Okay, time for another serious entry. I've been bombarded by messages all month about this topic from all sorts of sources so that it's been on my mind constantly and I'm starting to see that almost everything relates to it. Recent news stories all have a bit of it. Recent blogs I've been reading contain it. TV shows I've been watching. Even an e-mail I got from Kasia had this little story about a wise woman.
"The Wise Woman's Stone" A wise woman who was traveling in the mountains found a precious stone in a stream. The next day she met another traveler who was hungry, and the wise woman opened her bag to share her food. The hungry traveler saw the precious stone and asked the woman to give it to him. She did so without hesitation. The traveler left, rejoicing in his good fortune. He knew the stone was worth enough to give him security for a lifetime. But a few days later he came back to return the stone to the wise woman. "I've been thinking," he said, "I know how valuable the stone is, but I give it back in the hope that you can give me something even more precious. Give me what you have within you that enabled you to give me the stone." Author Unknown
Those are ALWAYS author unknown stories! Probly because the author wasn't selfish enough to publish it for personal profit.
My topic today my little cheeky monkies is selfishness. Or really selflessness, and how the further we "progress" as a species, the further behind we leave it. And before you cast any stones, I'm thoroughly guilty of selfishness myself. I count it as my worst vice, yet am perfectly happy to try to practice selflessness passively. I'll do unto others... if the opportunity should arise.
Excuse me whilst I wax religious: The golden rule is not so much a trite tidbit of advice we should think of occasionally, but a commandment that, being golden, should be foremost in the lives of good people. I believe there is a golden rule in all religion that is pretty much the same, and indeed this is a sentiment I have found to be innate in all good people religious or not. No matter how it's said, "Do unto others as you would have done unto you." is the answer to all the world's problems. If we could all just DO it, we wouldn't need Heaven. Or for that matter, Hell. Or Nirvana or Valhalla or Enlightenment or the thousand virgin party or whatever.
I found Kasia's wise woman story to be a pretty good test of how good a person I am. And I failed miserably. If a person is able to even imagine the woman being happier to have given the stone to the man than the man at having received it, that person is well on his/her way to being good, heavenly, enlightened, or whatever. While I was reading it I was saying, "No, no, no! What kind of a jerk asks for a gem from a woman who is kind enough to offer him food? He doesn't deserve the gem!" I found myself thinking, "How phony is this? What woman would part with a valuable gem, much less give one to a stranger?" I was even guilty of thinking, "HAH! Of course it's a WOMAN who gives the MAN the stone! And a WOMAN who sent it to me! Womanly wiles! Delete, delete, delete!" I certainly am not enlightened enough to understand how the woman could be the happier of the two after giving away something so valuable. What did YOU think when you read it? More to the point, what do you suppose led you to think that way?
I was recently watching 20/20 on my beloved AFKN and there was a story of a middle school teacher in the States somewhere who did a little social experiment in her classes. She divided her students into groups and gave them a jar full of Hershey's Kisses. She gave the jar to one member of each group and told him/her to take as many as he/she wanted and to pass it on. After all members got the same chance, the number of Kisses left in the jar would be doubled and they could do it again. So if they had six Kisses left, the teacher would give them six more and they could pass the jar around again. The teacher said that none of the groups had any remaining Kisses and most groups had one or more members who got no Kisses at all. The group members were thinking less about doing unto others and more about what they would have done unto them.
Now it could be argued that if they had thought long-term and stretched it out for several rounds, they could all have several jars full of Kisses and that THIS is the more selfish thinking. I disagree. I think "get all you can NOW" is the worst kind of selfishness and that's what is killing our planet. And, with all due respect to my American buddies, I haven't heard about this test being successfully replicated in other countries around the world. But then again, maybe it could be. What has brought us to this point? And can whatever has brought us to this point be accurately called "progress"?
Anyone ever heard of Martin Frobisher? He was an English explorer who visited the arctic in Elizabethan times. He found the "savages" living there to have some very "crude" and "uncivilized" customs. For instance, they had no concept of ownership. Anyone could borrow anything from anyone else, including wives, without being expected to repay it. Frobisher's crew had a field day with this custom. They took all kinds of Inuit goods and inventions like furs, kayaks, sleighs, mukluks etc. with no concern about how well the people could survive without them. They even picked an Inuit man, kayak and all, out of the water beside the ship and brought him back to England where they GAVE him to the queen as a present. He was treated like a well loved pet. Elizabeth enjoyed watching him hunt swans on the Avon in his kayak. He eventually died, (of a COLD for crying out loud!), far away from his family and his "uncivilized" land where many of his friends and family died off due largely to inequities in trade with the British.
The other natives in Canada had no concept of ownership when white men arrived either. Over the years they sure have smartened up haven't they? While I was living in Thunder Bay about 10 years ago, my neighbour, a native guy, unlocked my bike and took it. His wife had their car. I was almost late for work when he returned with the bike. I was really mad and told him he could borrow it any time but he had to ask me first. He challenged me to a fight because he thought I was saying he had stolen it. If I wasn't late for work, I may have taken him up on the fight offer. But I didn't. I just took the bike and rode it to work. I was late. Then one night my roommate and I were having a noisy party and guess who came over to complain about US infringing on his house owner's rights?
And then there's Ann Coulter talking about how some 911 widows are complaining about government officials, police, firefighters etc. all for personal gain. It seems to me if Ann Coulter is buying up 1.5 million dollar condos and 1.8 million dollar homes, maybe she's complaining about these women for her own personal gain. If she really just wanted to get her message out; if she really believed in it; if she really wanted to be like Jesus; she wouldn't charge for the books and may even leak the stories out like the story of the woman and the stone: author unknown.
The lyrics of an old song written by Kerry Livgren of the group Kansas come to mind.
Progress! We are marching backward,
Progress! as the captains of our fate.
Progress! We are marching backward,
Progress! We destroy and annihilate.
I'd better write a letter to my Gramma, or give some money to the poor, or send my sister some wedding cash, or do something nice in complete anonymity for somebody else today. I'm gonna try to give someone a precious stone. I think that's what the signs are telling me.