Thursday, July 21, 2011

Food For Thought

For so many of us the ethic is strong that we must take care of ourselves. Deeply ingrained into our way of operating, even when help is naturally available, some of us can expend more energy obstinately turning it away than would be used to graciously accept the friendly gesture.

I noticed this in myself especially when I was struck down by my injury and beginning to live with two bags and two tubes coming out of my body. I insisted to the nurses I could get myself back in bed. At home, I turned down offers of food, not wanting anyone to go out of their way or be bothered.

Once healthier, I would still rather strain to lift something heavy than ask for help. I pride myself on being a man who prefers asking directions to being lost, but when it comes to doing, I am as macho as any man or woman.

Probably this comes from an innate sense of independence, as if help would somehow diminish our image of strength; the vulnerability might tarnish our hard-won place in the world. We are trained early to fall asleep by ourselves in the crib and pay our own way through life, have our own lawn mower in the garage no matter the size of the lawn and crowded the neighborhood.

The irony is that if they would take it, I would be happy if my mower served every yard on the block, but I want it to be mine, not theirs. Verging on compulsion, I am nearly relentless, offering more help than is ever asked. No task is too small, no request too out of line to figure out how I might make a contribution to getting it done.

I ask for nothing in return. It pleases me to be of service, to be giving. Somehow it feels like a payment of gratitude for the immense gift of simply being alive, able and willing to lend a hand.

Life is short and I am fearful of regrets. I do not want to reach a place of thinking I could have done more, wishing afterwards I could have pitched in and did not.

Not so purely altruistic as I claim, I know there are transients with hands out-stretched who fail to get my dime. Homeless people will spend another night outdoors tonight when I have a bed in the next room empty. A child drowned tragically this week and I drove past their home sending a mental blessing, but thinking probably enough other neighbors are dropping off dinners to make the point that we all care.

In the midst of the half-jocular visions of apocalyptic destruction advancing towards December 2012, an under-current grows more prevalent that predicts something far less destructive, but no less profound than the end of the world as we know it will jar us out of complacency. More and more people I know in varied walks of life speak of an amazing change of heart.

Both the Mayan calendar and scientific evidence of the sun’s movement through the Milky Way separately consider 5000 year cycles. The one coming to an end in both theories on the exact same date next year is viewed by some as a time that was ruled by mind and intellect, the masculine energy of domination, command and control.

Civilization has made incredible advances from footsteps towards the next village to rockets blasting into space. Ideas first written on papyrus are now shared electronically around the world in an instant. These giant leaps have created—or at least described—a society that charges forward without mercy to get ahead, rises to the top at any cost and strives to leave the competition squashed (if possible) in the dust.

A society of separation and alienation of uppers and lowers and better thans, a culture that thrives on the dedication to self and independence, creates citizens who take pride in doing, in managing alone, in fending off help. It creates people in pockets of isolation like me.

Our world today strains to the breaking point along every avenue of the infrastructure as demonstrated by the debate in Washington over the debt and suffered by all in 2008 as the economy slowed in every corner of the world. The default of our government and the resulting ripples of economic disaster could prove the doomsayers right a full year in advance of 2012.

From the comfort of our couches, the drama looks no more real than the movies that follow afterwards on our 48” HD LCD TVs. Rumor has it that there was some incredible thinking stored in the library in Alexandria 2,000 years ago, but a single match from barbarians who had been left out of the party started a fire that forced us to begin all over again.

There are some who say many of us will survive the debacle that could come from climate change, economic collapse or a spilled cup of coffee on a console that sets off a nuclear holocaust. Even if nothing happens at all beyond the simple day to day pressure of earning our way and maintaining our loving relationships, we need to help each other.

To many, this next 5000 years is the time of the heart, a return to feminine energy, compassion and nurturing, a tremendous surge towards the heat of love. Not only do we have to give more than ever, but we also must learn to receive. The pride that ultimately leaves us alone at the top of the pile, independent and self-sustaining, no longer serves us well.

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