These are times in which many people feel harried and overwhelmed. We are in a world torqued by division and judgment, where so many so often feel weak, or sad, or angry, or helpless. It’s almost a tragedy that our distracted attention and impatience mean that many times we cannot engage with some of the most meaningful experiences in life.
While it may seem to be totally unlikely for most readers, Esquire’s brilliant 2017 piece on Mr. Rogers invites us to have such an experience. At a time when life feels short, and fast, and harsh, and superficial, Tom Junod introduces us to the depth of a man who is impossibly patient, kind, loving and strong.
In almost every way Fred McFeely Rogers and I could not be more different people. Where he is a minister, with a wife and family, in a cardigan, on a kid’s show; I am single man whose passions have played out by racing cars, playing in blues or jazz bands, and by intellectualizing or philosophizing about science, business and the modern world.
I cannot help but look at Mr. Rogers with awe and humility. If he is a caress, I am a straight-razor.
Despite those differences, there is one key way in which I feel that Mr. Rogers and I are essentially identical: our vision. There is, after all, a central, fundamental truth to all human beings. While we may all have our differences and our unique qualities, in a way far too beautiful for me to capture in words, it is as though everyone and everything on Earth shares a single soul.
It is as though a single source of glorious light is coming from every direction. And in that light a truth exists; a kind of knowledge that is at the source of everything. In Fred Rogers words, or in his reactions to any person, he is always responding to that central truth.
Mr. Rogers does not look at a troubled toddler threateningly waving a sword as being an angry, unapproachable person –he sees a child; worried and afraid; a soul who seeks to return to love and who requires comforting. This is the gift of vision; to see the truth behind the ego’s facade.
All of us know the wonderful feeling we get when are able to do something of value for someone we care a great deal about. Now imagine doing something like that for a person who is a hero to you –someone you love and respect more than any other person in the world. Then imagine that everyone you meet feels like that person.
People doubt or wonder how I can say that I can love everyone the moment I meet them. And I realize that can seem strange or unlikely until you consider this: what’s strange isn’t my reaction, it’s people’s inability to see how incredible and worthy of love they truly are. It’s not my or Mr. Roger’s vision or sense of others that is special –it’s all of you.
I do not think as others think, so I cannot maintain the shroud of thought that others so commonly use to darken their spirits. While others question why the comforting light of our shared soul has passed them over, I see only beauty, strength, genius and grace.
If you would like to see this fractured world as this single, beautiful, glowing reality, may I recommend an exercise? Today I would like you to do me a personal favour:
I want you to choose someone today who you deeply admire –someone who inspires you to show them the sort of appreciation and patience that can only be made present by love. I would like you to show them kindness. Express your deep affection and respect, and be profoundly generous with the faith you place in them. And as one final, additional favour to me, I would like that person to be you.
I may be nothing like Mr. Rogers. You may be nothing like me. But this I know: we are all born from the same source. The light we see in others is the same light that shines within us. So as you would look upon the person most beloved to you, cast that vision upon yourself, unclouded by a veil of thought. It is only then, in that sacred silence, that will you get a glimpse of what Fred Rogers and I see when we behold the glory that is you.