“This is the true joy in life – that being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. That being a force of nature, instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die. For the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It’s a sort of splendid torch which I’ve got to hold up for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”
~ George Bernard Shaw
A few months ago, I wrote a post (https://engagedmindfulness.wordpress.com/2012/09/30/a-mighty-purpose/) inspired by the words above. And since then, I’ve been reflecting on what personal steps I might take in order to live more in keeping with Shaw’s lofty ideal. Here are the resolutions I’ve come up with so far ….
1. Work on being more open to – by which I mean being less irritated by – the unexpected things that arise in the course of each day. Try seeing them from the Buddhist perspective of “being with what is” rather than from my default perspective of “I don’t have time for this”.
2. Become more conscientious about building and sustaining relationships outside the small circle of my immediate family and close friends. In particular, actively seek out meaningful ways of contributing to my local community and to the world at large.
3. Sharpen the focus of the essays I write for this blog. Look for links between engaging mindfully with the world and the Buddhist concept of “wise action” as a way of easing suffering in the world.
For now, I will keep the first two of these resolutions outside the scope of this blog, except when something occurs in my pursuit of either one of them that seems relevant to the intention set in the third resolution – promoting wise action and easing suffering.
By way of getting started with the third resolution, I’ve gone back and read through my posts since the very first one in October 2011. What I notice is that, while the topics vary from month to month, the themes revolve almost exclusively around various aspects of becoming more self-aware. A worthy enough concern – and yet not enough in and of itself. This blog bears the title “Engaged Mindfulness” – and yet it appears that I’ve been concentrating excessively on the mindfulness part, to the detriment of the engaged part.
From now on, I intend to restore the balance implicit in Engaged Mindfulness’ description phrase, “Reflections on balancing committed action in the world with mindful awareness of the self”.
Since I wrote the original “A Mighty Purpose” essay in September of 2012, the United States has concluded the most divisive and most expensive presidential election in its history, the northeastern region of the country was wracked and wrecked by the most devastating hurricane ever to strike this area, and a quiet community in the state of Connecticut was traumatized by the horrific mass shooting at its elementary school that left twenty kindergarten-age children and seven of their teachers dead. So much suffering on the national stage.
Since that same time, not even four months ago, the world has been witnessing – often on a daily basis – the ever-escalating carnage in Syria, the dismal descent into chaos of the once-promising democracy movement in Egypt, the eruption of civil war in Mali, the continued sectarian violence in Iraq, the threatening missile launches in North Korea, the secretive nuclear activities in Iran, the economic turmoil in Greece, the toxic air pollution in China – not by any means a complete catalog of our global woes, but a bleak enough accounting nonetheless. So much suffering on the international stage.
So much suffering in the world.
I do not propose – in fact, I would not presume – to offer solutions. Instead, I propose to offer ways of looking at and engaging with these complex events from a mindful perspective that focuses on the interconnectedness of all people and on the interrelatedness of all situations. Only from such a perspective can wise action arise and the easing of suffering take place.
My topics will continue to change from one post to the next, but the underlying theme I intend to bring to each new post will, I hope, consistently reflect the urgency implicit in Thich Nhat Hahn’s powerful declaration – “Mindfulness must be engaged. Once there is seeing, there must be acting. Otherwise, what is the use of seeing?”
I believe that this new intention will make writing these posts more compelling for me. I hope that it will make reading them more compelling for you. Otherwise, what is the use, for us both?