I have had the joy and privilege of teaching children from preschool
through middle school level. Often, they have taught me as much as I
have taught them. And, whereas lesson content is certainly important,
some of the biggest learning is about life itself and interaction with
others. An example is how willingly preschoolers absorb the simply
paraphrased Golden Rule.
Another phenomenon is that when children become of an age to undertake homework, a new issue rears its head – the EXCUSE. Some children love doing homework, and the idea of the excuse does not engage their attention much. Others, for a number of reasons, definitely do not want to do it, often spending more effort on evading the requirement than they would on actually fulfilling it. There are many excuses for the undone work, a classic (and not often offered) excuse being,”The dog ate my homework.” And, of course, there are sometimes quite valid reasons mingled in with the excuses.
The thing about an excuse is that it does not acknowledge that the homework was not done; instead, it offers apparent and sometimes quite creative reasons why the student should be given credit without doing the homework. It does not honestly acknowledge that the homework was not done and that therefore there is not credit for doing the homework. (Exceptions/late acceptances may certainly be given for valid reasons that are honest barriers to getting the work which was intended to be accomplished done.) The excuse is an attempt to avoid the work and also the consequence for not doing the work.
We have a similar situation in our adult world today. We all – or at least most of us – want a world which is fairer, less violent, more respectful and caring, and more attentive to the needs of our planet and its denizens. Most of us – but not all – seem to think that it is the job of the government to create and provide this. The truth is that we are avoiding responsibility. No government by itself can possibly create a system which is at the same time fairer, less violent, more respectful and caring, and more attentive to the needs of the planet on which we live. By its nature, the power of government will first be used to secure the power of that government, and after that, whatever causes the government feels it wants to undertake. True change does not come from the top down; mutual benefit does not come from the top down. It comes from the bottom up. Those of us who are expecting the government – either heavy handed or with a light touch – to secure and provide for us those conditions we need for optimal living, without our doing anything much except to obey and condemn those who disagree, are operating under the same illusion as the student who thinks he or she should get credit for undone work if he or she can offer a creative excuse. We cannot gain from giving away our power and doing nothing.
Change which comes from the bottom up involves each of those whom that change will touch. Not many of us live all by ourselves in a cave in the mountains. We will all be touched by changes and doing the work of those changes involves us all. We can elect the leaders we want, but with election does not come the ability to shoulder the responsibility of each member of the community. Those who drop their responsibility have not given it to an authority, although they may have given their decision making power away. The responsibility remains, even if ignored. We can be certain that if we give our power away and ignore our responsibility, we will get changes which are not to our liking. Politically, true democracy rests on an informed and participating public – not just a leader/leaders and followers who echo what they say.
In order to achieve the goal of a widely participating public, it is necessary to begin listening to each other as opposed to debating, condemning or overpowering each other. There is what I (and some others) call the “Law of Paradox”, which states, paraphrased, that if one holds in mind two diametrically opposing concepts long enough, one will eventually arrive at the center between them, which is where the truth is most likely to lie. If one engages in (or writes) a discussion, as opposed to a debate or a persuasive presentation of one side only, one understands and considers BOTH sides. Usually, one’s conclusion falls somewhere between the two (or more) sides. However, even if the conclusion reached is strongly on one side of the spectrum, it is ALWAYS influenced by the opposing perspective. The process is not competitive. What is sought is truth, not simply the power to “win”, to silence that which disagrees with one’s own particular viewpoint. Rarely, if ever, is this done by big government. It is, however, exemplified in the consensus decision making process used by many intentional communities.
People, we each have the responsibility to think, to envision, to discuss, to listen and to COOPERATIVELY create the system and environment in which we wish to live, from the grassroots up. (That does not mean giving in, it simply means not insisting on all one’s own way being the only right way, and it means treating the other with loving kindness.) Those of us who neglect to do that are abandoning both themselves and their fellow beings. The more who give away their power by abandoning it, the less habitable our world will be. We are currently on the cusp of change; it is time to wake up. There are limitless excuses for being lazy, for neglecting to do the work required of us. The excuses will not give us credit for having done the work. No work means no credit, and results we do not wish to see, about which we may find out too late.
Let us wake up and stop using excuses to try to get what we want. Let us realize what is being required of us, to cooperatively and respectfully engage in discussion of how to firmly but peacefully make the changes needed to usher us into a new way of being, known for a long time to those willing to listen. Our humanity and the existence of the planet and all its denizens, including us, depends on that.