee who shared that on his last day of work at the White House President Obama greeted him in his family-language of Korean. I just reread that letter and recalling President Obama’s kindness and Mr. Lee’s sweetness in sharing that kindness moved me to tears all over again.

Moving on, though, I want to say a few things about the da Vinci quote. It was new to me so before I knew where it originated I was thinking about it from the point of view of being a clinical psychologist and how both in therapy and research contexts it is incredibly reinforcing to understand something after a lot of painstaking work or in a burst of insight. In therapy dynamics, as in most human interactions where there is a sense of care, both understanding and being understood are usually very fulfilling and validating. For the understander, it is gratifying to get confirmation that you’ve pieced together a pattern that’s important to someone. For the understandee, getting that what is going on with you is knowable and relatable can be reassuring that you and your experience are not so outside the ordinary.

Sometimes, though, noble understanding is neither pleasurable nor joyous as reflected in two searing lines from today’s poem-of-the-day by Cynthia Dewi Oka (Redacted from a Know-Your-Rights Training Agenda—):

“… a first language bleeding hearts call, speaking truth to power.
I don’t know how they don’t know that power doesn’t care.”

This is a noble understanding, generously shared with bleeding hearts like me, and while it doesn’t bring me pleasure or joy, I need to know it and remember it. I also want to suggest that while speaking truth to power may have little or no immediate, direct impact on power, the courage and message are still important in giving hope to and sparking inspiration for those within hearing who want and need change.

May we be safe to speak truth to power.
May we be happy to do small things with great love.
May we be healthy enough to work at understanding and at being understood.
May we accept that the road to peace is neither direct nor immediate, but absolutely worth traveling.

Tracy Simpson

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