Higher Living Reflections

More or less the same?

After takin’ several readings / I’m surprised to find my mind’s still fairly sound. – Willie Nelson, “Me and Paul”

Some believe in a literal hell; for others, it’s symbolic. But everyone gets it if told, “It’s been a year from hell.” Indeed, 2020. Will 2021 be merely purgatory?

I began writing this on the Winter Solstice, the day when Ma Earth comes to a screeching halt and does an about-face. One way to picture that reversal is a reverse tipping point since it is the low point, the nadir of daylight in the northern hemisphere, then uphill with the sun and the return of light.

The day for making resolutions is nigh, which prompts the question: Why a need for fresh starts? Because, as humans, we’re replete with erratic behaviors, foibles, and weak-minded behaviors

It is likely, whether Christian or not, you are familiar with the parable of the Good Samaritan. The story has traditionally been interpreted in terms of the love-thy-neighbor ethic. True enough, but psychological processes are at play in the story, empathy and trust among them.

What if it had been a ruse or trap and the bedraggled man’s fellow robbers lay in wait? Conversely, the wounded one trusted his rescuer not having ulterior, uncharitable motives.

Empathy and compassion are correlated to trust. Think of someone you trust and feel empathy despite her/him not feeling similarly towards you. How many populate your list?

A thought experiment, a modern-day version of the parable. Think of someone you despise, loathe, or want nothing to do with. Imagine happening upon him/her after his/her vehicle has spun out on a slick, not-well-traveled road. You are the only one available to help. What do you do? Do your actions say something about you in spite of pronouncements to the contrary?

A common theme I have been hearing more lately is the desire for making Me Time. Ordinarily, it is understandable given we are nearing the end of a most demanding holiday season. But this one followed on the heels of emotionally draining, stressful months.

Me Time is not about pulling a blanket over one’s head. It is, instead, a personal timeout that allows for rest, recuperation, reflection, AND an opportunity for reimagining. Think of those Four Rs working exponentially, R to the Fourth Power, and playing on one another.

While we haven’t been incinerated by the virus and the social-political turmoil, each has been singed, scarred and hurled about by the inferno. Much has changed, and there is no going back.

In “The Boxer,” Paul Simon sings, “After changes upon changes / We are more or less the same.” Another thought experiment, this one more personal: Having negotiated the 2020 gauntlet, ask yourself, “Am I / are We more or less the same?” More or less trusting? More or less patient? More or less open? More or less anxious? More or less…?

Along with erratic behaviors, foibles, and weakmindedness, we are also the only earthly sentient beings capable of imagining. A bear doesn’t adorn her cave with pictographs that tell her story of a brush with a fellow bear, a bird doesn’t select certain twigs to make her nest comfier or to accent it with aesthetically pleasing hues, and a chimp doesn’t dress for dinner.

We do. We paint pictures, create stories, and build castles in the air. So, reimagine your universe henceforth on an inner, micro scale as well as on a macro, societal scale compared to what you might have envisioned prior to 2020.

Edmund Burke, considered to be the godfather of modern philosophical conservatism, stated, “Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without.”

Being resolute does not mean being unerring. Sometimes it is several steps forward followed by backsliding. Ergo, one can be human and divine: To err then forgive her/himself and begin anew. Individually or collectively, we might not be the phoenix rising from its ashes, but then again…

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  • Becky Cook
    December 29, 2020 at 1:46 pm

    So much to reflect on from this year… thanks for prompting some questions. For those of us blessed with security and well-being, it is a time to be filled with gratitude and the desire to reach out amid the turmoil and try and make a positive difference.
    Your writing is a beautiful example…

  • David Edwards
    December 29, 2020 at 6:07 pm

    Wonderful article! Thank you.

  • Rick Posnet
    December 30, 2020 at 6:09 am

    Thanks Jerry! The Jewish tradition demands that we must constantly seek wisdom. Whether we find it or not is not crucial. It is that conscious search that feeds our sense of decency and dignity in an unpredictable world. It is also an opportunity to serve others as part of the search.