I think I’ve discovered the best way in the world start your day; give yourself an extra fifteen minutes after breakfast and drink a cup of coffee while reading the thoughts of someone you consider to be wise. I personally am a fan of the Dalai Lama, Tich Nat Han, and Mark Twain, but the list of intelligent people who have put life-changing thoughts on paper is immense. I would however caution to choose carefully, because doing this really shapes your day. The incredible thing about the the thinkers who I just mentioned, is that they talk about ideas instead of giving answers. I do much of my thinking and reflecting at the beginning of the day, after running, showering, eating, and finishing final preparations for class. That is, when the two year-old allows me to enjoy my one or two cups of coffee before walking to class. I secretly don’t mind it when she needs the attention though, as long as she’s in a good mood.
Taking the time to do this is only an issue in extreme situations, or if I let it be an issue. To get this time, I get up fifteen minutes earlier in the pitch black to run on foreign streets with a rock in my hand to throw at dogs that are impossible to see. I have to pick the rock carefully. It can’t be too big so as to be uncomfortable to run with, nor so big that on the off-chance I see someone, I scare them; but it needs to be big enough to scare dogs, and to stop an average dog if its threats came to fruition. The coming cold and getting up earlier has added another element to picking a rock though, because now it has to be small enough as not to suck too much of my body heat.
However, after all this preparation, I’ve had one instance in which the rock seemed comically futile. I was running on a side street ward the mountains, when I saw a woman leaving her house across the street. Her huge, unleashed, German Shepherd immediately spotted me and ran up me snarling and barking. The kind lady did nothing call back her beast, and the next thing I knew, the Shepherd’s nose was touching my thigh and it’s spittle was all over my shorts. My threats meant nothing to this dog, and I could see in its eyes that there was but a fragile line separating me from being frightened and eaten. My rock was still in hand poised to throw, but the only thought in my mind was that “ once this dog bites me, I’m going to throw this stone as hard as I can and then go for his eyes.” In actuality,
this plan would have probably ended in my being eaten by the kind lady’s dog, but it’s made me smile darkly every morning when I chose my running rock.
Anyways, one morning after one of my slightly crazed runs, I came across an incredible quote from the Dalai Lama in Ethics for the New Millenium:
“ When people possess healthy values, and where they practice ethical discipline in their own lives out of concern for others, the public officials produced by that society will quite naturally respect those same values. Each of us, therefor, has a role to play in creating a society in which respect and care for others, based on empathy, are given top priority.” (The Dalai Lama Ethics for the New Millenium)
I’ve been thinking a lot about this quote, because it seems so true that the values, power, and health of a society is reflected by and in the values, power, and health in its people. I’ve spent a lot of my time here in Kazakhstan trying to observe the people and what I can about the government, in order to learn a bit about both. One of my overwhelming emotions when I left the United States was how sad and sickened I was that so many of our citizens were engaging in hateful and bigoted discourse about race, religion, sexuality and political ideas. I’m speaking mainly about the homophobic, Islamiphobic, nationalistic, and thinly disguised racism of the the Tea Party movement.
It’s hard to stomach, because I share so much sameness with the individual human beings that make up the movement. I believe that the above quote is applicable to our current situation in that it seems that much of our general society is lacking in a general concern and compassion for all human beings. What do we gain from hating, discriminating, and closing our eyes to the world around us? This is not a rhetorical question. Conversely, I need to listen to what the Tea Party activists say to understand them, but
I then need to recognize that they are human beings just like me, and feel compassion for them even whilin disagreement.
I really do think that we can each gain from living in peace and compassion, because it’s so easy to despair when faced with our political, social, and environmental realities. I will leave you with another quote that I found to be an inspiring and helpful way to look at the world, and a response to ideas that thrive on hate and discrimination:
“ We humans already have enough problems. We face death, old age, and sickness—not to mention the inevitability of meeting with disappointment. Those we simply cannot avoid. Is that enough? What is the point of creating still more unnecessary problems simply on the basis of different ways of thinking or different skin color?…In order to overcome our tendency to ignore others’ needs and rights, we must continually remind ourselves of what is obvious: that basically we are all the same.” (Dalai Lama
Ethics for the New Millenium)
Peace and Love,