Sharing: Variations On a Theme by Lennon
Why, in a world of abundance, do a very few have far more than they need while so many have not even enough to get by? Why are people starving, homeless? Why are the basic human essentials of food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and medical care turned into economic privileges for those who are deemed by market forces to be worthy? Isn't it enough to be alive, aware, a unique individual with a single, fragile existence? Aren't we all worthy of sustenance and support?
Imagine all the people...
Why are we as vegans surprised that people fail to empathize with nonhuman sentient beings when they can't even empathize with all of the members of their own species? Small wonder we see cruelty and indifference to nonhuman animals. People who can't get past the barriers of race, sex, economic class, culture, and language to see that we humans are fundamentally alike certainly aren't going to see past the differences between species to see that, especially among the so-called "higher" species, we truly are more alike than different.
Empathy is the root of compassion. When we stop viewing others as "other," we are no longer able to shrug indifferently to their sufferings and hardships. Their plight becomes our concern, and we can no longer justify using fellow beings, whether human or nonhuman, as stepping stones to our personal gain.
Imagine all the people sharing all the world...
Western culture at large has lost sight of the true purpose of work. The purpose of work is not to generate profits for a few but to meet human need: to provide a living income to the people engaged in the work, to provide goods and services for the community, to provide satisfying and fulfilling occupation to those who labor.
And when our work prospers, like the garden that produces far more tomatoes and zucchini than we ourselves can ever hope to use, we have a choice: We can choose to hoard our surplus in fear of future want, or we can choose to share with those whose gardens were less abundant or who are unable to have a garden of their own but who are valuable members of our communities nonetheless, trusting that if we are ever in want then the spirit of generosity and sharing that we have helped to foster will return to us.
You may say I'm a dreamer...
Abstract idealism, castles in the sky -- but as Thoreau observed, there is nothing wrong with building our castles in the sky, as long as we then proceed to build the foundation beneath them. Rather than sigh how impossibly far above us our dream castle may be, we can begin building the stairs, step by step, on which we may climb to reach it.
Step: Viewing our allocations -- of money, of time, of energy -- with a critical eye. Step: Articulating our true priorities. Step: Sorting out that which we do not truly need. Step: Giving our surplus to others who can truly make use of it. Step: Cultivating mindfulness, intention, attention to our lives. Step: Finding meaning in being rather than in having. Step: Seeing material goods as support for material existence, not as indicators of personal worth. Step, step, step: Little changes, one by one, shaping our lives in the direction of living lightly, living meaningfully, living instead of accumulating, no longer using a wall of things to insulate ourselves against the beat of the human heart, against our own values, hopes, fears, sorrows, joys, dreams. Step by step by step, choice by choice by choice, voting with our dollars, with our deeds, for our true values.
The Earth belongs to all of us. We all belong to the Earth.
And the world will live as one.
e x t e s s a y -
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