Opinion

We mistook the messenger for his message

Do you know the term “Bodhisattva?”

Lisa Maliga in Pagewise, Inc. gives a beautiful definition from Tibetan Buddhism, “Bodhisattva refers to a person motivated by compassion who seeks enlightenment not only for him/herself, but for everyone.”

The goal of a bodhisattva, Maliga explains, is “to achieve the highest level of being — that of a Buddha.”

Bodhisattva is a Sanskrit term which translates as: Bodhi (enlightenment) and sattva (being). The Bodhisattva will undergo any type of suffering to help another sentient being, whether a tiny insect or a huge mammal.

I was thrilled to discover that Buddha was canonized a Roman Catholic saint in the Middle Ages. It makes sense that Roman Catholics would canonize bodhisattvas as saints.

They were people willing to sacrifice themselves or their status to uplift others. While we celebrate this season of Lent as a celebration of one powerful and beautifully pure bodhisattva, who influenced (and saved) thousands of souls, there are others, lesser maybe, who help us.

Sometimes the messenger isn’t perfect, not like a Christ, but their message is. Of course, we attack the messenger, we always do. That’s a given, which is why so few of us have the necessary courage to aspire to be bodhisattvas.

I think of my parents’ and their friends’ reactions to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.. He was a womanizer and con man, they said, confusing me as a child listening.

He was sleazy and not worthy of our time. And yet these imperfect messengers take us beyond our current understanding. They expand our awareness.

If they are lucky, they achieve their goals of mitigating our suffering.

Still, we make them throw themselves on the sword every time. We make them pay for helping us, which is why when my friend who introduced me to the word said, “I think you have the tendencies of a bodhisattva, maybe this is what your soul aspires to be,” I told her that I needed to choose a less sacrificial and a bit more healthy path, certainly more so than last year.

Which brings me to us. We forced Tim Botkin to resign. We made him throw himself on the sword. We attacked him relentlessly in blogs, editorials, and cartoons.

We impacted his ability to get his job done. We did the opposite of support someone who had a great vision for us.

We treated him like a bodhisattva. It bothered me and still does, to see him so attacked.

Last summer we talked about being a point person and he said he was willing to endure the attacks because he believed so strongly in the message of SEED. I remember our conversation clearly, because it was such important encouragement for me.

He asked about my broken leg and I told him how it happened and that I was thinking of moving out of the area.

I remember telling him, “I don’t like the people in South Kitsap anymore. In fact, I think I hate them.”

He said, “Don’t. There are a lot of good people in South Kitsap. They need you. You’ll see the good in them again. Just rest, regroup and your energy will come back.”

Lary Coppola said the problem was Tim himself.

“He’s arrogant,” Lary told me. (Come on, Lary, you’ve got a whole pot calling the kettle black thing going there.) Besides, a little arrogance sometimes gives you the courage to move forward with something bigger than yourself.

So we shot the messenger. What of the message? Do you really want to see a concept like the SEED project destroyed?

I don’t want to be facetious, arrogant or even angry here. I just want to understand.

I want us to look clearly at this thing we did. Do we really believe that we don’t need 2,000 high-paying clean tech jobs? Do we really want to pass up the money the governor is putting toward growing clean technology in Washington state?

Do we not want to take advantage of the “Pathways out of Poverty” legislation being put forth? Are we really not ready?

I don’t mean to be cruel here, but do we really believe we can go on the way we have been?

It reminds me of the gospel reading of the Samaritan woman at the well, whom Jesus asked for a drink. What he did was radical since Jews considered Samaritans unclean.

Yet he not only accepted a drink from her, he offered her “living water.” He said, “If you drink of the water from the one who sent me, you will never thirst again.”

While she wasn’t worthy, she was ready. She knew she couldn’t go on living the way she had been.

She not only accepted, she rounded up dozens of people who converted with her.

Once again, are we really not ready for this message? Because basically what we told people in both legislative bodies (at the state and national levels) was that we are unworthy.

Do you see something I don’t see? Do you understand something I don’t understand? I see Jennifer Hardison crying because she doesn’t know how to find the resources to feed the increase of 25 percent of the population that needs the food bank.

I listen to the sadness in Ron Cummins’ voice when he tells me that he is getting rid of some of Performing Arts Guild of South Kitsap’s equipment because his commute doesn’t allow him to keep the theater company alive.

I think one of the great ironies for me is that people can talk about not wanting to subsidize the building of the infrastructure for SEED to protect the taxpayers and yet fail to recognize that 44 percent of our current Kitsap County population works for the government.

In other words, the government subsidizes 44 percent of our jobs. For more people to work here, we need to grow more government.

That’s truly funny. It’s why we keep reelecting U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks. He keeps growing those government jobs.

So I guess we don’t need the private industry jobs SEED would have brought. No?

My son tells me to check out the GM Chevrolet Sequel, “with a chassis like a skateboard and a steering wheel like a video game console.” Way cool, I tell him. He says it gets 300 miles to the gallon and runs on a fuel cell.

Hmmm… Someone has to make those fuel cells.

Tim was trying to get a company from London that researches fuel cells to move and build them here. I guess it’s OK to let someone else build them? Someone else will.

I just want you to reflect that maybe it’s not always wise to attack and destroy the messenger. Maybe we need to understand the message first and what it would mean for us.

Mary Colborn is a Port Orchard resident.

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