Monday, December 27, 2010

The trouble with a great spiritual book

I have gotten to the point in reading the Dalai Lama's memoir where I am having a problem typical of me when reading such a book, that calls us all to greater social action. I start feeling incredibly guilty and depressed and have to put the book down.

He mentions places in the U.S. where people live in crowded cities but do not know one another, and  care for their pets more than fellow human beings. Well, this general sentiment applies equally in rural areas to people like my family, and it was painful to read and recognize myself in his statement.

I do have a longing to do more good in this world. More what? I know that any "worthy" endeavor may sound great on the surface, but the devil is in the details, isn't he? I am spending these several hours a week as a volunteer treasurer at church, but it does not feel like the type of social action I crave. I would like to make a direct impact on the least, the lost, the left behind, especially those who live elsewhere! -- Because their condition is so much more dire than the poor face here. I am disappointed that my local church does not do more outreach.

It's easy to talk about this desire to help others. Chances are, I won't do anything to concretely enact it, just be here in my fat and happy super-sized-everything American life and feel the occasional twinge of guilt.

One thing we can all do is to stay on the path of social responsibility. That's the least we can do. It means multiplying our actions by thousands, millions, and then examining what the global impact is. Do we take actions to conserve energy, reuse and recycle, buy locally and organic, eat less meat? Is your work socially responsible or at least neutral? Did you build a new home like we did, or reuse a home? How many trees have been chopped down around your home, how many planted? Then, do you shop at big-box stores, and how are they doing as far as social responsibility? Perhaps the biggest question: How do you spend your money and time? Do you think about the consequences of the daily choices you make?

Aack! This is my Bill-the-cat response to many of the above questions. I don't have good answers.

Actually, the company I love to hate, Walmart, finally seems to be improving after years of providing the lowest cost, at any cost. It seems to be making a real effort to take a more sustainable path. Social responsibility has made it onto Walmart's radar screen. Check out the area of their website devoted to it: Walmart Sustainability Report 2010. Now, let's not forget that this could also be viewed in a similar light to the "green" initiatives of big O&G companies and the health-conscious initiatives of tobacco companies -- inotherwords, with a cynical eye. But if Walmart decides that consumers are demanding more sustainable policies, and implements them, this could be a game-changer.

Enough ranting for one blog post! Signing out to return to my oh-so-safe life in a big warm house, stocked with too much food, with three cars, away from poverty and disease and war, etc. etc.

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