I write from New York – having just roared up the east coast in an aluminium snake of a train from Washington to stay here with some old friends from another hemisphere. The summer is well and truly Indian in the big apple, and the smell downtown is not unlike Delhi either. Despite the sticky subways, I’ve been enjoying vegan cuisine, Brooklyn community life and scintillating conversation. My friends, like me, have been recently introduced into the wonderful world of parenting and, naturally much conversation blossomed around this topic.
My friend quizzed me about what the difference between having one and two children was, my reply – its the same, just more. I think the hardest thing about parenting is the initial surrender of your old singleton values. Shifting your values to be centred around someone else other than yourself is not an easy or insignificant shimmy – however, I think it represents a great evolutionary jump in a person’s life journey. Why?
Let me explain a little. There is something unique that defines human beings- makes them what they are. This is their search for happiness! And not just ANY happiness, the nature of that happiness needs to be unbounded, ongoing, eternal. Anything less leaves one wanting more…….. The question is, how can humans fulfill this basic desire, in the form of a limited self-centred entity? The sad truth is that the small self we see in the mirror each morning is an inappropriate vehicle to try to hold all that happiness in and trying to do so causes us more suffering than happiness. All around me I see people trying to accumulate wealth, power, fame for themselves but do they succeed in fulfilling that original desire for infinite happiness?
America is, no doubt, at the heart of the capitalistic story that has dominated the last century. And capitalism, I have come to believe, is itself based on a self-centred philosophy – how much can I personally accumulate in order to be happy. The hierarchical systems of employment, government and social structure are all constructs to facilitate this style of self-centred accumulation. In fact, the whole nature of capitalist society seems to set its inhabitants up for ultimate frustration, because the successes it promises to many and grants to few, are ultimately self-centred and thus limited to the sphere of the limited individual self. And this is why I say that we are in a dangerous place in history, where the dominant socio-economic philosophy sets humans up to be frustrated and unfulfilled.
So, what do we do about all this? Well perhaps having more babies younger is a start. It would certainly shift society away from the anguish of self-centred accumulation. There has been an interesting debate happening in Britain recently over whether babies have become the new religion. It seems that the middle classes have taken obsessively to wearing the sling of progressive baby bearing and holistic child rearing. As I have said earlier, I see this as a step forward from career-centric or self-centric accumalists, because family oriented parents seem to focus on something greater than just themselves. I believe that the amount of happiness that a family can hold or bring is greater than the individual capacity of any one vessel in the family. Happy families… But even the family unit is somewhat limited.
So lets extrapolate this idea out? What if we become more community focussed? Will our fulfilment not increase still further as our cup of happiness becomes a water butt in a rainforest? How about if we work towards the common good of our one global human family? And then let your mind drift out towards those saints who serve the entire universe tirelessly with every breath – perhaps you can begin to grasp why they always seem to be smiling.
I think its time we told the man – self service ain’t no service at all.