Much is at stake at the moment and much is uncertain. Amidst this uncertainty, how do we stay connected and grounded?
This week I’ve been thinking about care and about the value of caring for others.
Remember the old Mr Rogers advice: look for the helpers in times of crisis?
This is not only advice for children, it's also a central message for all of us. At the moment, along with the crisis around Comey, it seems that as a country the value (or nonvalue) of caring for others is being put on the table:
Is it our role to attend to others? Is it government’s role to care for citizens—and noncitizens? Or is every man on his own, and the winner take all?
This is a deep philosophical divide.
When I was a junior in high school I took a philosophy class at a local college. We studied Hobbes, Kant, Descartes.
Hobbes taught that we act in our own self interest; Kant that morality is a matter of duty; Descartes that we could understand ourselves only through our minds. Something seemed missing in all of these worldviews.
I didn’t pursue the study of philosophy. Instead I studied literature, in part because it showed a world in which people care for one another, a world in which the fact that people care for one another is the central tenet.
It wasn’t until I was in my late twenties, when I was already a mother, that I heard about feminist theory and the work of thinkers like Carol Gilligan, work showing that the desire and need to take care of one another is also inherent in the human species. Of course! We care for one another because we want to, because it makes us feel better, because we all benefit from it.
This weekend is mother’s day—there is nothing in my life that I have valued more or can imagine valuing more than being a mother. When I support my children, it is not something that I do primarily for gain or duty, for ego or self interest.
I care for my children because in caring for them, I am expressing my own deep humanity. Our bodies prepare us to love one another.
I really believe that if we can be in touch with ourselves more deeply, we can be in touch more deeply with our love—not only for our own children, but also for other people’s children, for the inherent life and value in all people.
Part of this country seems to have lost touch with this basic humanity, with not only what it means to care for others, but also, it seems to me, with what it means to care for oneself. We are all poorer if we live in a society that does not attend to the sick, the poor, the young—poorer materially and also spiritually.
Robert Hayden’s moving poem about his father, “Sunday Morning,” is one of the most beautiful poems of deep caring I know. Here it is:
Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,
Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?
If you’re free this Saturday, please join me for a rejuvenating afternoon of meditation and writing in Beverly, MA at the North Shore Zen Center: give yourself this gift the day before mother’s day to nourish your own compassion.
And for a full weekend retreat, join me this August for a weekend of yoga, meditation and writing to re-integrate, and come back to our center, our values and our aliveness at Copper Beech Institute.
See more below, and as always reach out to me with questions and share with friends.
Writing Towards Freedom: An Afternoon of Meditation and Writing
Saturday, May 13, 1-4:30pm
North Shore Zen Center, Beverly MA.
Writing and Kundalini Yoga Workshop
Friday, June 2nd: 7:30-9:30 pm
Riverside Yoga, Newburyport, MA
Writing with Courage
Friday, June 16 10:30-1:30
Grub Street, Boston
Living From Your Center: Integrating Mind, Body and Spirit
August 18-20 Full Weekend Retreat
Copper Beech Institute, West Hartford CT
As always reach out with any questions or just to say hi. And please share with any friends who might be interested.