Ten Commandments of Everyday Living 7
some time and effort to the world at large: e.g., pick up litter every
day, feed the birds, put out water for animals, plant something – avoid
becoming motivated by the gratitude of others and the expectation of
of the biggest causes of spiritual poverty in our daily lives arises from
the consequences of not taking responsibility in those areas of life,
physical and psychic, which because we share them with others, are not our
direct personal responsibility. Nevertheless, we influence them as we move
through them and they impact upon us as they form the backdrop to our
keep our own homes and gardens tidy but we view the street in which we
have our homes as the responsibility of ‘someone else’.
Rather than pick up a bit of litter we expend a considerable amount
of energy complaining about the filth and condemning those who do not
share our standards. Blame
scenario results. Litter is
no longer a common problem created by the innocent wind and the sheer
volume of packaging that food shopping generates; it is rather the malice
of an unseen army of thugs who eat jam tarts in the street in the middle
of the night and leave the packets behind.
This notion makes us feel vulnerable, and another bolt goes on the
front door and the car windows stay closed.
And the business of sharing a planet becomes bigger and more
anything exemplifies the separatist mentality and sacral centre
consciousness it is this rigid delineation between mine and others in our
environment. It is this
mentality that creates the wastelands of modern life which then become
seeding grounds for fear.
England, now such a crowded island, we live forlornly in our few feet of
expensive space, behind our bolts and security lights, nurturing the
perception that others are invading us, and becoming more and more
paranoid and more defensive. We
are like battery hens, crowded together and turning on and pecking each
other out of mistrust and fear. Such
faith as we have has been invested in legislation, a state of affairs
which resembles the imprudent enthusiasm of the physically fragile for
rough contact sports. The more of life that is governed by legislation and
coercion, the less time and responsibility we give to using our
imagination and compassionate intelligence in meeting needs in that sphere
of life which was once recognised as the community.
we wait for the road sweeper to make his once fortnightly visit to clear
up after the jam tart vandals have left packets in the road; we wait for
‘someone else’ to clear up the countryside through which passes our
favourite walk. As for
birdbaths it seems that their function has become purely ornamental
because they rarely ever have water in them, especially in the hot weather
that has dried up puddles and ponds.
We wait for ‘someone else’ to report the case of animal neglect
down the road or to tell us whether the old man across the road who has
not been seen for weeks is dead or alive.
this isolationist tendency is talked about publicly it is almost always
done so emotively and upheld as evidence of indifference to the fate of
our neighbours. It may
manifest as indifference and heartlessness but it is surely rooted in a
sense of powerlessness. We do
not really believe that anything we might do could have any positive
is powerlessness that makes us fear to get involved in other people’s
lives in case we cannot control the situation thereafter.
make ourselves powerless by relying on legislation and rules to secure for
us the standards and conditions that we want.
It does not seem to occur to us that if we expanded our sphere of
influence and became more involved in areas of life outside of those which
are obviously our own responsibility, then less of life would be
‘other’ and a source of threat to us.
this to yourself. Clear up
litter in your street and see if over
a period of time, it does not encourage others to be more proactive in
this matter. Show
responsibility towards something in your locality which is obviously
needy, and see if it does not encourage more constructive attitudes and a
you are doing this, do not look for thanks, agreement or enthusiasm of
people telling you that they are on your side.
That is not what it is about. In
fact the less of a big deal you can make it, the better; just take action
unselfconsciously, secure in the knowledge that it needs to be done, and
strike a quiet blow for intelligent individual initiatives coming from a
place of responsibility. As
my friend Reshad Feild says, “Ours
are the only hands that God has.”
if you do overlook something and cause offence to someone, then apologise
for the oversight and reassess your handling of the situation.
But break out of this timorous approach to life that means that we
walk on eggshells past objects and situations which would benefit from our
attention. Our lives are
sterile not because we are heartless but because we detach, fearful of
getting it wrong and giving offence.
Trussed up in legislation, imagination and compassion wither.
neighbour objects to the small flock of pigeons which collect on the roof
at first light every morning. She
has not lived in the locality long enough to remember the time when these
birds were looked after in a coop. And
she would probably not have a different attitude to the situation if she
did. When their owner moved away, these birds were turned out to
fend for themselves and now live with a tribe of dumped animals in the
nearby cemetery which is as close to their old home as they can now get.
I am concerned about these birds which once had shelter and which
for years were fed twice a day but now have to forage for themselves,
which is hard in the winter. My
young neighbour is concerned about her expensive car and seems to think
that pigeon excrement has the properties of acid rain.
We have sorted it without drama and unpleasantness because she had
the common sense and manners to approach me directly rather than grumble
to the neighbours, and I respect her concern about her car which I know to
be her most prized possession. She
and I have such different value systems we are never going to see life in
the same way, but that does not matter.
What we have is enough: commitment to preserving the quality of the
shared space, respect and responsibility, and a sense of empowerment.
I now take the food to the cemetery, even though I cannot get in
because the gate was removed two years ago and replaced by an 8-foot wall
adorned with spikes.
a risk, come back to life, put something positive into the space through
which we all move, but which if no ones invests in becomes a wasteland. When the business of sharing a planet becomes big and
oppressive to us it is a sign that we are in trouble spiritually, because
what we put out to the community is a measure of what our personalities,
in all their variety, are offering to Soul.