Sunday, January 22, 2012

#22 / I Do Care

My sister sent me an email to indicate that she has been enjoying my ruminations on the "I don't care" philosophy, which philosophy is not, of course, exactly the same thing as the Buddhist ideal of "non-attachment." Another comment, on one of my earlier postings, quite properly made that point - and in a very clear and helpful way, I thought.

My sister's "subject line," in the email she sent, was this: "I do care." Of course, I care, too! For my sister; for my family; for my loved ones; for my community; for "all those who've sailed with me."

What got me thinking about the "I don't care" topic was not really any examination of my personal situation; it was a complaint on an environmental website that "everyone likes to say they do the right thing but very few actually do it." I wandered from there to a reflection on the more personal, and I do think, on a personal level, that a non-attachment approach can have great rewards, and that in figuring out how to get there, the spirited words of Judy Garland may well be helpful: "I don't care!"

If we do care about the fate of the world (our world and the world of Nature), the "Our Breathing Planet" website has a point. The challenges we confront are urgent imperatives, and yet our "care" doesn't seem to translate into much action. I really don't buy the "lather, rinse, and repeat" idea, which suggests that the way to get people to "care" in an effective way is somehow to impose or promote repetitious caring conduct. "Care" is like "love;" it either comes from inside, or or is related to an internal dimension of some kind. It can't be inculcated by externally imposed or recommended exercises. At least, I don't think s0.

On the other hand, my own concept of "love" draws a lot from Kierkegaard's Works of Love, and he emphasizes the fact that "love" is an "assignment." It is, in fact, a "commandment."

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind; this is the first and the great commandment, and the second is like unto it: thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
There is a certain "external" quality to love (and caring) when it is seen as a commandment; in other words, there is something going on here that is more than an "internal" feeling. There is an "obligation" involved. Any "non-attachment" approach that might suggest that we are without an obligation to the world, or to other people, doesn't ring right, and while I am no Buddhist, it seems that one of the central ideas of Buddhism is "compassion," which could even be seen as a synonym for "caring," if "caring" is considered in its deepest and most profound sense.

Here's where I end up: we achieve "caring" (as we achieve "love") through a commitment centered internally, but tied to the external world. In the political context, we will actually "do" the right thing when we are committed to other persons in a public way, so that our internally-based love and caring is anchored to the "real" world through that public declaration.

If we care enough to address the crises threatening our world today (the world we create, the human world, and the world of Nature) then we will realize our concern and caring by pledging with others to "do the right thing." Our revolution, in the United States of America, began with such a personal pledge:

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.
It is time, I think, to pledge again. If we do care.

1 comment:

  1. Unfortunately, the American Revolution never came to fruition. It was forestalled by property and money in Colonial America. Democracy was activley guarded against. Nothing changed but those who maintained control of power and influence.

    We could use a real revolution, soon please. An economic revolution, a political revolution, a cultural revolution and a spiritiual revolution. We have lost site of our place in the Web of Life and have substituted crass materialism for meaningful relationships.

    We must change our relationship to each other, to natural resources, to other countries, to money, to material things, to our relationships with the web of life that sustains us all.


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