Eugene Peterson in his book “Subversive Spirituality” tells the story of a lesson he learned while looking after a grandchild. The professor had become absolutely fascinated by his infant grandson’s obsession with a tennis ball. He would throw the ball and then crawl after it until he picked up it up to throw again.
On one occasion the ball left the infant’s hand while it was over his head and went behind him under a lounge chair. The eleven month old child looked around, couldn’t see the ball and immediately became preoccupied with something else as though the ball had never existed. The good professor became concerned; was it evidence of some kind of developmental dysfunction?
He quietly raised what he had seen to his daughter, the child’s mother, and tactfully asked if she thought there something wrong with his grandson? The little boy’s mum simply said “Andrew has not yet acquired object permanence.” What does that mean,” the concerned grandfather asked. She replied ”It means if he can’t see it, it doesn’t exist”The good professor then said,” “Oh! I see! I have a whole church like that.” His daughter Lynne then pointed out that in the early months of being a mother, virtually everything in the baby boy’s life required immediate gratification, feeding, comforting and changing nappies. There was no waiting. There was no reality for little Andrew other than what he could see, taste, smell, feel, and hear, but most of what he saw, smelt, felt, and heard was his mother.
If she was going to be a good mother, she had to be present physically, around the clock, day and night. If she was going to continue to be a good mother however, that would all have to change. Andrew, as he grew would have to get used to the idea that his mother loved him whether she was around or not, and that some things mattered whether he could see them or not or whether anybody knew about it or not .
Do you ever get the feeling that there are some lessons you have to learn over and over again? We are often told that we learn by experience. If that is true, we would never make the same mistake twice. No; we in fact learn by bringing to mind the lessons of past experience, making sure the mistakes don’t have to be repeated.
A case could be put, that whole cultures and organisations often fail to learn from experience. There are many of us who could live a rich life if only we followed the advice we hand out so freely to others.
In the psychological and spiritual realm there are deficits and bruises that create reactions and inclinations within us that almost ensure that we will repeat the same mistakes again and again; particularly when we yield to our defence mechanism’s avoidance, projection, withdrawal, denial etc. Our defence mechanisms will keep us spiritually lazy.
Some of the busiest and most gifted people I know, are allowing their defence mechanisms to rob them of object permanence causing them to be dysfunctional. In other words they haven’t stopped to ask the question “What have I contributed, in the creation of the bad situation I am now in”.
It has been said “History will repeat itself until the lessons of history are learned”. Ever had a sense of déjà-vous like, “Hello, I’m here again! The situation feels so familiar. It may be different people and a different place but history has repeated itself .
The two clearest evidences of lack of spiritual intelligence and wisdom, are the inclinations to 1: Blame, or 2: Make excuses, rather than to look inside and accept responsibility for the source of the self defeating blindness.
Maybe that’s why the Old Book says “ He who covers his sins will not prosper.” He who will prosper is the person who faces their failings and asks for mercy and help in overcoming them.
It’s worth thinking about.