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.