We never know how we are going to be needed.
“Human babies are helpless at birth, and so perhaps are victories before they’ve been consolidated into the culture’s sense of how things should be. I wonder sometimes what would happen if victory was imagined not just as the elimination of evil but the establishment of good…”– Rebecca Solnit
As you read this our annual Ethics Course is coming to a close. Fifty of us worked together online, in partners, through the writing of essays, on a forum, and in our daily practice(s) to look closely at our values and what really matters.
The highlight this year has been the personal quality of the essays, the chance to see many of you in person during my travels, and the insights expressed on the forum. We are growing an incredible community without walls.
I’m writing from Salt Lake City, waiting for a plane home. On Twitter, I see Rob Ford has died. A bomb has exploded in Brussels. A woman who attended my workshop just yesterday went home to find her husband dead from a stroke and has sent me an email wondering about what she’s feeling. And after, I received a text from my wife Carina that she’s finally put both kids to bed for their nap. The bananas at the Starbucks are one dollar each. On the flight here the captain asked if there were any doctors because someone was ill in row 30. Half a dozen people got up and rushed to the back of the plane. No thinking. They just got up and went.
We never know how we are going to be needed. We never know how we will be called to serve.
We live in such a complicated world. Sometimes the world makes us tough and mean. Our economy makes us tough and mean and competitive. But there’s a heart in it all that is worth cultivating.
I teach this Ethics course and I travel and write because I think there are values—honesty, collaboration, stillness, humility—that can help us navigate systems that are tough and mean—systems that we easily and unconsciously internalize. That’s why I teach and that is why I practice. And, changing for the good is not straightforward. Social change is not straightforward. We have wins and we also lose too. And yet, real, deep change for the good, happens when we nurture the ground for a long time. That’s why we need continuous practice, teachers, texts, community, and online courses!
I am often unsure of what to do. I make mistakes and say stupid things I have to apologize for. But there are two things Ethics practice has done for me that are very profound: One is that I am not afraid of myself. I am not afraid of what I might find out about myself. Second, I have more confidence in what NOT to do and how to recognize in my body and heart when I’m making choices that are unskillful.
We are waking up together. Use teachings as a torch. Look back but go forward.
Rebecca Solnit, again:
“You row forward looking back, and telling this history is part of helping people navigate toward the future. We need a litany, a rosary, a sutra, a mantra, a war chant for our victories. The past is set in daylight, and it can become a torch we can carry into the night that is the future.”
Originally published in the newsletter for michaelstone.com Reprinted with permission.