Thursday, February 26, 2009


Here is what I am contemplating these days- how do you live your convictions? Truly, if you think about some of the things that you believe to be important, do you live by those beliefs? At the least, are you trying to get to a place where you could?

I believe a lot of things- charity is good, cars should be used sparingly, patience with children is necessary, eating meat is questionable, recycling should always happen.... How much of this do I live? I yell at my kids, I eat meat, I rarely give to charity (I do not feel that donating unused clothing to Goodwill to be charity). On the upside, I recycle everything I can and I drive very little (sometimes not at all for days at a time). None of these are big things, they should all be doable without breaking a sweat, and yet I do not do them all.

So how do people follow through with the big things? How do monks live a life of celibacy? How do people keep hunger strikes? Or closer to home, how do I live my life in a way that elevates the lives of others instead of exploiting the random nature of geography or political climate? Is it enough to grow my own food (I don't, yet)? If I buy my clothes second hand does this really help?

Could I give someone a kidney? Hell, could I cut off my hair to make wigs for cancer patients? I have difficulty giving my time. In fact, I hate it. For as long as I can remember I have been very protectionist of my time, and yet my time is probably my most valuable asset. My time is the one thing I have that could probably make a real difference in the world around me. When I think of devoting that time to school groups or neighborhood societies or charity walk-a-thons I start to get nervous- my time given to others who have expectations to live up to and rules to follow. In some ways, it would be easier to give a kidney- a finite event that has a distinct beginning and a distinct end after which I am no longer needed.

Were someone to ask me if I feel that I am a 'good' person, I would have to admit to being on the fence with that concept. Can I apply that concept to myself in the face of what is obviously quite self-serving behavior on my part? Whether I should even try to apply it or not is a completely different conversation and I am not going there, tonight.

Perhaps I do live by my convictions- I will extend myself only so far for the benefit of others and the world. So then, I have to decide if I am comfortable with my convictions. Are you? A conundrum to be sure.


Kat said...

several things came to mind right away, great piece (food for thought and clearly honesty required), convictions are like throwing salt over your shoulder, we name them in hopes of living up to them while we continue to live up to us, while the awareness comes in that first they are part of us, second if we focus attention on them they are likely to grow, and third whether we live up to them or not they and we are still here living in our awareness which keeps becoming wider, more space, as the book said. the i ching says 'if you want to understand whether you are living with right action, look at the effects' i'd say the effects you show are wondrous: wonderful life, happy healthy children, practice in awareness, healthy attitudes about food and exercise and work, blossomings of new wonders in the little things that make up the days and nights, oh it could be endless, the goodness of the effects you create.

She Rides a Bike said...

You are asking the question, and that is the important thing. You can't save the world, you can only do your best. A lot of people won't even try. It killed me the other day not to speak up at an employee meeting about the need for us to be willing to take deeper salary cuts in order to save jobs (lives!) but I know there could be a price for not only me but my husband. So I have to look for other ways to let people know what I am willing to do and what I believe is the right path. It is a clique, but you can't help others unless you first take care of yourself. Timing plays a big part in choices.

Adrienne Johnson said...

I think the time has come for all of us to decide if we can live the life we know we need to. How that happens... I can't say. I see what I can do in terms of voluntarism, or charitable contribution, but I think that what I am feeling is a need to bring something out from myself that to this point has remained quiet.

Within the Buddhist teachings that have brought me to this place, come the teachings of inter-dependence, inter-being. The 20th Century not only taught us that this is wrong, but our technological advances and social restructuring reinforced the, erroneous, concept of individuality and self reliance. We were all brought up to believe that our problems and joys and needs were ours alone, to do with as we saw fit. However, I am coming to see that the joy of one is the joy of all, just as 'no man suffers alone'.

Weighty ideas. Too big for me alone, which is why I put them out there I guess. But they are all the things that need to be understood in order to weather the times we are in. This can be the point where we all learn how to come back together as a whole instead of the scattered tribes we have been.

OK. Time for a beer : )

Anonymous said...

That's the problem with moral standards. Make no mistake, I think morality is real, but we never feel that we are good enough.

Even those you see making the 'big steps' probably feel like they are not living up to the standard of how they ought to live.

Human nature is not gold but a base metal. We all have a lot of wickedness inside us. We are all conditioned by our environment so many people who appear to fail particularly woefully at living up to a standard could not do so anyway.

For these reasons I think theat salvation cannot come through good deeds.

Adrienne Johnson said...

@ Ian-
He who wants to do good knocks at the gate; he who loves, finds the gate open

Rabindranath Tagore

First, welcome to the discussion!

I have come to feel that 'salvation' is one of those things that should not be sought. I am not sure it even exists (although, to be honest, I have given it very little thought).

For myself, I think it comes down to 'potential'- what is my potential, and am I living up to it (for better and for worse)? If salvation 'exists' then what are we saved from? If 'sin' is indeed 'living unskillfully' as is proposed by Ekhart Tolle, then perhaps 'salvation' is gaining the 'skill of life'.

Have I become skillful?????