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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

More About You Can't Fill Up Your Life With You

A.B., would you please say more about number one? Can you give examples of what doing this and what not doing this looks like? It may seem like a no-brainer, but I think I & others could benefit from more details if possible.

Your question is  what does it look like if you try to fill up your life with YOU, or if you fill up your life with interconnectedness.

I don’t think this is a no-brainer. I think this is a very difficult thing to grasp because our world is so huge and impersonal now. We move from one city to another and aren’t always so successful in making friends. Our own families grow up and move away. We don’t live in small communities where we actually know the man on the street and can easily exchange daily greetings and acknowledge our connectedness and our common interest in the mundane and ordinary progress of life..

We can get very unconnected to others. We think the Internet is an intimate connection. We live in a world of mostly strangers. We need to acknowledge these strangers as important to us because we are also a stranger on the street.  It is not nourishing to the soul to live like a stranger in a world of strangers. You can't fill up your life with YOU. You can only fill up your life with your attempt (no matter how awkward) at a loving interaction with others.

People who try to fill their lives with themselves tend to be self-focused. They tend to discount, or have forgotten, or never realized the value and importance of an intimate day in and day out connection to others, to their fellow man. They concentrate on their own talents and craft in terms of “making  money,”  “proving themselves,” “being successful,” “becoming well-known,” improving themselves.” They pass by beggars as if they are of “lesser value” rather than sending them a small prayer of comfort.

People who try to fill themselves up with themselves value the content of their own lives rather than the process of their cosmic interconnectedness with those with whom they come in contact. They are overly concerned with what they have and what they can do to advance themselves. They might see their civic responsibility to “give back to the community,” but they don’t see the “man in the street,” fellow passengers on the airplane,  seat mates on the subways, people in the grocery aisle as gifts, as an opportunity to “love their fellow man.” It is in our love for others that we are fulfilled, rather than our love for ourselves alone.

People who know that they cannot fill up their lives with themselves value their everyday connection to other people. They make an effort to invest in a few friends. They spend some effort to interact with their community, personally, even if all they do is go out to a local diner and converse with the waiter.  They see others in terms of their own mirror image. Instead of seeing a fat man, or an ill-dressed woman, or a bum, they see a fellow traveler on the bumpy road of life and mentally wish them well. We can’t fill up our lives by caring about ourselves. We can only be fulfilled to the extent we can care about somebody else, anybody else. It is in our caring about the fellow travelers we meet on the road  that we can avoid the despair and alienation of self-focus.


Ginger said...

Thank you so much for the beautifully written reply.

I very much see & live life this way. I would go so far as to say that "being" with people who cross my path in the most mundane contexts is what I treasure the most.

People have often seemed to appreciate and be surprised by my interest in them. What can be sad is that many people also float around like ghosts, refuse to return my eye contact, my hello, or my attempt to chat with them.

I'm concluding more often that that's okay. It's not about me! Someone may be in a place where they can't be present to another person for any number of reasons. That's where they are in that moment. More than likely, they are the ones who most need a silent wish for peace and love sent their way.

Still, I know I could do better and do more. I don't necessarily mean in the cliched "give back to the community" sense, though I'm not writing off volunteer work either.

When I was around 8 years old my sister, who is 19 years older than I, told me, "You never know what's going on in someone else's life." That stuck with me. She said it with such sincerity. The sentence carried such weight.

Yes, we're all "up to here in it" one way or another. Life is hard in so many ways. Kindness and connection remind us again that life, in essence, is beautiful. It is not the ball and chain we so often see it as afterall!

Ginger said...

Maybe before I dislocate my shoulder patting myself on the back I should also concede that I also see myself here:

"(they) value the content of their own lives rather than the process of their cosmic interconnectedness with those with whom they come in contact. They are overly concerned with what they have and what they can do to advance themselves."

I can obesses about things like that, AND, I do see and want to connect to the "woman on the street." I see the intrinsic, inherent worth in each person, and believe that every person has a story; a fascinating one.

I think I'm both kinds of people, but I'd like to be less of one, more of the other.

Do you think that our society as a whole is over-focused on the material? It seems you are saying in essence, that the self-absorbed person is materialistic rather than spiritual? Is this mindset rampant in our culture? How to swim against the tide and survive?