Because I Care ~ BE PREPARED

AMONG MY OLD NOTES, I came across something I had kept for years; I don’t recall where I got it, and it is marked ‘anonymous,’ so I cannot, as I otherwise would, acknowledge its author. Reading through it, I felt inspired—which must have been the reason I kept it in the first place—and so it has finally become useful, and keeping it, squirrel-like, for so long, has been justified. Here it is:

"Human life is a struggle—against frustration, ignorance, suffering, evil, and the maddening inertia of things in general; but it is also a struggle for something, and for something which our experience tells us can be achieved in some measure, even if we find ourselves personally debarred from any measure that seems just or reasonable. And fulfillment seems to describe better than any other single word, the positive side of human development and human evolution—the realization of inherent capacities by the individual, and of new possibilities by the race; the satisfaction-needs, spiritual as well as material; the emergence of new qualities of experience to be enjoyed, and the building of personalities. But it cannot be achieved without struggle, not merely struggle with external obstacles, but with the enemies within ourselves".

If we were to look on life as an often-difficult adventure — instead of complaining about it and wishing it were always easy-going— it would be much more in line with reality, and we would get far more out of it in terms of experience and satisfaction; moreover, we’d have much more energy than we do. The problem is, we do not understand life—and here, I mean the basic laws of life, not the lifestyles we have developed—and constantly wish it to be otherwise; such wishing is also a kind of struggle, but it is futile, and only drains us of energy for no good purpose, like as if, our house on fire, we were to stand there looking at it miserably, and complaining that it’s not fair, instead of trying to put out the fire and/or calling the fire-brigade. If we must struggle in life—and it certainly seems we must—we should know something of the nature of what we are struggling against. For example, if we were in a small boat on a swiftly-flowing river, we might let ourselves be carried along by the stream, hoping not to be swept onto rocks or sandbars or into whirlpools, or we could try to guide it through the dangerous parts by using oars or paddles; it would not be much use praying to God or whoever/whatever else to guide the boat and keep us safe while we sit back and relax or cower in terror, expecting everything to be taken care of. Life requires effort, if not always physical, then mental and emotional effort; and if we expect this to be so, we may be somewhat prepared for our journey through it.

Caught up in our hectic lifestyles, many of us feel impotent, and easily give way to frustration and depression; not surprisingly, it has come to be known as ‘the rat-race.’ Our lives are full of wonderful things that provide ease, enjoyment and entertainment, but we have become surfeited thereby, and succumbed to the disease of boredom, to the extent that many of us see no meaning in life. The Earth has been explored and almost all of it mapped; the seas have been charted, the mountains climbed, the jungles searched, the deserts crossed. And, since most of us have little chance of personally going into Space to extend our frontiers there, or deep into the seas to plumb its mysteries, perhaps we think there is little more to be discovered now, and so it is easy for us to lapse into lethargy, become jaded, and just give up; we lose sight of our importance, and therefore do not strive.

Maybe it’s because there is simply too much government, that it intrudes into almost every aspect of our lives—directly or indirectly, grossly, subtly, insidiously—that we think as we do; unable to escape from governmental intrusion, we find it easier to capitulate and become dependent, as upon drugs, thus largely losing our self-sufficiency and initiative. Surely, some of the uncertainties of life have been reduced and offset, especially if we live in a welfare state, but at a price; at the same time, we have been lulled into complacency, and have lost something. To correct this, and bring about a state of balance that will enable us to stand on our own feet again, we need the strength and support of Dharma, so that we may see things clearly as they are, and put away the drugs of dependence.

Who am I? Most of us would probably ask ourselves this question sometime or other, although few would pursue it to a satisfactory or meaningful conclusion—few ever have done. It is rather a disturbing thing that many of us prefer not to think long about but to put out of mind as too imponderable or abstract; indeed, many of us never consider it at all, being content with the names our parents gave us, feeling we thereby already know who we are. Thus, we live our entire lives, as brief or as long as they might be, in ignorance of what it means to be human, with all its wonder and splendid potential.

The question is far more complex than it appears, and would lead, if we followed it up, to many fields of inquiry and realization, and involve vast periods of time; we are just so much more than we think we are. We have not come to be what or as we are by our own efforts, designs or wishes, but as the result of many things before us. Where we began, we really do not know, but there are reasons—very good and compelling reasons—for us to be optimistic about our human state, and to remind ourselves or be reminded about it. This is especially so for people who feel personally inadequate.

Present in each one of us is the sum total of human endeavor since as far back as we can imagine; we have so much to be grateful for and feel good about; failure to do so is a betrayal and repudiation of all that people in the past and present have ever struggled for; we should remember that we all—every one of us—ride on others’ backs throughout our entire lives. Although we don’t like to be reminded of it, and talk of it is unpopular today, nevertheless, we have a moral responsibility to understand and use what they left us, and to go further than they went on the road to Enlightenment, for this is our true work in life. Later on, looking back, we will see the whole process quite differently, and realize that what we used to look on as responsibility or duty was really a joy. Right now, there may not be much joy in our lives, but so much awaits us if we will turn our faces towards it.

Present, too, is the possibility for undreamed-of growth, not just for us personally, but for us as a species. We have the capacity for Enlightenment and the expansion of consciousness to the degree that self is forgotten or crowded out and unity with All is known. Lacking self-confidence and feeling negative about ourselves—even to the point of self-hate—are definite hindrances and show lack of under-standing of what we might become.

Leaving aside who we are for now, with our personal identities, let us first focus on what we are. We are human beings, homo sapiens. But since most of us—I dare say—have thought little about this, and have taken it all for granted, it is necessary to point out something of what it means to be human.

Is it something light to be able to see, to hear, to smell, taste and touch? Is it nothing special to think and reason and understand? Is it something ordinary to stand and walk and feel and talk? We really do not know how we do these things, and many other things besides; why not take time out now and then to think about them? We have gone too far away from ourselves and need to come back, and learn what wonderful beings we are. Do we have to lose our sight before we will see, our hearing before we can hear? We often don’t know what we’ve got until we’ve lost it, and then it’s too late. What I am saying is that just as we are—even with our imperfections—we are wonderful! And then, to feel and become aware of our potential—what joy! We do not know where we came from, do not really understand where we are, and have no idea where we are going, but we may take stock of what we’ve got, and realize that it has not come from nowhere.

Now, most of the good things that we use, enjoy, and take so much for granted—including the very letters I am using to communicate my ideas thus—were not created by us, but by others, who no doubt struggled against and overcame many difficulties in order to bequeath us their discoveries and inventions, regardless of the fact that some of them, like Thomas Edison, for example, did so as a profession and made money from them; we have not really earned these things, but have somehow had the good fortune to be born at a time when such things are readily available and which make life much easier than it otherwise would be. But must we always be receivers, inheriting the good results of other people’s labors? Certainly, we cannot all be great inventors who produce things to benefit others, but we can all participate in the discoveries of others, and repay them somewhat by rejoicing in them, being grateful, and taking care of the things we’ve got. By cultivating gratitude, our minds will thereby be prepared for the growth of many other positive qualities.

Firstly, because we enter into the spirit of other people’s discoveries and inventions, we expand and open our hearts and minds, and to the extent that we do so, selfishness is crowded out. Secondly, we prepare ourselves to contribute what and when we can, and to do so is already a discovery: I, you, we, all have things to contribute to the world as a whole, for the simple reason that the world is made up of individuals like you and I, and so, if we change the way we think, the way we act and live will also change, and, as a result, the world we live in will be changed, too. It is a mistake, therefore, to think we can do nothing to change the world for the better, but always to wait for ‘someone else’ to do it for us; whatever we are doing, you and I, is having an effect, whether we realize it or not. There is no world apart from you, I and other people like us.

And so, if we come to see that we are part of it all, and that we do have something to offer, we shall probably find a meaning to life and a sense of purpose after all. I, for one, am not content to sit back idly and let the world go on the way it is doing, without at least opening my mouth to say something about it and drawing attention to it. My life does have a meaning, and it is not just for myself, either. You see, it is like this: even on the level of language, I cannot exist without you, nor you without me; each needs the other to give meaning to itself. And, from seeing this, arises LOVE, which is something we all need so much, regardless of the fact that the word has almost lost its meaning; I need to love you, and you need to love me, for love must be given as well as received. And if we cannot give it, how shall we receive it?

If/when we see that we have touched someone positively, and made a difference, no matter how small, in their lives, we feel good; we get a feeling of satisfaction, knowing that we have done something worthwhile. When we do something good, it leaves no residue; we may sleep peacefully, without worrying about what we have done and wishing we hadn’t done it; we may forget it completely. When we do something wrong, however, it is not like that; our conscience nags us and will not let us forget it; it may even cause sleeplessness as we lie there thinking: "I’ve done something wrong! How I wish I hadn’t done that!" There is a residue from doing wrong.

Feedback from my books assures me that I’ve touched some people positively by my words, and this makes me feel good, of course. Words are very useful tools whose value we underestimate; they allow us to express ourselves and communicate with others about almost anything; the joy of communicating, and knowing we are being received and understood has probably been felt by every traveler in a foreign land where he is unable to speak the language and most of the people do not speak his. Finding someone there with whom he can communicate at a higher level than mere sign-language is such a relief!

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