Dear President Trump,
Friday morning as I was making my way through my loving-kindness recitation and just as I got to the recently redone last line that goes like: “May your life unfold, open, and intersect non-violently and constructively”, it occurred to me to wonder whether “constructively” could logically be used when what needs to happen is nothing, or rather, an active refraining. I was passing by some huge, newly constructed houses of the mod-McMansion type and was having “oh, you shouldn’t have” sorts of thoughts (which I’m not proud of and don’t really go well with LKM prayers) and it hit me that sometimes the best, most loving thing to do is really nothing.
Most people who know us know that we added a mod-ish second story to our tiny house several years ago, so I live in a veritable glass house when I fuss about construction that isn’t absolutely necessary – I’m throwing stones as much at myself as at anyone and I know it. And that’s ok. It’s a good thing even, because I realized just then that I’ve been as brainwashed as the next person to think that “moving forward” and “growth” necessarily mean adding to, changing, or constructing when really, depending on the circumstances, restraint might be the thing that allows for the most growth, the most forward momentum.
I actually feel somewhat sheepish admitting this was something of an epiphany for me – it’s pretty dang basic and I’m sure there are thousands of conservationists out there who would be horrified by this admission. In my defense, it’s not that I had no awareness that leaving wild lands alone usually makes sense, for example, it’s just that I hadn’t thought to apply this critical lesson, this critical question, to pretty much everything before Friday morning. It was at that point that I decided to swap out “constructively” for “sustainably.” Now that last line is: “May our lives unfold, open, and intersect non-violently and sustainably.”
What do you think? Ha! That’s a rhetorical question if there ever was one, right? You are not exactly about either non-violence or sustainability, now are you? Really, you are more like the pacman gobbler, consuming everything in your path, though unlike the ultra-tidy pacman that leaves no trace, you leave wreckage and effluvia in your wake – all the time.
Tempting as it is to pile on, in the interest of staying growth-focused I’ll refrain from continuing to rail at you and will instead come back around to the idea that restraint is going to be another critical ingredient if our post-covid, post-you culture is to make space for everyone to thrive. Unlike those ingredients that we need to be all in on all the time, like empathy, we’re going to have to be more discerning about when to exercise restraint and when to go ahead and institute some change or build that new thing or remodel that old thing to bring us closer to a just society. And for many of us, me included, the idea of practicing restraint and the growth pangs of actually shifting into such a discerning mode is going to be very, very hard.
As often happens, the universe did its universe thing that morning and without knowing any of what I’d been piecing together on my walk, Laura shared a blog post by a social psychologist named Neil Lewis Jr. (https://thehardestscience.com/2020/05/01/how-many-and-whose-lives-would-you-bet-on-your-theory/) urging his colleagues to refrain from doing their theory-testing thing for the time being. He wants us all to ask ourselves if the money and resources we would use on our own thing could be better used by someone who’s working on life and death clinical research or implementation science that could make a difference right away. Maybe, maybe not – there’s no hard and fast rule here – what’s important is to ask the questions and to have the courage to answer honestly, and if it needed, to step off the hamster wheel of more, bigger, greater and to figure out what how we can truly contribute to the greater good.
May we be safe from the idea that more, bigger, greater is the way to go.
May we be willing to pause, to stop and ask ourselves hard questions.
May we be healthy and strong enough to sit on our egos (and our ids).
May we accept limits and see the opportunities to get creative within them (or not).