Creative Team Building and Leadership Resources - In our Elements

One Brotherhood

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Fellow Passengers: This week’s Poetry Passage* (Psalm 133) transports me to the makeshift barber chair my Dad would set up in the living room when I was a kid. Basically it was a chair from the kitchen table, and when little folk like me were ready for a trim, we sat on a tool box he placed on the seat of the chair. Daddy was the family barber, lowering the ears for his brothers and sons and nephews with his electric shears. I can vividly remember the feel of those shears on my neck, and the oily smell that filled the room. I think Daddy’s brothers came over as much for an excuse to visit and talk as to get a haircut. When I was 9 or 10, a crisis began to emerge for me relative to that barber chair. My oldest brother Jerry had gone to Vietnam a couple of years earlier, and I looked up to him so much, I had Daddy give me an Army crew cut just like his. And then my middle brother David, in his late teens and early twenties, decided to forego the barber chair completely. Influenced by the hippie movement, he let his hair and beard grow long. Some of the folks at Daddy’s shop started calling him Moses. I looked up to David, too, even though he occasionally picked on me, as older brothers are prone to do. I eventually gave up the crew cut and tried the Moses look. I’ve gone back and forth over the decades; right now I’m back with the buzz. I’ve reflected a lot over the past forty years on that brotherhood we experienced and continue to enjoy. It was a brotherhood whose love was deeper than the divide between Vietnam GIs and long-haired hippies. We must have learned by osmosis, watching our Dad with his brothers. They were all very different people, with different lifestyles and political views and theologies and personalities, but they were united in their family love and loyalty, and they enjoyed each others’ company. For a long time I thought that was the norm, brotherly love. My brothers and I now laugh about that naive assumption, as we have learned what a rarity it is.

I think the Psalmist understood what a rarity it is for brothers to dwell together in unity. Many of the translations utilize inclusive language for the beginning of this Psalm, and talk about how wonderful it is when relatives live in unity, or when God’s people live in unity. But here’s a case when I think the direct translation of the Hebrew achim with gender specificity (brothers) is preferable. After all, when you look at the Hebrew family history, the challenges to experiencing brotherly love is a central theme. It started with Cain and Abel, and moves on to Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers, David and his brothers, Solomon and his brothers. There’s hardly a functional set in the lineage. So for the Psalmist, the image of brothers getting along was indeed precious, a rarity. It reminded him of Aaron, another of those biblical brothers; the poet can see oil dripping down Aaron’s hair and beard onto his robes.

Oil on hair and beard. It brings me back to that barber chair in the living room, and the smell of the oily shears. And it brings me back to Daddy and his brothers, some of whom had some rough patches in life and needed an occasional helping hand. During those times, I remember Daddy referencing one of the hippie songs that David must have played on his 8-track at some point. He ain’t heavy. He’s my brother. I don’t know if Daddy knew any of the rest of the Youngblood’s lyrics, but I think he would have appreciated them. His welfare is of my concern. No burden is he to bear. We’ll get there. . . It’s a long, long road, from which there is no return. While we’re on the way to there, why not share? If only my naive childhood sense was true, that this ethic and this feeling was the norm in our society. If only the progeny of Abraham – the Jewish Brotherhood and the Muslim Brotherhood – who struggle mightily in the Middle East could transform brotherly conflict into brotherly love, so that the oil would indeed run down Aaron’s hair and beard. If only the Cains and Abels and Jacobs and Esaus of the Christian family could learn to carry each other over rough patches instead of curse each other over doctrinal differences. If a hippie and GI could do it in the 60s and 70s, in the midst of intense cultural conflict, it could happen anywhere. It reminds me of another one of brother Dave’s 8-track songs, a call for us to live in that unity: Come on people now, smile on your brother everybody get together try to love one another right now.

How about you? Where does this Poetry Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment, and share with friends on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, email, etc. Note: If you mouse over the artwork, info on the painting or photo will pop up.



  • October 3, 2012 at 7:06 am

    Thanks Stan ,brought back a lot of good memories.Your Dad liked Carol King too .

    Comment by Larry

  • October 3, 2012 at 7:36 am

    No kidding, Larry – Carol King? That’s awesome. I love learning new things about Daddy!

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • October 3, 2012 at 7:44 am

    Nice! Very nice! We are have Holy Communion Sunday with the title of the homily being “Living in Community.” I might incorporate some of this into it if that is ok?

    Comment by Joel Dale

  • October 3, 2012 at 7:45 am

    Feel free to use whatever you’d like, Joel – I’d be honored! Let me know how it goes. Blessings on you and your church.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • October 3, 2012 at 9:13 am

    I’ve been off line for a while while LeDayne is using my computer so I shall be brief. I’m so happy you have formed such a loving bond with your sibs, Stan. I was an only child and always longed for a loving sister or brother. I am thankful for my friends, however, especially for Millie, who is also an only child.

    If each one of us could see everyone in the whole wide world as our sister and brother, the world would be a great place and life would be beautiful. I expect that is what Jesus would have us do

    Comment by Janet Davies

  • October 3, 2012 at 9:51 am

    I was in college before I began to realize that our family was not the norm. I’ve never thought about the contrast of David the Hippie to Jerry the GI. Quite a contrast. So thankful for the example Great gave us that continues to live on through the generations!

    Comment by Kelly Dotson

  • October 3, 2012 at 9:55 am

    Still getting slong with my two sisters after all these years… For an optimistic take on the human condition, this is a good one to remember. “I believe, in spite of everything, that people are really good at heart” Anne Frank, near the end of her diary.

    Comment by Alan Ralph

  • October 3, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    Family IS all that. I enjoyed reading about your siblings, and this blog on brotherhood and seeking peace.

    As for Abraham’s progeny, God’s Word is clear regarding Ishmael and the lasting turmoil and opposition between the progeny, and between Ishmael and “everyone” else. Genesis 16:12: “He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”

    This is reminiscent of another difficult verse to accept, especially when we are called to do good and to help the widows, orphans, and those in need; Matthew 26:11: “The poor you will always have with you.”

    It’s easy to see how the unbelieving state the Bible is full of contradictions; when really the “contradictions” are simply mysterious paradoxes that require faith to accept, believe, trust, and live out.

    We are to seek peace, and in the end we would do well to accept God’s Word as the final guidance. And, ultimately, it’s not about, or up to, us: Zechariah 4:6: “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.”

    Comment by Larry Daniels

  • October 3, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    Thanks for the good word, Janet – and I’m glad to hear you got to spend some time with LeDayne. Continued blessings on your peacemaking work.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • October 3, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    Kelly, you’re right, there’s a great ripple effect of the kind of love “Great” demonstrated with his brothers, his sons and all of his family. We are mightily blessed to be in the wake of that ripple effect.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • October 3, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    Alan, thanks for the good word, and the reference to the Anne Frank quote. I’ve always loved that; we used her diary in a class I taught many years ago, and it really stands the test of time.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • October 3, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    Larry, thanks for the insights, and for sharing about the biblical narrative of Ishmael. The tension in the Bible is always between a fated, determined destiny and the possibility of change. Esau for example, had a troubling destiny, when the Bible says that God hated him. But then there’s that beautiful reconciliation passage about Jacob seeing the face of God in his brother’s face. There’s Jacob’s “blessing” of his sons, which included a similar curse on Levi that Ishmael received, but the Levites wound up having a place of prominence in the history of Israel. I see the same possibility with the children of Ishmael; even though they were cursed with hostility and violence, I believe God’s grace gives them the opportunity for redemption and reconciliation. I don’t believe any of us are fated with a determined destiny that God cannot change. I appreciate your reference to the Zechariah text, reminding us to place our ultimate trust in the Spirit, and to collaborate with the Spirit of peace in every way possible.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • October 3, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    We are on the same page! No one, not even Muslims, is exempt from God’s grace, redemption and reconciliation; and that is through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. John 14:6. :-)

    Comment by Larry Daniels

  • October 4, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    Oh brother how art thou? I knew you would have to mention how mean I was too you in the intro to the blog. One of the coolest things in my life is the unity and bond with my brothers. Never knew why it was that way but you may be right about the ripple effect from our dad and his siblings. Thanks to Sant, Went, Crawford, Thad, Ed, Dal, Zelda, Mary, Jim, Dwight, Tony, and Don for showing us how to love each other.

    Comment by Bro Dave

  • October 5, 2012 at 5:47 am

    Oh brother, I’m fine – they haven’t turned me into a toad yet. If that sandwich joke was the worst meanness I suffered as a kid, I got off easy! It’s a classic. The unity of brotherhood is definitely a highlight of my life. Thanks to you and Jerry, and to all the Dotson boys who went before (and the sisters as well).

    Comment by Stan Dotson

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