Find The Deeper Impulse [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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See a penny, pick it up. All that day you’ll have good luck. 

I saw a penny in the parking lot of the UPS store and, wanting to have a full day of good luck, I swooped down and picked it up. Kerri, horrified, said, “What are you thinking? Put that down!” I was marched back to the truck and slathered myself with hand sanitizer.

My penny swoop debacle in the parking lot of the UPS store is how I mark the beginning of the pandemic. It was the first time that the danger of a simple action, touching what someone else had touched, penetrated. The penny dropped [sorry – I couldn’t help myself]. It was early in this experience called pandemic, before masks, before social distancing. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. And, above all, leave the good luck penny on the pavement.

And it seems like years since I touched that penny.

My penny swoop was an impulse. Kerri asked me what I was thinking but I wasn’t thinking. I was riding on the instinct train. The child-rhyme ignited my luck desire and I went in for the grab. And, isn’t that the real hardship of this pandemic? Quashing the impulse to hug your friends, to walk toward your neighbor to say hello, to let the kids play together, to stop in the store and chat with acquaintances? 20 stands outside  his mother’s assisted living apartment; she stands on the balcony and they shout to each other. Each day I watch Kerri override the deep-mother-instinct to run and find her children, all-grown-up-and-moved-away.

It’s unnatural, this veto of instinct. And, it is what makes us human. It is natural to run from danger and yet doctors and nurses everyday walk into hospitals during this pandemic. They walk into exposure. First responders, police and fire people, everyday put the public safety above their own. It is what lifts us into our humanity; placing the needs of others above our own. It is what we celebrate, what we admire. What we claim as our highest ideal. People giving of themselves for the benefit of others.

We call that sacrifice. We call it service. We call it sacred. We  call it grace and generosity. We go to houses of worship and proclaim it. We make movies about it. Frodo must destroy the ring of power for the benefit of all. Otherwise, he twists in his selfish personal power lust and becomes like Gollum. This tale is universal for a reason.

And, I suspect that I am wrong. The survival instinct has a deeper nature. Soldiers talk about it just as first responders do: in the moment of real danger there is not a question about throwing themselves on top of their companion, sacrificing self to save the other. It, too, is an impulse. A purer survival instinct. It is not an override.  It is, when all else is stripped away, what we are.

“Compassion is the basis of morality.” ~ Arthur Schopenhauer


read Kerri’s blog post about PICKING UP SPARE CHANGE



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Consider Your Neighbor

503. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

At the beginning of class, Saul-the-chi-lantern asked a couple to speak of their recent experiences studying with the master. They’d just returned from a trip to New York. The woman (I can’t remember her name) said, “There was a quote that really struck me: What good is your chi if it does not consider your neighbor.” Given yesterday’s post, I smiled. Interconnectivity seems to be the theme this week.

Last night I watched a potent and unsettling interview Bill Moyers conducted with journalist and activist Chris Hedges. Hedges has written a new book, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, about the impact of capitalism on the world. He roots his examination in 4 devastated and exhausted communities in the United States; places where the poverty is shocking and the system is wittingly or unwittingly maintaining the cycle. There is a cost in lives of our consumer economy that we shield ourselves from seeing – even within our borders. There is also an ecological cost that we pretend is not our doing.

Chris Hedges used a term, “moral fragmentation” to describe us, a society that has thoroughly confused money with morality, whose value set has eroded and been replaced with, as he named it, “Wall Street values.” He said of the financial players, they know the impact of what they do and think that being a good father is enough or absolves them (us) of their actions. This is what Joseph Campbell meant when he said, “Our mythology is dead.” In the absence of a cohesive narrative, a greater story, we eat each other; we justify the virtues of the 1% at the expense of the 99%. “We’re good people. We are justified. Our way is the right way.”

As within, so without; and the reverse I also true. When we forget that we are a community, we cannot participate as a global community; the motives are consumptive, the collapse is internal and inevitable. To off shore the jobs and expect economic recovery is madness. To put corporate wealth ahead of societal good is suicide. A society driven by bottom line motives is already bankrupt; it is only a matter of time before the exterior of the social body shows the internal rot. It is a cancer.

It is no small sentiment – and there was a good reason the quote stayed with my classmate: “What good is your chi if it does not consider your neighbor.”