Friday, May 10, 2013

Living for Others - Service to All Life

Today is Friday, May 10, 2013.

Nothing in nature lives for itself.  Rivers don't drink their own water. Trees don't eat their own fruit.  Sun doesn't give heat for itself.  Flowers don't spread fragrance for themselves...  Living for Others is the Rule of Nature.

There is a growing number of people around the world these days who are rejecting a lifestyle that glorifies unlimited acquisition of money and conspicuous consumption.  These people are unwilling to accept reckless and unsustainable use of natural resources, doing irreparable harm to the earth without regard to the balance of nature, and doing mindless violence to animals by taking away their natural habitats and food supplies.  They don't want to live in a world where a few individuals can afford to live in comfort and security while the rest of humanity struggles to make ends meet, slowly malnourishing themselves to death on unhealthy food because they can't afford better.  They cannot condone a world where the neighbors have no idea that three women have been held hostage next door for a decade, and that one of them has a school-age child.  They reject a world where the level of mistrust is so high that people feel they have to stockpile weapons in order to protect themselves.  They are saddened by news stories about someone being beaten or run over on the street in broad daylight while passersby refuse to help because they don't want to get involved.

More and more these days I find myself identifying with these people.  I suppose that if there were no Internet, I would spend time watching the news on TV, feeling vaguely upset about the state of the world, clucking my tongue or shaking my head as I watch and listen to the world going to hell in a hand basket. Fortunately, that is not the case.

Now that individuals are able to communicate with the rest of the world instantaneously via the Internet, we are starting to realize that there are many others around the world who share our values.  We are beginning to understand the power that groups of people can have as a force for change.  We realize that it's important to live in a way that matches our values.  Mindful living and voluntary simplicity are important to us.

What is mindful living?  To me, this means taking the time to reflect on the true meaning of life.  Why are we here?  What, if anything, are we supposed to accomplish in one human lifetime?  Does it matter what choices we make, how we treat others, whether or not we care about our environment? 

Mindful living means caring about what our clothing and other possessions are made of, because there are some fabrics that are created by chemical processes that use precious, non-renewable resources from the earth.  Polyester, acrylic and nylon, for example, are made from petroleum.  Acetate is made from wood pulp.  The process of manufacturing them
is energy-intensive and produces waste that is
harmful to the environment.  Even good old cotton is harmful to the environment because it accounts for fully one quarter of the pesticide use in the United States.  Mindful living also means choosing consumable products carefully, avoiding plastics and Styrofoam products that are not biodegradable.  It means re-using and recycling as much as possible. 

Mindful living means caring about what you eat, eating more for nutrition than for taste, and eating only what you need to survive.  It means it means finding other ways of dealing with emotions besides eating comfort foods.  It means growing your own food.  It means choosing organically grown foods grown without pesticides.  It means eating meats from animals that are raised without antibiotics in humane conditions. 

Mindful living means doing more with less, not buying more than you need.  It means living in smaller, more energy-efficient spaces that are easier to heat in the winter and cool in the summer.  It means using the car less, and opting for a vehicle that creates less pollution.

Do we have to do all of these things to live mindfully?  No.  We can make a start by deciding to do one thing, and then perhaps gradually adding other efforts as we are able.  Even small efforts help.  

There is another component to living for others: service.  There's a lot of talk in the United States about doing your own thing and making yourself happy, but this doesn't mean that we can't serve others.  We don't have to deny ourselves in order to be of service to others.  We simply have to find some way each day to do something for another person or something to care for the earth without any expectation of reward or recognition.  it has to be something we want to do, something we enjoy doing, not something that we think we "should" be doing.

I saw a video today that exemplifies what I am talking about.  It comes from Russia.  It's a short video, taken from various people's dash cams.  People stopped their cars to help an older person cross the street, to make sure that a mother duck and her ducklings made it across a road in heavy traffic, to help others get their cars out of the snow, to rescue various animals , to pick up a child wandering in the road and carry him safely back home.  None of these things took much time.  In fact, I invite you to count how many seconds each act of kindness in this video takes.  It's amazing what you can do in only a few precious seconds.  You can watch the video here.

One blog I read in preparation for this entry was written by someone living in India.  The person suggested that someone who has enough money to be contemplating sending his own son to a foreign country to get an MBA degree might rather choose to send the son to a local university and spend some of that money making sure an employee's son gets a chance to have a college education from a local school.  You might not have the resources to send another person's child to college, but the point is that people all over the world are talking about a whole new way of thinking, a new way of looking at life. 

Whether you decide to volunteer, do pro-bono work, donate food, used clothing or food, or live more simply and sustainably, know that you are not alone.  You are part of a worldwide movement.  In the process of living for others, you may, as Gandhi suggested, find yourself.  :-)

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