Recently, I read an article on my friend’s blog (you know who you are, and if I get permission from you, I’ll link back to your post). The author’s daughter is a mighty independent 2 year old who wants to wear her shoes by her”self”. If it goes onto the wrong foot after 10 minutes of hard work, so be it. Off comes the shoe at the mother’s word, and onto the correct foot.
I first wondered why my friend, let’s call her big M not to confuse her with my little M, didn’t tell her daughter S that the shoe was going onto the wrong foot from the get go. Why wait 10 minutes for it? I quickly lay those thoughts aside to run behind my own toddler. She takes 2 steps and sits back down carefully. What’s with that?
This morning, I was giving my daughter a bath, a time we enjoy immensely, our own special mother-daughter time. Now, she stands or sits when I ask her to (not consistently, I might add). I was reminded of another mother watching her child grow independent.
After handing my little M off to R to dress her up, my thoughts turned to the abstract. The mother shouldn’t give answers before they’re asked for. Especially if the consequences aren’t dangerous. If little S had asked her mother which foot the shoe was supposed to go onto, Big M would have gently guided her to it. Perhaps not given her the answer right away but shown her how the shape of the shoe reveals the foot it belongs to. My daughter wouldn’t even know the difference at her age, if I tried to explain about correct shoe, wrong foot. A preschooler would probably learn the lesson better if allowed to walk around for a bit with shoes on wrong.
Likewise, I continued thinking, the Cosmos doesn’t give us all of the answers. We have to ask. And even then, It only reveals Itself to the seeker, piece by tiny piece. And then, only offers guidance towards the answer. So, what is the purpose of existence? The answers will come only to those who truly seek the answer, look for it high and low, far and wide. When asked in the right way. At the right stage of spiritual development. In the right frame of mind. And if the Truth were revealed to the average person this instant, he/she won’t recognize it anyway.
Common Human. The phrase brings to mind a different image to each person, depending on the culture, the economy that one identifies oneself with. To me, it is India.
Somewhere in South India. May, the hottest month of the year. Afternoon. Every surface exudes heat. The very air one breathes seems to shimmer a few degrees short of burning. I walk down the street on some mission. Carefully avoiding getting hit by anything or anyone. I wish it weren’t that hot or that I were safely back home, sipping cool coconut water or buttermilk, A/C or ceiling fan on full blast. Proudly thinking to myself that I am conserving resources by taking public transport and walking, how I am a common human, taking the road oft taken by the other common humans. Crowds everywhere. It suddenly strikes me – to me, this is a one off occurrence. To most of the others out at this hottest time of the hottest day of the hottest month in one of the hottest countries in the world – the woman selling fruits by the wayside, the man transporting cans of something tied to his bicycle, the vastly more well-off people clearly out for work on buses, mopeds, scooters, bikes – this is their everyday life. Their livelihood.
I realize that if you have to pick an image of a common human, it shouldn’t be me. Try picking someone closer to the man on his bicycle and you would be closer to the mark. After all, India has more people living in extreme poverty than all of Africa put together. And this man, my common man, isn’t even one of those.
It is at this moment that I have an epiphany. What does this person care about the greater good? The environmental 4R’s of reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle, what? Yet, he unconsciously follows most of it. Reduce? Check. He doesn’t have much anyway. Reuse? Check. He doesn’t have the means to use and throw and buy again. Repurpose? Check. He’ll use each thing for as many purposes as he can before throwing it away. Recycle? Ah, we’ve hit our first roadblock. How does he identify what goes for recycling and how, when he can barely sign his own name? Where does he get the time or energy or inclination to do the “right thing”? Can you blame him when he doesn’t care to do much for the world that hasn’t given him much?
Give the man education and opportunity to get himself an easier life with more time to think about the environment. To understand the environmental issues facing his country and the world at large. By education, I mean the 3R’s of Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic; by education, I mean the 4R’s of the environment; by education, I mean a means to improve his lot in life, to enable him to get more into his life, and to give back even more to the earth. By education, I also mean, teaching the latter 4R’s to the ones who are more than proficient in the first ones.
Think of the environment? Think of the Common Human.