“But you just don’t understand!” How many times have you heard this statement or even said it? I thought I had a good handle on ‘understanding’ but even at my age, I don’t! On this past Good Friday, as I was offering up my prayers, a new awakening stirred within me. As I was thinking, in between my prayers, I realized there is so much I do not understand.
Where does one begin with ‘understanding?’ Perhaps an artist, such as Vincent van Gogh! He painted with a flare with bright colors and yet, his life was colorless! Yes, we can attribute his life to illness, madness or otherwise but the small poise he used in his artwork; the pit of his paintings which he declared as his real life. He found life in his work! Thank God for his painting life because that was his balance, his understanding of normalcy.
Have you ever misinterpreted something in life and later regretted it? Perhaps, you and a good friend no longer see eye to eye. Maybe you believed one way and he or she just could not or would not change his or her idea about the matter! So, you parted company without resolving the problem. But was it real dissent or could it have been fixed through understandIng? Maybe too much ego! Often times parts of our past lie broken and what we don’t realize is that without clear interpretation of our yesterdays, our future paths may be as cloudy as the past.
In St. Francis of Assisi’s great prayer it says, “To be understood as to understand!” It’s a mystery as to whether St. Francis wrote or spoke this prayer but I’ll always attribute these words as his. He was a man of great understanding but, he too was so misunderstood by his father and his own home town! St. Francis misunderstood God’s voice also! He thought God wanted a new church built but, instead, God wanted St. Francis to gather, more people, to become followers in the church! However, it all worked out. In the end, as we now know the history, Assisi is the most peaceful village, in Italy, you would ever want to visit. My friends, Joan, Frank and I, stayed there for a week and had such a memorable, and if not, the most tranquil week of our lives. Once I became acquainted with some of the people who lived there and took care of our daily needs, I asked them, “what keeps you in this small beautiful place?” The peace of Assisi was the reply!
I’ve spoken about my first home town, Lima, Ohio in my last blog but I had a second home town, as well: Harrison, New York. I was a youngster when I made my debut there and probably the most misunderstood child the townspeople ever met! A young pig-tailed child who spoke with a definite mid-western accent one ever heard! Imagine, being made fun of because one had a different accent! We were all speaking the same words but some of the pronunciations were not in tune with the New York ear! For example, the words golf and orange! Ohioans pronounce ‘O’s with a tight sounding O and New Yorkers spread out their O’s to a sound of ou….(looking back it reminds me of Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady learning phonics!)! I can’t imagine what the foreign people went through when they arrived in New York.
Being from a place where land was wide and cows were prevalent, Harrison NY was quite a shock to me but I found it to be charming. A small village. My street was only three short blocks long. Batavia Place was its name. Never heard of this name but later learned of its origins. However, on this three-block street, I found a charming delight I didn’t share with anyone because I thought it was most likely every kid’s delight!
It was a brook which was located in the second block and it did its thing day in and day out. It babbled and ran its course. A small body of clear water running through my street! I didn’t understand where it came from or where it was going! it was most definitely on the move and many large rocks were in its wake. Finally, I learned that there were many brooks throughout the area and they all flowed to the Long Island Sound and later all these babbling brooks became a part of the Atlantic ocean. Once I understood this, I was not only amazed but to learn that this tiny stream, my little secret, became a part of a magnificent ocean! Now, as I look back in reverie, I wonder why our teachers didn’t take us, their students, out of the classroom and teach us about such things as a ‘babbling brook.’ It would have given us a better understanding of many things in life. Sort of like ‘hands-on’ teaching. Now, I understand why a picture is worth a thousand words!
So many things I didn’t understand as a child. I now wonder how I learned anything. How a small acorn, the nut of the oak, becomes a gigantic tree. Or the watermelon seed! Have you ever given this tiny black seed thought? As I write this I can visualize the seed, smell the fruit of the watermelon and taste it on my tongue!
I would like to share with you this bit of mystery and ‘understanding’ of the watermelon seed.
POINTS TO PONDER:
I have observed the power of the watermelon seed. It has the power of drawing from the ground and through itself 200,000 times its weight. When you can tell me how it takes this material and out of its colors an outside surface beyond the imitation of art, and then forms inside of it a white rind and within that again a red heart, thickly inlaid with black seeds, each one of which in turn is capable of drawing through itself 200,000 times its weight—when you can explain to me the mystery of a watermelon, you can ask me to explain the mystery of God. – WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN (1860-1925)
Amazing isn’t it…the tiny watermelon seed! My prayer is that we can all have a greater ‘understanding’ and it grows like the watermelon seed!
We have so many natural wonders which can lead us to a better understanding of life if we but utilize them. For example, we step out of doors and do we realize the sun, moon, and stars are there all day long. It’s only when it becomes dark that the moon and stars reveal themselves.
The sun has a very special setting each evening. Down here, in Florida, sunsets are always celebrated. We used to have dinner at a restaurant on the beach at sunset time. The ritual each evening was renowned and distinguished. A tall elderly gentleman would stand, sound a gong with a leather mallet and commence singing, “You Are My Sunshine, My Only…!” Everyone joined and watched the reddish-orange ball drop into the Gulf of Mexico. While many earthly colors ensued, so did many teardrops on the patron’s faces. The memory still remains but the restaurant is long gone. Such a perfect way to honor the Sun!
More glorious than the setting sun is when the moon rises while the sun is setting! Now, that’s what I call God’s perfection of natural beauty! Yes, only He has the complete wisdom and understanding of this little miracle. And, yet He gives it to us as a gift. I think our job while here on earth is to ‘try’ and understand each other! Like my ‘young child’s’ feelings about the brook on my street. It flowed toward its destination regardless of the huge rocks and stones in its pathway. When it reached its source it became part of a greater body. Perhaps, we, too, can learn from Mother Nature. A purpose, a reason for each of us. Each of us travels at our own pace and we must respect this. It comes with understanding.
“I’m beginning to understand,” the little prince said, “There’s a flower…I think she’s tamed me…” Perhaps, we are all like Antoine De Saint-Exupery’s Little Prince; we begin to understand after we have been “tamed!”
Would you call that a mutual ‘understanding?
Nancy Fraioli is a retired Benefits Asst. from Town/Village of Harrison, NY. She’s alive and well, residing in Sarasota with her daughter and family and enjoying the Floridian lifestyle daily.
Her passions are writing, reading books of philosophy, children’s stories and poetry. Her deep love is living, learning and sharing how faith, meditation, and music guide her daily life. And she loves to lunch with the ladies!