Tag Archives: service

Atlas Shrugged and Idiocracy

I watched Atlas Shrugged this weekend – a movie based on Ayn Rand’s book. I also watched the movie Idiocracy. As per usual and without conscious planning, there was a theme for me related to these movies – how much does any one being need to give society, or to the “greater good”?

Atlas Shrugged appeared to have a key message: Altruism and charity are OK, as long as these are neither guilted out of nor forced upon an individual. Here, the individual’s rights are primary and no person need feel obligated to society. Those who create or discover, including inventors, artists, philosophers, and scientists, need not feel pressured to offer up their creativity to the “greater good” unless they are fairly compensated in some way. What do you think about that?

Atlas represents the practical creators who prop up the world. If the world forces or manipulates Atlas to continue to support it, Atlas can simply shrug in response. Otherwise, the needy just get needier and the competent would just have to pick up more slack for everyone else. People do get lazy and complacent when they feel that someone else will take care of things. As a high-school teacher, I see this fact clearly with my students.

Idiocracy was about what would happen to the world if all intelligent, creative people were bred out of existence. It’s actually a known fact that cultures placing a high value on education also reproduce less! According to the movie, the world would literally degrade to garbage in this case. In the end, “average Joe” does not save humanity, but does give it a solid kick in the right direction – the “average Joe” is not so helpless after all!

I’ve often pondered how much I can give to others. My tendency was to give everything I had and expect nothing in return. If I had something that others wanted or needed, I would give it away with no consideration for myself.

Eventually, I realized that I would die if I kept that up – I was constantly tired, became ill, and generally started to fade from life. It was a wakeup call for me to realize that if I did die, the very people to whom I gave would not care much or at all. That didn’t feel right – was I really expendable?

In everyday-life terms, I always had a job and was able to solely support my family on my income for nearly a decade. Many assumed that I was built to do, accomplish, and ensure everyone was taken care of. In addition, I had this deepseated wish to help others in need and provided emotional strength and support to anyone who crossed my path.

It was my difficult lesson to begin to accept that, just because I could do something didn’t mean that I always need to do it. It even began to feel wrong to want to take away people’s suffering because, on a deeper level, I was taking away something they needed to grow.

I willingly took responsibility for anything and everything I could, incorrectly thinking that this was the right way to live my life. But, I was wrong. I chose too quickly to sacrifice myself until it became impossible for me to continue. I had to learn when to help and when to step aside and let others take responsibility.

The wisdom required to discern when it is correct to help is much more profound, as it turns out, than Ayn Rand’s thesis. After all, almost all of us have unresolved karma and obligations from this and other lives. At times, we are rightfully in the position to give more than we receive. However, when balance is achieved, it is utterly wrong to continue giving.

Similarly, wisdom is necessary to discern when to receive from someone. When someone may appear to be giving, they can actually be giving mostly resentment and guilt – which does not serve anyone. In fact, such giving is actually a form of further taking.

The intention behind giving is more important than the superficial act. I’ve had people in my life go through the motions of giving, but in reality just unloading their resentment onto me for whatever reasons their perception concocted. I had to learn when it was necessary to refuse such “gifts.”

There can be an entire teaching around the art and science of giving and receiving! This is the dynamic at the core of human relationships.

Unfortunately, it took me becoming completely drained and exhausted before I learned my lesson. Interestingly, I also became more attuned to situations where it was undoubtedly still OK to give to others and I would not be drained.

In my case, I often had to reach a point of great discomfort before I realized I needed to make a change. I guess I am a bit dense. Now, the pendulum has swung the other way and I enjoy my much-needed solitude. It is my time to recouperate and to undo some of the damage from overserving. My body is very tired and barely functions – I did that to myself and I take full responsibility for allowing this to happen. Fortunately, I may have caught this in time and now just wait for old karmic connections to be severed.

The Mahabharata talks about one’s duty – the kind we develop over lifetimes and for which we must take responsibility. If we do this, life is clean, free from imbalance, self-loving, and appropriately giving to others. It took waking up to the value of my own life to recognize the reality of the need for balance.

In practice, it is not necessarily good to serve everyone we meet. Also, the “greater good” is much more subtle than people having all their needs met. The bigger picture is much more nuanced, where telling someone off may very well be serving the greater good.

I had to learn this using my own life and body as sounding boards. It never ceases to amaze me how our bodies are such sophisticated devices for intuiting the correct response or actions. The more we listen to our intuition, the easier it becomes to hear.

I am OK shrugging now when there are cries for help. My life has as much value as I see in the lives of others, which is significant. It’s important to know, without any illusions, when we don’t owe someone a single thing.

Living as Enlightenment – Part 2

See Part 1 Q&A here…. We’ll pick up where we left off….

Question: What is the most important aspect of being human?

Answer: A human being is embodied potential to be both the finite and the infinite. It’s not quite clear to me how this came to be, but it seems to be the way it is.

When I see a person, I cannot focus on their superficial qualities or personality. I see something deeper that speaks to me directly – something I know and understand intimately.

I am still taken aback when I realize that the people I interact with don’t know who they are and what their awareness can grow into. Everyday life obsessions of “he said, she said” are so removed from my experience that I need to translate these dramas into something I can understand.

People want to be loved, and people mostly feel unworthy of love. There is fear. This seems to be the root of so much complexity and drama here. People define conditions and have expectations, which is diametrically opposed to embracing reality as it is. They spend a lot of time and energy trying to change life topography before they even find themselves on the map.

Nevertheless, everything the human race is going through is a stepping stone. No experience or realization is wasted – it is all raw material for the proverbial staircase to heaven.

When a human being glimpses that potential with the whole body and mind, no matter how short-lived, that is important. Then, this being knows that he or she is paradoxically becoming what one already is. Embracing this paradox is important and unique to the human nervous system, which is an exotic interface to the infinite.

Question: What does it feel like to observe people go through painful situations, even if some are self-created?

Answer: It depends. Over time, it is becoming more difficult for me to focus on individuals. Mostly, I feel the ebb and flow of the human race as a whole. Those individuals who recognize that I am noone in a body – they are easier to pinpoint because they must feel that they are the same as That on some level.

Some people – I feel like I know them, have known them, even if they are seeming strangers. I am already connected to them somehow and usually try to help them in some way. I will talk with them, give them attention, and sometimes take their pain. Of course, I never take money…. that is something I do not do. Maybe occasional food šŸ”†

Sometimes people say they don’t know why I care or help…. I see this dilemma as being separate from one’s true nature. If you know who you really are, you realize that there is nothing else to do but be available – you do what you are 24/7. There is no layer of planning or thinking about what I can get back. It just doesn’t work that way.

Most importantly, when I do not feel that draw to act, I don’t act. It is not my place, not my time. I trust and live that.

Question: If the enlightened being’s state is so different from the turmoil of this world, how can an enlightened being exist here?

Answer: At some point, the enlightened state will not be as rare as it is now. More and more people will break through the illusion of living as embodied shadows.

However, at this time, the difference in consciousness of the majority and the free beings is so dramatic that living here is not easy.

It is not easy to see people feel and act trapped, hearts break, and happiness be dependent on life’s conditions in a given moment.

I no longer cry except on rare occasions when there is united suffering of a group of people asking for help. I feel their pain as if it were my pain – vividly, viscerally, and running on all cylinders through my body.

But as the pain runs through me and has nothing to stick to. So, I put my attention on these people with a clear heart.

After enlightenment, attention does not wonder randomly, nor does it come with an intention for a specific outcome. Rather, the very act of such attention does what it can to alleviate pain and transmit a stable and unconditionally happy state of being automatically.

I have seen this act of attention bring healing to some. Bring clarity. It is a mystery to me how it works.

One thing is clear is that attending to people is an impersonal act – there is no agenda, just a pull to be there with all that is happening.

Does this tire me? Often. I need a lot of sleep to exist here and to allow my body to rebalance.

Question: Does an enlightened being look forward to being finally free of this world at death?

Answer: Every being feels a draw to the next level. However, in enlightenment, there is no urgency or need for a specific timeline.

In fact, the notion of time being something to grasp vanishes. There is only now, as cliche as that may sound. I am literally unaware of past memories or future anticipation. I am just here, and right now there is nowhere else to be.

One could say that I don’t think about my future, but that is not quite true. To function here, I need to address real-life situations, family and work responsibilities, and forge practical strategies for living with my family. I make an effort to plan living – physical life requires that. However, decision-making is fairly easy and quick. The compass always points north.

So, I do what needs to be done with the understanding that everything here – including my responsibilities, joys, and setbacks – all are temporary.

Living like this does not result in regrets or feelings of confusion. There are no looping thoughts and no unresolved dilemmas. The entire life is a simple, undirected unfolding – much like a flower greeting the Sun. And I am there with it all – both an observer and a participant.

I do not fear death, nor do I dwell on it. I just know when it’s not yet a good day to die.