Saturday, December 18, 2010

Community of the Mind

December is the holiday time of the year whether one is involved in religious observances or not.

You only have to pay attention at five in the afternoon to pinpoint one of the reasons we almost demand celebration now. At this dark season there is such a need to make merry. We feel it in our very bones.

Human bodies require light and warmth. We have the need to reach out hands and be touched by the comfort of extended friendship.

Days are chilly almost everywhere at this end time of the year. Snow or cold rain drive us in. By instinct we seek the shelter of the cozy home or the good cheer of other folks.

I look out at the quiet neighborhood as early dusk rubs out the last of another cloudy day. The December night waits for this exact moment.

When it’s just dark enough the outdoor lights twinkle on. At house after house, block after block, strings of lights come on. They unite us up and down the street.

It’s like a chain of hope. You can’t help but be soothed by the magic of the soft glow.

The lights enter deep into you as you stand before their spell. You can almost hear the night scene passing an eternal message. “Never fear. Peace is here. If not in the world, in this moment – now”

It’s as if the holiday-lit trees and shrubs, deck rails and roofs of our snow-covered houses have figured out something we still struggle to grasp.

“Look at us,” they say. “Not one of us is the same. But here we all are, dressed to the hilt, of like mind if you wish to call us that, to make festive the long December night.”

The panorama of winter lights is an excellent example of what it is to be a community of the mind.

Inanimate objects can’t function as community as community is reckoned to be. But their steadfast light, night after night through these weeks which bring us to some of the year’s best-kept holy days, can nudge us to act accordingly.

Being of like mind is easier than it would seem. Think hope and proceed with hope are a couple helpful approaches to likemindedness.

We’re a community of the mind when concentration and efforts are aimed toward the intention of living harmoniously or in good spirit as best we can with everyone else.

Community of the mind is continually formed when we work to understand each other.

Our actions come out of respect, for others as well as self-respect. Likemindedness strengthens community. It has the energy behind it to become the norm.

Zip code or address has nothing to do with shaping a community of the mind.

We can live anywhere. Our residence might be in one country. It may be in another. We can live in town, on a mountaintop, in the most remote valley.

If we place our mind on peace, and gently but insistently return to that focus when distracted from it, we live with a purpose wide enough to bring everyone in.

Living peacefully with good will to all has its greatest impact in the community we call home. But make no mistakes. The broadening effect of likemindedness touches hands across the world. The community of the mind begins with each of us.

We grapple today with all sorts of issues. So many things divide us. They divide us to the point of virulent name calling, violent dissension and even war.

We wrestle with the same old stuff which generations past to ancient times did.

Wise men and wise women from the beginning have pondered the meaning of life. They’ve mulled on it, debated it and went after it.

They searched for it with decisive belief. The drive to be our best selves, with human dignity and justice for everyone, rests at the core of our earthly existence.

This is the wisdom against which issues critical to community are weighed.

One thing is for certain and it is this. Community of the mind doesn’t come into being simply because everyone thinks the same.

If group thinking is destructive or hurtful in nature it can’t possibly be this thing we call community. Community strives for higher things.

The mind is too precious a place to harbor the self-defeating germs of anger and revenge, jealousy, greed, pride, bigotry, untruthfulness or prejudice. These germs seek to anchor in the fertile and intelligent spaces which we feed by what we take in.

These damaging seeds cannot possibly be elevated to the status of builders of community. Community makes no alliance with anything that isn’t intrinsically of a constructive nature.

When each of us sees in ourselves, and in all others, the wherewithal to create environments of love and trust we’re on the track to developing global society into a community of the mind.

It’s a place where children can learn and be safe. The elderly can leave the security but also the isolation of their homes to go out into the streets. There they will find even perfect strangers vigilant for their care.

The outside lights which shine at the holidays tell us this world is here. It can be here even more fully as we let ourselves shine as like-minded beacons of hope.

December is a month to reflect as well as to purchase gifts and to party. It’s a time to be happy and to be more than happy. Holidays ask that we fill our hearts with joy and let them not be contained or constrained.

We fill our hearts with joy and give from the fullness. In like-minded generosity we find the peace hungered for in the world.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Going Green for Green

Almost every newspaper or magazine has an article on going green. I'm behind these efforts.

The media have stepped up to educate consumers to the reality that this is exactly what we're doing - consuming. Then they show us how we can balance our consumption and even turn it around.

The green approach might, as a side, help sell green products. It is media's reason for pitching green some cynics suggest. I say hurrah to the endeavor whatever the intention that lies behind it.

There will always be marketing. If some products pitched to the public actually have gentler agents in them or appliances are engineered to require less electricity or water I say more power to the process.

Niches are continually being created for the new. Right now green is an effective niche. It plays to the need for all of us to seriously examine our right to consume without regulation even if it's only self-regulation.

Turning off lights and TV when not in use, walking or biking to cut some necessary car travel (yes, Starbucks coffee counts as necessary trips at times) and reworking and rethinking how we use energy pays back in terms of responsibly conserving.

The commitment to recycle, reuse and reinvent saves in the pocket. More importantly it adds to the global movement to treat our Earth more kindly.

In our household we work at being diligent in returning grocery bags to the store. We use the bags until they're in sad condition. Limp and thin from wear their next journey can only be to the recycling bin.

We run in streaks. Sometimes we get the bags along with us every time. Just like that. Then we go through a period of not remembering. As I tug the store's brown bags out from under to fill with groceries I try not to think of trees being cut. "Sorry," I tell the bag. "This time we forgot."

For quite awhile I've watched people bring their own totes. Many of the totes have store logos on them. They're used for shopping at that particular store. But some totes are taken all around town.

It looks crisp and very European to have a shopper tote dangling from the arm. It makes the shoppers look like thinkers and planners. I'm going shopping and I'm prepared is their mantra as they set out toting their totes.

The idea of joining the shopper tote people grew on me. The other day a dark-green tote caught my eye. It was selling at a check-out counter at the local store. It appeared durable. It had a classy look. It was a size I like, not overlarge but big enough to hold the food items I often run in for.

I turned to the fellow who was filling the nearby candy racks. "I really should buy this," I said to him.

"You really should," he answered agreeably, looking up.

"I will but not this time," I told him. I wheeled the cart to a counter that was open. Since I had to wait in line anyway I followed my original impulse. I went back for the tote.

"You convinced me to buy it," I told the man still shelving Snicker bars and other favorites which my resolve not to buy had made me feel virtuous.

"And I don't even work here," he said with a grin. He appeared happy to assist the store that gives his company business.

I was happy to finally own a shopper bag. So everybody was happy and I only had to pay $1.50 for the green save-the-world-this-is-a-start grocery tote.