It is a moderately warm day of 95° here in Las Cruses, New Mexico. And I’m sitting in the shade and enjoying the sights and sounds while drinking an iced mocha I’ve gotten from my favorite coffee vendor. I’m at the farmers market this morning. And I haven’t been for a while, so big treat for me.
I’m listening to a couple of young men nearby who might be in their college jazz ensemble. They’re improvising on alto sax and upright bass, and they’re pretty good. Just across from me is our new plaza. At one end is an area that has water shooting maybe five feet into the air from five or six jets. Little kids running through the water, having a great time. There’s a place where the grown-ups can sit without getting too wet.
I leave the shade and get into the crowd to do some produce shopping. I buy some cucumbers and tomatoes from one of our favorite farmers. The family is from Taiwan. I have a dear friend who lived in Taipei for a year or two, so I feel like I know something about it. It is a most beautiful place.
Then I go on to another farmer who has good Swiss chard. She saves some for me in case I’m running late. Today I buy some okra, too. When I ask , she gives me tips on cooking it. It’s one of her greenhouse crops, so she has it year round.
There are a lot of buskers at the market, and I walk by another duo. These two are acoustic guitar/vocals and electric guitar. And they’re into a rendition of Samba Pa Ti.
I have a practice of trying to see the good in people. I look at someone – usually from a distance – and try to perceive the essential humanity within that person. There are many beautiful people here at the market, so I have lots of opportunity to practice. Try it. Look at someone with as much openness as you can. Try to see the good within that person. You might see it for only a second. (This works the same way with strangers as it does with the people you know.) When I can get it, it is a connection. The experience is that of an intuitive knowing of the essential goodness of the other. With some people it is easy; with some it is not so easy.
Our conditioning and biases and preferences and fears can obscure what we might otherwise see. This is part of the difficulty in seeing the essential goodness in others. There might be a presumption of being less than good, less than us, where some group is concerned. There are entire groups of people whose human worth we learn to devalue on the basis of race, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, political allegiance, etc. You can probably add to the list.
Seeing the innate essential goodness in some individuals can take some doing, too. We often take a zero-sum approach in considering others. If the individual has acted in ways that are destructive, we might believe that the person’s human worth has been reduced by like amount.
This all raises a couple of questions: Is there an essential human goodness that cannot be corrupted? Are there some people forever beyond redemption? How any of us might answer such questions is important to us all.
Much of what we do could be considered an effort to know the truth. I think that’s what this is. I am convinced of an incorruptible spark of the humane within all of us, and I’m trying to directly experience the truth of it. I am convinced of the interbeing of humanity and of all beings. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, we inter-are. We are of each other on this long trip through space and time. And I believe that there is good reason to believe that our essential humanity will prevail.