I read a book last night that said, "Unlike information, basic goodness cannot be transmitted, but only pointed out. The heart must wake up to what is already there."*
I love this statement. It tells of a profound and fundamental goodness that exists at the heart of humanity and indeed everything else. It tells us to be attentive to this goodness: to notice it, to be present to it, to point to it, to wake to it. It tells us that I can't make someone or something else 'good'; the job instead is to be alert to where this thing or person or land is already good.
The statement, I think, is the antithesis of the mentality behind colonialism. Colonialism assumes terra nullius - that no one is here, the land is empty, and nothing good exists in this place. The land is but a blank canvas for the sheep to be grazed and the crops to be grown. When people, stories and pre-existing economic systems become apparent, a kind of willful blindness ensues, and a myth is told and repeated that says that we were responsible for everything 'good' that you see.
Sometimes we try to colonise people as well - and I'm not just talking about the way that Europeans have tried to colonise indigenous people across the world. I'm talking about friends, colleagues, partners, children, clients. We try to colonise people when we try to fix them, with no regard to the treasures that are already contained within.
Have you ever done that before? I have.
There is a different way of being, and that is to assume a posture of humble anticipation of what is already here. What treasures exists that I can't yet see, but if I am present to this person or place, may in time be revealed?
I think that the opposite of colonialism is presence: that is, the discipline of arriving, waiting and opening my heart to the deep goodness of what is already here. It is knowing the goodness that is in me also. It is trusting that in time we will each be able to take out our treasures and put them on the table, and eat together.
*The Shambhala Principle by Sakyong Mipham - head of the Shambhala lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.