On Columbus and a New World

So I woke up thinking about the New World, because it’s Columbus Day. The big irony is that his New World was nothing new, that he didn’t discover anything because there were people there already. But because he saw it as New, and therefore open for the taking, the consequence he wrought for those people there (i mean, THESE people HERE) were at least disastrous — and we do a disservice to them when we frame it was anything but that.

But this New World that’s not really New — that’s new only for us, and therefore becomes a mirror for our own assumptions — in it we find a pressing question for today and every day. I wonder: how do I relate to the new, the fresh, the until-recently unknown? Do I accept it patiently, on its own terms? Or do I anxiously fill it with my expectations, taking from it what I want and paving over everything else that doesn’t fit what I want?

When I face this I think what I really confront is myself, that jittery, controlling self that won’t tolerate the unknown to me, that won’t accept the other.

I hope I can watch and listen patiently in the face of the unknown.

I mean, can we just face it? Just turn to look at it, without trying to change it, what we don’t recognize and know already? What if Columbus just stood on that ship and said “Jesus, look at all these PEOPLE,” and let that sink in for a moment. Might he have resisted the temptation to take what was not his and kill what he did not want?

Probably not. Maybe. Anyway, it’s too late for him. His karma is his, and now it’s ours, because we live in his bloody wake, as Americans, and as humans, sharing in the same fear and desire that I suppose drove him. But it’s not too late to make our own choices. It never is.

Can we just face the unknown? Can we just face ourselves? Can we open to the unknown and open to a new way of being ourselves, not separate from that unknown?

In that way of being, we might find that, far from there being no New World, there is actually limitless newness in the world, offered to us in every moment. Everything fresh and unknown.

Passing into that new world, not separate from it and not trying to change it, maybe we can even find our home there.

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