A few nights ago, I had the pleasure of watching a documentary by Tom Shadyac (of Ace Ventura fame) named “I Am”, which examined the world role of human beings, and the connection we all have, whether we realize it or not, to each other, animals, the planet, and, the universe. I wanted to re-iterate a story which moved me and related to a previous post we have on Famine and Affluence.
There was a time when tribes believed that material possession was the biggest evil one could participate in. They traveled the lands, never owning property, in tune with the world around them, shared amongst their peoples, and had a deep respect for the animals that provided them with nutrition and life. They understood that there was a deep energy between all things.
This is the story of the fall of one such tribe.
There was a tribe who consisted of great hunters. Every week, the hunters would leave their brothers and sisters and go into the woods to hunt for all. They worked together in harmony and respected the animals that they killed. They never hunted the small deer or the females that had fawns. Instead hunting old Bucks whom had fathered many offspring, and whose life on earth had been useful and long lived. They would hunt these older animals, thanking them for giving themselves for the survival of the men and their tribe.
The great hunters would return to their peoples and share the meat with all: young, old, strong, weak, man and woman. They shared equally with all, and were respected for their courage and love of their brothers and sisters.
One day, the strongest hunter of the tribe was visited by a daemon disguised as a young beautiful woman. She seduced him with her words, and speaking to his ego, told him he deserved more than the others. He wrestled with these thoughts but soon gave in.
At the next hunt, he hunted well and aggressively, breaking the rules the tribe had set for themselves – hunting doe and fawn, as well as the bucks. His brothers were shocked and did not agree with what he had done. When the hunters returned, the strongest hunter said to his tribe: “I am the strongest and hunt the best. Look at the deer I have brought back! It is not fair that I must share equally with all of you who do not hunt. I will keep most of the meat for myself and you can trade with me if you want any.”
Naturally, there was less meat to go around and some were still hungry. The strongest hunter would trade meat and started to amass things he desired for himself, the vision of the daemon woman encouraging him to collet more and more. Soon, he had the most things of all the people in the village, and the others around him grew restless and sad.
As time went on, the other hunters grew jealous of the wealth of the hunter. They also started keeping their meat for themselves. They went against the pleadings of the elders and took up the same strange ideals that the strongest hunter had developed.
With time, the weak and the elderly had no food. The women with no men went hungry. The tribespeople started stealing from each other in order to trade for meat. The women started competing for men, while the hunters took what they wanted. The hunters thrived on the weakness of others, and their society changed to one of wants and dominance. The strongest ruled, even to the point of unfairness and mistreatment of others. What was once a society of brotherhood and peace had become poisoned and tired.
When and where did this tribe exist? The surprise is: It is the tribe of humans. And it is happening now.
We have become a people that value and worship the ones that have much and feel that competition for material gain is just. Many of us seem to have forgotten the link we have to all other human beings, placing our gain above the health and welfare of others. We have become so accustomed to this way of being that we turn a blind eye to those one the street, and do not seem to remember that there are millions around the world that cannot even eat in one day what some of us eat for breakfast.
I too, am guilty of this blind eye. As I write this post, I am using a laptop which was undoubtedly assembled overseas, in an assembly line where most of us in Western culture would cringe to work. My career offers me advantages that many do not have, simply because they were never given the chance of education or a safe place to live and thrive. The current economic and political system offers those with advantages the chance to rule, to the point of taking away from those they rule over. Is the system as it is fair? Is there an alternative? Are there any lessons to be learned which we can implement in our lives?
This is not meant to preach or tell anyone to change their ways. It is simply meant to remind us (yes, myself included, as I often forget) to be grateful for the opportunities we have and to show compassion for those that do not.
Believe me, I know it is difficult to always show love and compassion for strangers. I frequently forget to listen to others. I forget to see the world from someone else’s viewpoint. I forget that I live in a heated house, protected from the elements, while some others around the world live in garbage piles and search endlessly, day to day, just for something to eat. I forget that my laptop was made by people that have no alternative but to work 16 hour days, 7 days a week, in substandard factories. I forget that the bicycle I use is made of metals that were mined overseas in unsafe working conditions. I forget that, every day, political, military, and economic systems leave the western world taking advantage of the rest of the world in order to maintain status quo. I forget to make connections with strangers.
I too, am guilty.
So what can we do? What can I do? Well, I can try. I can meditate every day and continue to develop myself. Happiness and world peace starts with myself. I remember the good things in my life: my friends, my family, my cat, surfing, martial arts, my health and beautiful women. After this compassion for myself, I develop compassion for others. I make an effort to remember that others may not have the opportunities I have. I try to look at others with no judgement. Even if it is difficult or uncomfortable, I ask, with genuine desire to know, how strangers are. And not that surface level “How are you?”, but a genuine desire to connect and understand how someone is. I make jokes and laugh with people I do not necessarily see eye to eye with. I try to remember that even thieves and murderers are doing the best that they can with the life they have. We’re all in this experience together. To think we’re not connected is a fallacy of the society we have developed.
It reminds me of a quote we recently posted on our Facebook page:
“When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.
I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.
When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.
Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.”
That’s all I have to say. I will remember, however, the role I play in the world. I will remember to have compassion for myself, as it will make it easy to move through challenges. I will remember to have compassion for others, for it will make my day, and others’, easier and more lovely. I will remember that I have opportunities for peace and happiness that many others do not, as it will help me remember that the issues I believe I have, day to day, are small in comparison to the problems of others in the world.
What will you remember to do?