Monday, 17 February 2014

Thought Picnic: How experience humbles our generosity of spirit

Peeling away at the sores
Experience seems to bring us into close encounter with the core of our humanity. It is in experience that we begin to discover who we really are, if what we can do in comfort can be reflected similarly in the presence of discomfort.
We may deign to understand, dare to sympathise or attain the supreme expression of empathy, but when we are touched, how would our minds change, and how would our concern for others dissolve for the ascendancy of the trumpeting of our self-pity?
How would we attempt to magnify our circumstances almost to the level that suggests we have been ravaged by the greatest disaster ever to overwhelm humanity?
They are questions we must ask ourselves always.
Beyond belief
Yesterday, I heard a sermon where the preacher told a story of a tightrope walker who did his act over the Niagara Falls many times with greater daring-do each new time he attempted the feat.
Charles Blondin did many feats, blindfolded, on stilts, trundling a wheelbarrow and even carrying his manager on his back as well as frying an omelette midway. It got to a point that people believed he could do anything, however, the same people when asked to sit in the wheelbarrow for a tightrope walk balked at the idea.
Experience takes issues to another level just as having to place one’s trust in the death defying feats of Charles Blondin to be a participant called on a new level of trust, a trust in circumstances one would have no control over until the feat is completed, the risk of it going wrong coming to the fore, in their minds.
Disaster comes here
There are many natural disasters around the world, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, typhoons, tsunamis, droughts, floods, fires and much else. Most of them we would only see on television and are moved to contribute to charity drives to help the victims of those disasters.
It is probably our nature to give as an expression of our innate humanity, and that is a really good thing. However, the natural disasters have come to our land, storms raging, winds so boisterous bringing down heretofore stable things, rains coming down in incessant deluge causing floods and a few sink holes, this is serious and grave.
We are affected, some of us have to stay put, and others can apparently temporarily escape those conditions until things improve. Our attachment to our things might well determine how affected we are about possible loss as a result of a natural disaster.
The aid matters even more now
The UK has a large foreign aid budget, and it goes a long way to improving the lives of the people at the receiving end of our aid in fighting poverty, disease, disenfranchisement and inequality whilst sponsoring health, education, democratic and human rights programs.
We cannot in essence, in principle or in understanding our role in society and the world at large withdraw aid for the expediency of our little local difficulty.
That is why I am saddened that personal disaster has a tendency to expose the deeper selfish human nature where our temporary pain gains ascendancy and greater importance over recognising the broader context of the bigger, deeper and more serious sufferings of others.
It would pass
Indeed, we should help ourselves and find the means to tackle the big natural disaster issues that ravage our lands, but for that to be at the expense of the foreign aid that brings quality to lives, yet nowhere near the comforts we have enjoyed before disaster struck is unacceptable.
The power cuts here would soon be restored, many of those we give foreign aid to do not have that luxury, the flood waters would soon recede, many of those we give foreign aid as a consequence of natural disaster may not have resource or hope for the change that would make our bad experiences become history.
A selfish humanity
When I hear people on television go on about the government addressing our problems first before thinking of foreign aid, or by inference these first world victims of mishap comparing themselves to the poor and destitute of much less fortunate countries and circumstances, you begin to appreciate the shallowness of our humanity and its absurdity.
We are mostly good when things are good, but when things go bad we subconsciously reveal the worst of who we are. Much as man’s capacity for good is well regarded, our capacity for selfish malevolence when we are most affected is unspeakably unprintable and with that our humanity as a whole suffers the more.
Such is life.


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