Holden Voices: Blog

Poems, stories, and reflections, written by faculty, staff, and volunteers currently serving in the Village.

AV MELLEN: T.H.U.G. - Trust, Humility, Understanding, Gratitude

February 19, 2016 at 8:00 AM

Dalai Lama said: in the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher.

While I’d rather not use the term enemy, we all still have people and situations that push our buttons and make us angry and unhappy.
What I’d like to talk about this morning isn’t exactly tolerance, but very closely related, and that’s gratitude. 

It’s really easy to be grateful for beautiful scenery or the company of close friends or finally making it to the bathroom after being stuck on the bus for an hour, but it’s not so easy being grateful for getting a flat tire or a divorce or a death in the family. 

Of course it’s not very kind to tell someone “gosh are you ever ungrateful!” after they just had their favorite poodle eaten by an alligator. Nor is it at all our job to worry or even consider how grateful or ungrateful others are - we really just have to worry about ourselves. 

I was really pleased to get to do Matins on my first full day of being a villager, and really wanted to do it again before I left. There were a ton of ton of topics and experiences that were really significant and that I would love to ramble on about. But for the sake of your sanity and patience, I’ve had to narrow my thoughts down a bit, and I came up with this acronym. THUG. Yes, as in Tupac’s thug life, or bone thugs n’ harmony. And while I don’t endorse the violence or gang culture and such typically associated with the word, at least for the next few moments I’d like to offer a different interpretation.

T stands for Trust. Trust is the foundation of any relationship. Without trust there is doubt, and doubt is not only dubious but descends into disillusionment, dishonesty, disorder, destruction, disaster, and death. It’s doggone dastardly. Trust, on the other hand, frees our souls and minds and allows us to simply exist in a state of compassion, innocence, and humility. Which just happens to be our next word!

Humility is the means by which we happily discover how little is required of us in order to be peaceful! Seriously, we just need to kick our egos to the curb, let go of all our anger and judgment, and forgive everybody and everything all the time. Now how hard is that? Oh yeah… Okay, well humility might not always be quite so easy, but it is at least incredibly simple. We just gotta be thugs. And while all this may seem really hard to remember, you’ll all be very glad to hear what our next letter is.

U is for Understanding. Actually it’s for un-understanding. As in we’re not required to understand anything! One of my favorite quotes that helps keep me humble (when I remember it) goes “we think our understanding is a powerful contribution to the truth, and makes it what it is”. Not only are we not required to  understand truth, we can’t understand it! Everything that we think we know and understand is contextualized and subjective to such a tiny fragment of history and experiences that it can hardly bear any resemblance to what we’d call truth with a capital T. As the saying goes, we don’t know jack. And that’s okay. That’s wonderful! We can finally rid ourselves of this awful burden of needing to be right, of needing to prove ourselves. We just need to do our best. To be ourselves. To be humble. And trust that nothing that’s true can ever be threatened.  And having been finally freed from this tremendous burden, we come to our last letter. 

And that’s G, which stands for Gratitude. Having learned to be trusting, humble, and free from our false certainty of needing to be right, what else could we possibly be but grateful? And what else is more sublime than giving love to that which we love? Cultivating an attitude and perspective of unyielding gratitude is the most worthwhile goal we could ever hope to achieve. It is the kindest thing we could ever do for ourselves, and not so coincidentally, for the world as well. To be sure, it is a difficult process and life long goal. But oh so worth the effort. 

While I’m still just an infant learning to crawl in the ways of being a thug, I am nevertheless indescribably grateful for this community. I have been so blessed by all the kindness and welcome and humor and friendship, and I know that I am leaving here a far more enriched person than I was when I came. I’m also grateful that I was spared the experience of having a pet eaten by a gator while I was here; but if somehow that had been my experience I truly hope that I would have eventually come to somehow be grateful in that situation too. 

Now if trust, humility, understanding, and gratitude are too difficult to remember, I did come up with a couple other thugnificent reminders that are a little more personal and reflective of the holden community. 

First is:

Transitioning Holdenites Undergoing Graciousness

While I do like this thug, I think anyone who gets to experience Holden realizes that Holden village could easily be renamed transition village. So in the sake of not being redundant I think we can very safely just get rid of the T here, which gives us HUG. And while I do also really like HUG, the phrase “Holdenites Undergoing Graciousness” seems a tad clumsy. So remembering the initial quote from the Dalai Lama, I finally came up with this one:

Tolerant Holdenites United in Giving 

So for the rest of the day don’t be afraid to give a little thug love, and maybe a thug hug or two.