Over the last week I have been imbibing a most powerful deterrent to all things chaotic and virulent. This has been done through the avenue of two documentaries and one movie. All three showcase the life of a modern day mystic, a man who never claimed the magic was his. Watching with my wife and sister-in-law, we have all been wiping away gentle tears, touched by the profundity of the man.
One might not think of the man portrayed on the screen as a mystic but he is. A mystic is one who knows how to just ‘be’ and forget themselves as a separate individual.
In fact the star of these three cinema pieces was a down-to-earth, practical and true Christian. That means he embodied the teachings of Christ. Living the teachings of Christ was more important to him than doctrinal belief. That he had a special relationship with children, there is no doubt. Now, however, he speaks to the child within us all.
Taken individually, each film project stands alone as a living testament to a man who showed how presence, compassion, connection and deep feeling, when merged, could open up a space for instant transformation as well lasting impact.
I’m talking about Mister Rogers of course. And with two documentaries:
Won’t You Be My Neighbor and It’s You I Like–and the movie, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood all coming out in the last two years, his ‘neighborhood’ lives on, not just through the films but his long-running show (Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood). They encapsulate a legacy of caring, sharing and kindness which touched millions of lives over the last 50 years.
Yes Fred is still with us. he’s not gone anywhere.
To take in his legacy is to be graced, for like all sages, “they know not what they do.” Fred was too busy listening to and following the living voice of Christ within. A voice, that when attuned to, allows us to touch a perennial flowing Current of Truth, Love and Wisdom.
Fred stayed true to that divine purpose. He lead with his heart, come what may.
He had to deal with stern opposition many times, for when truth mixes with popularity egoic-backwash will surely follow. The darkness of ego-tendencies cannot survive against love and truth. So sections of the populace living from strong delusive thought streams, lost in ignorance and forgetfulness of their true nature actually picketed his Celebration of Life Service.
They were condemning a man who lived like Christ?!
In a way its fitting really. Christ was crucified for loving too much, for telling the absolute truth, for exposing corrupted minds and asking people to follow their heart. Mister Rogers played out a modern day version of the life of Christ. And though many were cherished disciples, others were having their most erroneous and mistaken beliefs challenged. Anger, rage, hatred and the like were sure to follow, springing up in an attempt to stop the light.
These repulsions of the ignorant never did, never could and never will stop the light. Light instantly ends darkness. Darkness can never exist near light, it must hide in the shadows, the periphery, like an imaginary creature which does not exist except in a flickering thought.
My own journey with Mr. Rogers began in the mid to late 1960’s. I’m not sure when I watched his TV show the first time. Though I watched it, at least in part, many times, I preferred to watch: Space Ghost, Milton the Monster or Jonny Quest. These shows seemed more interesting and fun, with lots of action, yet they fed my conditioned diversion to emotional outburts and further overwhelmed repressed feeling states.
Mister Rogers show was pedestrian and in slow motion and I deemed it “boring”. In comparison, his vision and ideas and mixture of puppetry, seeing how things worked, interludes of silence and talk about the importance of feelings were generally dismissed. I watched the show only as an occasional distraction.
How ironic it now seems. That “occasional distraction” was the tiny impulse of truth, and like the light of a giant candle, the Neighborhood always carried the essential oil and pointed towards authenticity.
As my late teen years arrived, my disdain for the show was at an all-time high. When talk would turn to Mister Rogers, I would demean him (really myself), state that it was “gay” or “ridiculous” and a “waste of time”.
Mister Rogers did not care. Ever patient and kind, he was working on me in those interludes of sparse watching. A seed had been sprouted while watching the first show and an increasing attunement to feelings, a growing need for transformation and awakening to truth were happening beyond the confines of my so-called rational mind, that protective barrier which insulated the madness and deranged thinking processes from direct view.
In the 1990’s I mostly forgot about Miser Rogers until the 2001 ‘9-11 event’. A short time after the catastrophic episode I watched Fred speak for the first time outside the platform of his show. And I was touched profoundly by the man, they call it dumbstruck for a reason. The dumb was struck right out of me, that is the intellectual capacity or mind energy was disabled allowing the wisdom of silence to enter. And as Mister Rogers well knew, silence is the source of wisdom and love. As Fred spoke that post 9-11 day and I remember this inner feeling, which can scarcely be put into words, but might translate to something like: “This man speaks from his heart and tells the truth, while most everyone else distorts things or outright lies.”
I forgot about Fred again for another year and a half, then news of his death arrived in early 2003. I balled like a tiny child many times that day. It was inexplicable this torrent of tears. It went on like that for some days, alternating periods of purging and release swept me. A series of great waves, as the love of Mister Rogers poured forth on the masses. “This is nuts!” The rational mind would interrupt occasionally during those three days before another catharsis-tide arrived.
Amazingly, between each wave of sadness I felt an increasing joy. The living spirit of Mister Rogers had not gone away at all.
The main thing was, “I felt and knew whatever I felt was okay!” Because Mister Rogers was all about feeling. He realized that American society was stunted in the realm of feeling. A kind of conditioned distortion had wedged its way into our psyche, insulating us from the authentic expression of feelings.
Reason, intellect, the mind and thought, alone these would not make a whole human. You must have the life-blood of feeling.
Thank you Fred McFeely Rogers for being a never-ending embodiment and a role model for living an authentic life of truth and love.