Originally Posted in Our Community of Humanity at Inner Child Magazine
Kind Possession Now
Possession! What do you possess? What are your prized possessions? What have you worked hard for or perhaps inherited?
There is a beautiful coffee table book entitled, Material World: A Global Family Portrait (1995) by Peter Menzel, Charles C. Mann, Paul Kennedy and a host of amazing photographers. It is a graphic and statistical snapshot of families worldwide. Families are photographed in front of their homes with all of their possessions outside—furniture, cars, pots and pans, yes, everything. In each photograph, they hold or stand surrounding their most prized possession. What that item is varies dramatically from one country to the next. Each family is a statistically average family for that country—an average number of children, average income, average size of home. It is a remarkable book about what we as part of this community of humanity possess and what we place value on.
Sometimes I look around my apartment and think about what my possessions would look like out in front of my home, what would be my most prized possession and what is irreplaceable for me. I have a photograph on my bulletin board of a scuba diving trip in Dahab, Egypt. I am smiling. My hair is slicked back and I am loaded up with scuba gear ready for my second dive of the day. I am surrounded by newly found friends. We don't know that it is just a few days before September 11, 2001 when I will be in Tel Aviv, Israel working. I have a memory and a photograph of a time in my life when I am vibrantly alive and fearless in my travels around the world. Life and love and vitality course through my veins—irreplaceable life.
Marshall Rosenberg, developer of the field of Non-Violent Communication said, "It's harder to empathize with those who appear to possess more power, status, or resources." But is it simply the possession that makes the difference or rather is it our attitude and the way we possess power, status and resources? Is it really about the inequity when we compare ourselves with those around us?
Are our lives better if we are grateful for what we have?
Are our lives better if we are happy when those around us succeed in what they are trying to do or have?
Are out lives better if we help others gain what they need?
Marshall Rosenberg, who has participated in peace negations in the Middle East and at home in family conflicts said, "I would like to suggest that when our heads are filled with judgments and analyses that others are bad, greedy, irresponsible, lying, cheating, polluting the environment, valuing profit more than life, or behaving in other ways they shouldn't, very few of them will be interested in our needs. If we want to protect the environment, and we go to a corporate executive with the attitude, "You know, you are really a killer of the planet, you have no right to abuse the land in this way," we have severely impaired our chances of getting our needs met. It is a rare human being who can maintain focus on our needs when we are expressing them through images of their wrongness."
How are you trying to get your needs met? Does someone else have to lose for you to have what you need? Does someone else have to be wrong or bad for you to have what you want? The land, the money, the water, the safety, the love—we all have basic needs we are trying to meet. Is it only the love of a certain person that will suffice in meeting your need for love? What if your love is unrequited? Is it only a specific piece of land that will suffice in meeting your need for shelter? Who are you looking out for and who looks out for you?
If Not Now
The famous Jewish religious leader, Hillel, born over 2000 years ago in Babylon in 110 BCE said, "If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?" His words, "If Not Now?" have sparked a movement within the Jewish community which is looking at the means being applied to the peace process in Israel and Palestine. Jews are considering what is justified in the name of creating peace and safety. Is there a line that can't be crossed even if your own life, your family, your land and possessions are in jeopardy?
Whether we are seeking inner peace, peaceful families or peace between communities, there are certain attitudes and processes that don't move the peace process forward. The line between what we will do and won't do is different for each of us but I believe we each have a line over which we would not step to defend even our own lives. As part of a family, a community and a global village, it is worth it for each of us to look at and imagine where that line is for us. We can each ask ourselves, "What is worthwhile? What means everything to me? Do I want peace and love more than anything else?
Today I want to close with a quote attributed to Plato, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
Kimberly Burnham, PhD (Integrative Medicine)
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