Saturday, March 12, 2005

The "big mission" and the "day to day"

Balancing the "big mission" with the "day to day" is one of the basic challenges we all face. I feel this tension a lot, and I find some consolation when I remember my readings of M.K. Gandhi back in college. (Drop shoulder, stretch, inhale deeply, continue...--see yesterday's post--) Gandhi was a servant of all who recognized with humility the necessity of self mastery if his service was to have any real depth of integrity. He new that it was in the day to day mundane tasks of living, and the manner and spirit with which they were accomplished, that he set his example, and that gave him the strength and character and "moral fiber" with which to demonstrate with actions in the public sphere for the freedom and self responsibility of his people. He knew that if he was nonviolent in his heart, he could set a real example of non-violence in the face of colonial rule. He knew that violence within begets violence without. For Gandhi, the internal mastery created the possibility for a public precedent. He also knew that unless he could master his relationship to his own feelings and internal workings, he would ultimately be wasting his time in the public sphere. He believed that ultimately the "day to day" living was more important than the "big mission." Working the "big mission" might provide solace to the ego, charmed by it's visible accomplishments, but the seemingly unremarkable "day to day" tasks are the real food for the soul. He asked nothing of his followers in non-violent non-cooperation that he did not ask first of himself. So that's Gandhi. What about a mom who has "put aside" her "goals and aspirations"--that is to say, who has put her "big mission" on hold in the face of the "day to day" demands of life? Short of believing in the pre-eminent importance of mastering herself in the "day to day," she will experience a lot of tension and frustration with the incessant demands of "day to day" mastery, and dismiss those demands as intrusions upon her grander designs for living out her "big mission." The same goes for us fellows. If you imagine your dreams are all "on hold" while you "deal" with the trash, the leaky faucet, the oil change, the bills, etc., you may be missing the more vital opportunity for growth. When we get to the pearly gates, no one will be asking us how much money we made, or whether our business sold the most widgets, or for that matter whether we were the keynote speaker at the world peace forum. Instead, the gentle inquiry will settle around strategies for doing the dishes with less resentment, or actually feeling genuine happiness while taking out the trash again, or truly enjoying time with family. The day to day is where it's at for any of us who consciously choose a path of self mastery. That is where we get good at life. And if that goodness spills over into the public sphere, or if that goodness eventuates in "grander" accomplishments, well, that's just fine, but no need to keep score there. The "day to day" supplies us amply with a fast track to self mastery, if we are willing to take it on, not as an obstacle to our "big mission," but as the foundation for it.


Blogger Gil :-) said...

keep preaching my beloved--let all your insight flow out now--i'm going to read the next one now

11:38 PM  
Blogger Gil :-) said...

Um, folks, that was the wife chiming in from my ID, in case you think I'm some kind of schizo/narcissist or something! :-)

8:55 PM  

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