Out of the Box
I woke with a start to the sound of fireworks, though I didn’t know that until I stumbled out of bed, heart pounding, to witness a spectrum of lights spreading across the sky. Chinese New Year. Kung Hei Fat Choy! But I wasn’t thrilled about the noise and the quality of air that was bad to begin with but now, judging from the noise and my diminishing ability to breathe, had taken a turn for the worse. I saw proof of all the fanfare across the skyline the following morning as I took the children to school. My younger son pointed at the haze and asked if “the brown was the works”. Yes, I said with a sigh, the fireworks coated our air in another shade of brown. I looked at my older boy who, in the last few days, has been wheezing on and off and asked his angels to cloak him with a little more protection please.
Just the day before, as I waited for my children to come out of school, I had a conversation with another mother about the nervous energy creeping up on the world today. As homemakers and mothers, we have to take extra care to nourish our life forces to be able to meet the demands of the day. For her it is yoga, meditation, and regular exercise. For me it is time alone. We agreed that it is important to be firm and clear about what we need to stay healthy because our world demands so much. It is no longer enough to be mother or wife or businesswoman. We have to strive to be conscious, spiritual, loving mothers. We have to be morally upright businesswomen. And more. We must be all that and engage ourselves –actively and productively –in society and the world as well.
Today, given the many challenges of life, it is not enough to sit in comfort and raise our children the best way we can in our little cubbyhole, completely impervious to our spiritual tasks as true citizens of the modern world. It is imperative that we do that, yes, but there is a spiritual impulse that is urging us to go out there and nurture, protect, enliven, heal and co-create the world.
Yes, there is a nervous energy racing across the world and we have to make an effort to keep ourselves healthy and productive, but not just so we can function normally. We need to take care of ourselves because there is much to do. We need to take that health and put it in the service of the world! We have to be able to live in this nervous energy without falling apart, but we also need to be productive and consciously involved in transforming it. Yes, it is good to be able to attend study groups, workshops and engage in practices that deepen our soul life and fortify our spirituality, but not just so we can become better human beings, but also so we can be fully engaged in the world. We need to strengthen ourselves to be able to do more and more with what we have.
In his speech on “Building A Visionary Philippines” during the recent Karangalan Conference and Festival, Nicanor Perlas urged everyone to start living out of the box; to leave our comfort zones and boldly tread unfamiliar territory in the name of development not just for ourselves but for a greater purpose. It doesn’t have to be a monumental shift. We don’t even have to think in terms of institutions or organizations. Where we are is the best place to begin.
Just look at our New Year celebrations, Chinese and otherwise. We all crave better air for our children, get upset when we see smoke-belchers in our path, shake our heads at reports of injuries and deaths but every year, we go ahead and pollute our air more with the noise and smoke from fireworks. Fine, it’s a pretty sight and I guess for some there’s nothing that spells celebration more than colorful eruptions in the dark sky, but there are so many more intimate and powerful ways to celebrate the seasons that respect the earth as well. In our daily lives, we should strive to discover them. I was so tired from lack of sleep the day after the sound and smell of the firecrackers yanked me out of sleep. In school, parents shared how their children were afraid, unable to sleep and were cranky and out-of-sorts the next day. The earth is demanding our attention. We feel how we’ve wronged her in our bodies and it’s making us change the way we live. How can we feel good about celebrating when we know we are polluting the air with toxic substances and robbing people of healing sleep and clean air? Examining our decisions and actions against the framework of a larger view of the world is a powerful exercise. Already, we tread new territory that creates positive change in our lives and the lives of others. It is conscious, considerate, compassionate living right where we are.
It is a simple enough exercise to consider what you do for a living and imagine how you might consciously extend that towards a higher purpose. Or even the talents you have that you keep wishing you could turn into your main source of income. How can you bring what you have to help change your community for the better?
When the rich young ruler approached Jesus and asked him what he must do to attain eternal life, Jesus asked if he knew the commandments and the man said he did and had lived by them since his youth. Jesus then told him to sell his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor, thereby acquiring treasure in the spiritual worlds and then to follow him. This saddened the man because he was wealthy and Jesus said, ‘How hard it is for those who have earthly riches to find entry into the Kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God.’ Those who heard this asked, ‘Then who can find salvation?’ And he answered, ‘What is impossible for human strength will become possible through the power of God.” (Luke 18:18-27)
The heart of what I’m saying is in this passage. It is not enough to just live by the rules and follow the law. To be fully human, we have to give more, do more and be more; to make our lives matter because we are here not just for ourselves. We should be willing to offer our wealth—not necessarily material but everything that we have that keeps us safe and comfortable—to be able to develop spiritually. And when we begin to step out of the box and align ourselves with Divine Purpose, what once seemed impossible will be attainable.
This is the challenge we all face today. Given what’s at stake, the choice is clear. Our children deserve to inherit a better world. The world deserves children who will grow up to be true and responsible citizens. It is up to us to show them how.