Feb 11, 2015

Mother Teresa and the organism

If you get your news from Facebook like I do, perhaps you have been newly privy to the various exposes on Mother Teresa and how she wasn't the saint everyone thought her to be.

I want to care. I do. But I don't.
I want to be surprised. But I am not.

Mostly I don't see why it should really, truly matter.

That is the thing about saints. Role models. Even loved politicians. Everyone wants them to be perfect. Amazing. Beyond reproach and above us on every level.
I used to think this was fine and that the world needed heroes to provide aspiration, and that the very thought of beautiful humans like Gandhi and Mother Teresa inspired people to do good, to imagine a piece of that beauty in them too.
Now I am not sure. Especially when their fall leaves so many people feeling dirty and disillusioned and looking for a new perfect thing to tear apart.

But that isn't even the real issue for me. The real issue, for me, is found in the extremism attributed to "good deeds" in the first place. The need to ascribe altruism to the societal contract in order to justify the work. The need to look at things like caring for the sick and helping the poor as "charity" and not "necessary work" to help society function more effectively. Because then it becomes the thing good people do. The thing saints and heroes do. They look out for the less fortunate because they are magically more caring and empathetic than you, and you, because you cringe when a homeless man tries to touch you or you want to move away when you see a sick person, assume you aren't the type to do such work, and so distance yourself, and think of it as another persons problem, another saints mission.

This, to me, is relatively akin to how people these days engage with diet and exercise. Break your diet and go on a binge! Eat some sugar and you've blow the whole thing! Can't look like a super model? Why bother? Cross fit or go home! It is ludicrous and unhealthy and deprives you of happiness and rest. It is akin to starting a walking regimen, and you feel better and sleep better and suddenly can go out later and have more fun and wow! it is small and simple and life is nicer. the organism you are part of is beginning to thrive! and then you notice that your ass is still big and you aren't any closer to loving your body in a bikini. so you try to jog. and hate it. so you throw it all away, because exercise is for athletes anyway. beautiful unnaturally strong people move! not you! and so you spend that time drinking instead. And buying shit. And die 10 years earlier and in debt, hating life that much more and the skin suit you live in the whole time. It completely misses the point around adding healthy choices to your world: that you become HEALTHIER, and generally happier in the process.

And I increasingly find myself thinking of our society as an organism. And having sick, poor, starving, homeless people isn't healthy for that organism. So you don't help people move towards self sufficiency just because you have a saintly heart and a gallon of empathy. You do it for the same reason that you don't just moisturize half of your body. You do it because it is your job. Everyone's job in some manner. And it will make you and everyone happier. Because we are failing, as a society, if we succeed on the backs of others. Not just because it is cruel and unfair, but because those backs will collapse, and leave us in a muddy bloody heap. So you participate in the process of finding ways to help more and more people live happy healthy lives so you don't have to fear your neighbor and their understandable angry desperation, so you don't have to become a shut in behind your big shiny door to keep the sick away. So you don't have to crush down, constantly, the worry that you are the next victim to societal inequity and uncaring cruelty.

And so it doesn't matter if Mother Teresa helped the poor because she was a saint or a sadist. It doesn't matter if she helped them at all. It matters if you help them. And If your neighbor, who cheats on his wife and taxes still helps them...well then he is helping. Get it? And yes, he should probably stop cheating on his wife and pay his taxes too, but it doesn't make his positive participation in society any less meaningful or any less compelling.

So worry less about that donut you picket up yesterday and enjoy your walk. And also, consider the aim of your work and life: are you participating in the betterment of the world you live in? Do your actions find a connection to the street you walk down and the forests your gaze upon? Because I think that is really what should be making facebook headlines: sum gains through sociatal participation in it's own betterment. Not the continuous searching, extolling and then tearing down of heroes

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