Thursday, September 30, 2010

Reflections: Things as They Are, Indirect Costs, and Gratitude

As I was working on another bit of writing, I re-read a thought I tried to articulate (though not very well) in another post, namely that:

merely by existing, i.e., by meeting the requirements that allow me to stay alive in a reasonably comfortable manner, I am indirectly responsible for killing even though that is not my intention.

That seems to be a pretty extreme statement at first. I say it the way I say it though because its true. I am part of humanity (I mean the human race) - a massive and often sluggish human machine.  Humanity, albeit indirectly, does things I don’t agree with, is moved by forces I have very little say in, and uses resources, causing physical suffering for some while helping others who are more privileged, and even kills in my name. I recognize there isn’t much I can do to change the situation – namely, to affect a change in this massive forward movement of the human machine.  

Even though I’m unhappy with some of the things that go on, I’ve felt pretty helpless in the face of it, so I’ve tended to accept this as ‘the way things are’ – and, as I think about it now, the irony of this phrasing, given a similar one in Buddhism is not lost on me. Because I am pretty positive that there is a difference in shrugging our shoulders in helplessness or frustration and what is intended in Buddhist literature. But how much different or is the difference in how we look at things?

I think most folks I know, myself included, often feel we are entitled to live our lives the way we do – after all, we’ve worked hard for and earned what we've got. We pay the direct costs and forget that there are Indirect Costs to our individual existences. We can’t begin envision all the indirect costs of being alive – even if we take the time to be mindful of where things come from. 

If we have to do without to make the world a better place I’m sure a lot of us would be willing to, especially if it became some sort of ‘save the world’ movement. But what would you chose to do without? Every person’s choice would be different, because we're human and unique and each have different dreams and desires. The only way we’d be able to come to some overwhelming agreement would be in the face of a major crisis or if we were to completely deny ourselves precisely what makes us human, i.e. live banal, uniform, uncreative existences. Anything less, and we’d be precisely in the same position we are now – living life within the massive forward movement of the human machine.

I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m Grateful to be alive and to be allowed to express my individuality, actually, even more so, now that I recognize the indirect costs and what they’re about. 

I'm not saying we should be pacifists. Only suggesting that we can pause on those occasions we get frustrated or angry and recognize this is part of the price of being human. Remember our gratitude for being allowed to be just as we are.

Just a few thoughts, stimulated by a lot frustration I've seen in some of my friends the last couple of days.

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