Because I Care ~ LOOK BACK, GO ON

WITH GREAT NUMBERS of people jobless, and more and more taking to drugs, the police seem either impotent in the face of rising crime or simply don’t care; and the justice-system in some countries— Australia is a good example— is such that the criminal-minded have little incentive to desist from their activities. The world has become an open jungle, and no-one feels secure.

People talk of ‘the good old days,’ but they were not as good as we like to think, and few of us would return to living in the past, even if we could. The pace of life has increased and carried us away with it; mentally and spiritually, we’ve been unable to keep up with the rate of technological development and become schizophrenic as a result— that is, unbalanced and divided in ourselves; we now have greater capacity for good and evil than people ever had before, but it is seldom understood and used correctly. The three defilements of Greed, Hatred and Delusion have long been part of the human psyche, and there is no sign that we will outgrow and leave them behind. We must know what we are up against. The real enemy of Man is Ignorance.

We think of ourselves as civilized, but our civilization, in many cases, doesn’t run very deep, and is only a veneer; scratch the surface, and beneath it we may find savagery; most of us are capable of it, and should recognize and admit this, so we will be better prepared to deal with it if and when, under suitable conditions, it emerges; we should not delude ourselves and think that we would never succumb to barbarism; we don’t know what we are capable of.

Some years ago, there was a terrorist bomb-attack on a train in Italy, and one of the rescuers who volunteered to pull the injured, mutilated and dead passengers from the tangled wreckage was a young man who was so appalled by the horrific carnage that he went home, wrote a note saying: "I cannot live any longer in this insane world," and committed suicide.

In Melbourne, I knew a young man who was almost totally paralyzed as the result of a minor ear-operation that went wrong; his chance of recovery was very low. Trapped in his body between life and death, he wanted both to live and to die, but was unable to do either. We who are healthy cannot really imagine how he must have felt, but I must confess that, if I were in such a situation, I think I would want to die, too. He died after nine years in that state.

I understand and sympathize with that young rescuer feeling anger and despair, when he had gone with a full heart to help the innocent victims of such brutality, although this doesn’t mean I advocate suicide. I would counsel and advise anyone against it, while assuring them that the choice is always theirs, but that they should be prepared to accept the consequences of their actions, whatever they might be. By committing suicide he removed qualities from the world that the world needs more of to counter the rising tide of violence, hatred and terror: compassion, love and a willingness to reach out to others; the light that he used for others was extinguished. If everybody who cares about others, and is shocked by the savagery and madness of the world, took the easy way out by ending their lives, who would be left to oppose the forces of darkness and keep the flame of goodness and hope burning? May that kind-hearted person be well and happy wherever he now is!

All around us in the world there are unrecognized heroes, who are content to do what they can, wherever they are, to make life better for others. In many cases, they might not even be aware of the significance of what they are doing, but do it just because it is natural for them to do it; they do not look for name and fame, and are not concerned if others recognize their actions or not. Maybe they have reached a stage in their personal evolution where they do not have a choice but to act as they do.

I don’t remember exactly when, but some years ago, an airplane crashed into the frozen Potomac River as it failed to take off from the airport in Washington D.C.. Many people died in the icy water as the plane sank. But one man, whose name I do not recall, dived into the water again and again to rescue drowning people and pull them to safety onto the river-bank, until, attempting to rescue one more, he himself failed to surface. He surely must have known the risk of this happening, but he didn’t let that deter him from trying; he died so that others might live.

We all know, or have heard of silent heroes, and have been inspired by them. We need the example of such self-effacing heroes so that we may face and overcome our fears and despair of life; they inspire us to go on.

Sometimes— like most people, I guess— I get frustrated and depressed, and wonder where I’m going; sometimes, I cannot see the next step ahead of me, and it seems like I’ve come to a dead end; sometimes, when things are difficult, and there seem to be no results— or I get results other than those I want— I wish I had never gotten into this line of things; and sometimes, death would not be unwelcome— it would be a release. But, whenever I feel like this, I turn around and look back on the way by which I reached the present. And do you think it was as straight as an arrow? Of course it wasn’t, not for more than a short distance at a time, but twisted and turned, climbed and fell and sometimes even disappeared below ground, only to reappear elsewhere. Many times, there were obstacles, which, at the time, seemed insurmountable; the road was often pitted with pot-holes of despair; there was suffering and sickness, lethargy and blues, times when I was depressed and stuck in the doldrums, and didn’t know what to do; there were times when I was lonely and sad, times of danger and fear, and times when the road ran near to madness and hell. It is a miracle that I survived, yet survive I did and survive I do at the time of writing this.

When I was 18, for some reason or other that I now no longer remember— or do not choose to— I was feeling so depressed that one night, I climbed over the railings of the park near my home, and went down to the lake, intending to drown myself. But when I got to the edge of the lake, the water looked very cold, so I turned around and went back home. I’m glad now that I lived to tell this tale. And does not my looking back on all the pains, defeats, and failures, the facing of dangers and obstacles, and the surviving thereof, help me to face other such things with courage and understanding? I have run the gauntlet of the past, and survived, and have learned something from it, and am even able to use it to deal with the problems and pains of the present. Surely, it is no small achievement. Has not my life— your life, our life— been an overall success, therefore?

Moreover, I’m now able to help others see things in the same way. If I had given up in despair, as I wanted to many times in the past, I wouldn’t have what I now have to share with others who might be able to benefit from it— and there are such people, I know. But, through all my pain and frustration, I carried on— often with no conscious goal or purpose— and reached the present. How I managed, I do not know, but I’m glad I did; I’m happy that I have discovered something of my potential, something of value, which, by sharing it with others, is not diminished but only increased thereby. I cannot explain it, but must stand, unashamedly, with open mouth, speechless in wonder at the way I have come. And was your way any less wonderful?

And yet, although we have come a long way, there is still far to go, and we have no cause for complacency, no time to waste congratulating ourselves; we must go on. But we should go on in the knowledge that we are not living for ourselves alone, and that we are— each of us— changing the world, moment-by-moment, and making it a better or a worse place to live in. I have taken my stand, and decided to try to make it better, according to my limited capacity, which includes informing others that they can do so, too.

Now, it should not be thought that, just because I’ve spoken seemingly only about difficulties and pain here, that there were no happy and joyful times in my life, because of course there were— many. Indeed, if there had not been, if it had all been a way of suffering and despair, I’d probably not be here now, writing about it. Life is a mixture, but perhaps most people would agree that there is more unhappiness than happiness in life, perhaps because unhappiness comes unsought, unwanted and more frequently, and because it lingers longer than happiness, like the thorns on the rose. Many of us spend a lot of time looking for happiness, but find very little. Is happiness like gold or diamonds — rare and hard to find— while unhappiness is like sand and stones— all around?

No, the reason I seem to dwell on the painful side of life is to show that it can be turned around to our advantage; we have so much to work with, so let’s get turning.

Instead of pretending to be strong and brave and trying to hide our weaknesses and faults, if we acknowledged and revealed them to others, they might derive strength from them, for weakness and strength always go hand-in-hand and strength has no meaning apart from weakness; indeed, strength comes from weakness, just as courage develops from fear. Courage does not mean the absence but the presence of fear; fear is the soil from which courage might grow. I recall something John Wayne once said on the subject: "Courage is being scared stiff, but saddling up and riding out anyway" (the fact that he was a movie-star whose words were written for him by others, and might not really have meant them does not invalidate them; it should not matter who said them, or why, as long as they make sense and are useful). It is alright to be afraid; it’s a perfectly natural reaction to certain things, and can often save our lives; our ingenuity provides us with ways of dealing with, overcoming, and using it.

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