It’s raining.  As I wait for an appointment, I’m intrigued with the drops as they slide down the windshield of the car.  I’m not only seeing better but I’m hearing better too.  It’s about awareness  and sensitivity, about connecting. 

I’m now approved for surgery on my left eye.  Each eye has been a sturdy soldier in this process, and I’m excited as my vision continues to open, expand, and define.

I’m also seeing and appreciating how our inner vision is connected to how we bring the world in, relates to what we may have been taught about how to influence, and receive. 

I continue to read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book Lyndon Johnson and The American Dream.  

It’s shocking to realize how Johnson’s perception and how he’d been raised led to an inability to see that the Vietnamese people had their own culture and viewpoint.  His plan was to impose our views on them, to make them in “our image”, as we attempted to do with the Native people of this country.

Americans didn’t realize that the war in Vietnam was an ideological struggle, a social revolution – the Vietnamese were interested in unanimity, not plurality – their culture embodied the moral principles of Confucius – they believed in finding the one true way of life –  in Vietnam, morality, politics, and society were inextricably joined.

For Johnson and his top advisors the “war was a revolutionary war, which promised to affect not only the political system but the entire structure of Vietnamese society – its ethos, its customs, its religious expression.”

Johnson looked upon the “Vietnamese wish to remain in the village of their birth as a confinement of the spirit; he saw their traditional customs as impositions; he viewed their sacralization of the past as an obstacle to the secular pragmatism needed for progress.  Looking upon a system of individual competition as if it were a beneficent aspect of natural order, atomistic in his view of social relations, Johnson could not envisage a society in which the individual was an aspect of a more comprehensive organism.  No word in the Vietnamese language corresponded exactly to the personal pronoun “I”. Individualism was seen as selfish and immoral. The traditional Vietnamese has no existence outside his community.”

I’m reminded of when I went to Nepal in 1993. At the time, there was no word in their language for thank you.  It took me awhile to understand the beauty in that, the ease in offering and reception without competition, judgement, or division.

One didn’t clap at a performance because there was no separation between the performer and the audience. Art was sacred, religion, as was all life.

“Although Vietnam was ten thousand miles away, the psychic distance was far greater. So powerful was the American conception of individualism that it resisted even the barest consciousness that another society might conceive of freedom in precisely the opposite terms, viewing exaltation of the independent person as the denial of freedom, not its fulfillment. Endowed with the assumption that the desire for private property was a universal impulse, Johnson found it difficult to believe that in Vietnam private property did not really exist: the father was less an owner than a trustee of the land to be passed on to his children; to the Vietnamese, the land itself, not the individual ownership of it, was the indispensable element.”

These last few weeks I’ve been immersed in the lives of birds and tides. Now my vision is changed by surgery. How do I, and we as individuals and nations honor our own gifts within this world of Interdependence we share?

Great Blue Heron at low tide in the marsh

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