Kleshas and Tanhas

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Posts Tagged ‘philosophy

Why Be A Line When You Can Be A Circle

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Excerpts taken from Rachel Naomi Remen’s In the Service of Life found in Noetic Sciences Review Spring 1996.
 “I think I would go so far as to say that fixing and helping may often be the work of the ego, and service the work of the soul.”
This sentence captures Remen’s main point. I think it’s genius to address one of the major factors in service. Most especially, to give a name to this issue; within its nomenclature, the problem itself can be found. Helping. The word is thrown around a lot, both in and out of service-talk. Nevertheless, the word has the same meaning in both contexts.
“A server knows that he or she is being used and has a willingness to be used in the service of something greater, something essentially unknown.” 
This “major factor,” as I’ve put it, is dealing with cognizance; the server has to be aware of the consequences of his actions. The issue begins when someone is performing an action for someone else, and lacks an awareness for the essence of their action. Its quality, intent, and recipient are all factors of this essence. For example, if a waiter’s quality of work is sub par, he walks away with no tip at the end of the night. When Jimmy Rollins hits a foul ball and it hits someone in the stands, he had no intent of harming that fan. Finally, the passive individual -the recipient of the action- also has to be aware of the action. When you put a dollar bill into the soda machine, it has to recognize the paper before it processes the transaction.
“The wholeness in us serves the wholeness in others and the wholeness in life. The wholeness in you is the same as the wholeness in me. Service is a relationship between equals.
I would like to point out that Remen’s idea of solidarity is not linear or hierarchical. Not to put words in anyone’s mouth, but somewhere down the line, when I was developing an initial definition of solidarity, I must have heard the words “meeting the passive individual on their level.” In my mind, this would require a higher individual to lower him/herself to a lower level. And in Remen’s concept of service, this would be no different from helping. The ego would be lowered, not the soul.
“In fixing there is an inequality of expertise that can easily become a moral distance.
My simple solution is that Western thought of linear paths (e.g. Hell-Earth-Heaven stacked vertically) isn’t suited for solidarity. If one can take a flat circle ‘O’ and place it horizontally so that it’s flat, you get an even plane. The same thing would happen if you cut planet Earth like a guacamole; the insides of the two halves would be flat planes. It’s from this model that I think a more appropriate definition of solidarity would derive. Servers and those being served exist on this one plane. Equals. There would be no lowering to serve others; just crossing the circle-plane to reach them.
“When you serve, you see life as whole.”
In terms of my time at Mercy Neighborhood Ministries, one of the earlier realities I struggled with was that we were exempt from helping. Sure, from time to time, we helped open milk cartons for clients whose gnarled fingers couldn’t do the trick without spilling it, but there was no constant physical activity that would boost my ego (as Remen put it.) In this sense, I did feel some sort of internal reaction to the actual service I performed. After the crashing and burning of my ego that resulted from the deficit of help I was able to dish out, there was nothing to do but be refilled with Remen’s concept of wholeness.

Written by Jack Viere

April 14, 2012 at 6:04 pm