Ah grasshopper, with the dawn of awakening knowledge comes the morning fog of
obscured certainty save for one truth: all is karma. Or, as they put it in the
Fram oil filter commercials: pay me now or pay
It may be possible to use a Calvinist metric to
evaluate one's life choices: those who make the best choices are demonstrating
their closeness to nirvana. Or not. Is the path to enlightenment so easy to
discern? If only it were so.
We look at choices others make and then
compare our own actions and motives. It is strangely remarkable that very few of us, in our own estimation, ever live up to the standards we esteem in
We mistake the simple answer and the shortest route as
the one true path: the person who washes the dishes or cleans the toilets
without concern for payment or fame will 'get to heaven' sooner than the person
who wants a task that offers both a paycheck and a sense of satisfaction from
the work. If it were that simple then the entire 'untouchable' class in India
would self-evidently be far closer to enlightenment than the entire Brahman
In our not for profit universe we over-value the volunteers for
this very reason: they toil for nothing. Meanwhile, the paid staff falls into
two categories, those who work for very little in the form of salary and or
benefits, and those we pay reasonably well for their expertise. We do not esteem
the lower orders of paid staff any more than we do in the for-profit sector. We
highly value those we pay well.
The real hypocrisy in all of this is
that in the end it is a matter of class, not of cosmic or any other form of
reward. If one is wealthy enough not to require payment then that person's toil
is worth so much more than if one needs to be paid in order to live. If a
wealthy person volunteers his or her time it has greater intrinsic worth than if
that person was of modest means.
In the end, after a lot of hard work,
one might know one's own mind and heart; but can never truly know the heart or
mind of another. That ultimate truth does not free us from the responsibility of
flesh and blood humanity. We do not only live on an astral plane, despite what
many of us would prefer.
One may well choose between the 'vita activa'
and the 'vita contemplativa' as the path we think might be best suited to our
own spiritual journey, but in the end we must do both. It isn't enough to only
think great thoughts or do great deeds. Nor is it enough to sit by the road and
observe, (and perhaps teach.) I cannot believe the universe credits us for
getting it "right" only between our ears.
(I would like to take this moment to suggest a look at The Human Condition by Hannah Arendt.)
Not that they agreed on substance, the great masters of the east and the west required right action, not just right thought. This is evident in every permutation from the Vedas to the Old Testament, the Tao to the Koran; in the handed down words of Jesus, Confucius, Dr. Strange, Emma Goldman, or Eliza Doolittle: "...don't talk of love, show me!"
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