Saturday, April 14, 2007

Call for comments...Repost...

I'm reading a book right now by Sue Monk Kidd called While the Heart Waits. I just finished the chapter dealing with our culture's inability to wait. I will now return this post (a bit sheepishly) and wait. It's okay for things to just sit there. I will try to learn to wait. Carrie

What do you think constitutes a "life well-lived"? What should our lives be? What gives your life purpose and meaning? Are there any "shoulds" and "oughts" when it comes to how we live and how we treat others? Do you believe in eternal consequences, or does the here and now matter more? Or are both important equally? Are labels helpful or hurtful when interacting with others (self-identifying as a Christian, agnostic, conservative, minority, etc.)? What does it mean to live for others? How can we be Christ to others? Or if we don't self-identify as "Christian," what does it mean to sacrifice for others?

Does it make sense to live for others if this life is all there is? Is it understandable that some feel like living for oneself is the way to live? How can we encourage self-sacrificing behavior, love for fellow man, and justice for all, especially the poor and defenseless. Does democracy work?

Do you think people are basically good? Do you think it is a natural phenomenon for people to love and serve others? Why do some people oppress and take advantage of others?

I'm not looking for anyone to defend their thoughts. I am on an information finding mission. Please feel free to answer any or all of the questions, or to think up a new question!! I may ask for clarification, but I am not setting anyone up to have to defend themselves.

Myriad events in my life are prompting the questions, from recent blog discussions to looking at the Catholic Church. Like I'm trying to understand how and why people think differently.

Thanks in advance for any contributions!
Carrie

12 comments:

julieunplugged said...

Great post with provocative and important questions.

I, like you, am wrestling what it means to live for others. I don't know what it means in today's world for me. I know what it means in my family. But when I look around me at the larger scope of history, I don't know.

I do know that whether I've been a conservative Christian, a non-Christian or a post-Christian religious Christian, making a difference in this life has mattered to me. Is that genetic? Is it a part of the noblese oblige that comes with having grown up in privilege? Is it the result of centuries of western civilization that has been influenced by Christian worldview?

I guess it doesn't matter to me. Some impulse guides many of us to care for each other in some way (whether we think the difference we're making is for beyond the grave or in this life). For me, the impulse is actually identical.

What has changed for me is that I don't put stock in the afterlife as the chief reason for doing anything.

And I don't think so much about what I "ought" to be doing as what I can do that helps.

Julie

Bilbo said...

Hi Carrie,

I have been lurking on your blog since you came on line. I found your blog via Julie's blog.... I like what Julie's comments implies regarding how meaning and living for others is a local, individual matter. For me, I live alone and am single so how I provide meaning, purpose and living for others is not going to look the same as the lives of you who are married and living with children. Also, I have a lot of emotional pain in my past which has led me to a place where I have been exploring what it means to take "care of my own soul."...I say all of this to suggest that living for others and discovering what gives your life purpose and meaning is not going to look the same for everyone. Obviously, living a life worth living does and ought not include a life of violence, abuse, greed, and self absorption but as far what it might look like the potential positive possibilities are limitless...which...makes life interesting and worth living in my book....Right now I am going to do some yard work and then strategically place the new Gnomes I recently bought somewhere in the back yard...because...I find doing yard work and being creative meaningful and good for my soul

carrie said...

What has changed for me is that I don't put stock in the afterlife as the chief reason for doing anything.


This makes sense, Julie. It really does. It helps me see a lot of things. Caring for others is worth doing in-and-of itself.

And I don't think so much about what I "ought" to be doing as what I can do that helps.

Another good point. It's interesting how these paradigms come to influence us without us necessarily evaluating them. (What we "should and ought" to do.)

carrie said...

Bilbo- Thanks for reading. I really appreciate it. I've read your comments frequently on Julie's blog.

I definitely want to see how people live their lives in different circumstances than mine. I can get too insulated within my "married with children" world and forget to look around me. That was actually one of the thoughts that prompted this post. Who am I not seeing? What needs am I not noticing? Also, what gifts in others am I not seeing and encouraging (or benefitting from due to my own blindness)?

I agree it isn't going to look the same for everyone. I welcome a look outside my own box.

I hear you about the value of yard work. The past two years I've done very little because we've worked inside the house. But this year I hope to get back out there. My yard is hardly impressive, but it brings me pleasure. (Although I don't have gnomes, which might mean I'm missing something very important. I did have Alice and the White Rabbit for many years. But, alas, only Alice remains. A well-placed soccer kick took the Rabbit out.)

SusansPlace said...

One thing I've realized is that in living for me, taking care of myself and interests, I am making a positive impact in the life of my children. They are seeing a person with healthy "self-esteem" or at least enough sense to know that unless I am healthy and taking care of myself, I can't take care of them properly. I'm not advocating forgetting responsibilities or being selfish, but I am advocating healthy self-care. The difference was a big aha! for me. I think healthy self-care(which will look different for everyone) is the first way we contribute to society. From there, we branch out into those interests and people that are part of our small circle and the spokes that radiate from that circle.

Susan

Susanne B. said...

You know, Carrie, your blog is so thoughtful and deep that it makes my head spin.... :)

I agree with Julie -- although I'm a committed Christian with belief in an afterlife, I don't really think about what happens after death affects how I treat others. It's how I live in the here and now that's important.

I believe people to be intrinsically good, but that comes from my middle-class background and being able to trust the people in my life.

I've always had a somewhat romantic view of "living for others"; my favorite character in Little Women was never Jo the writer -- it was Beth who lived cheerfully for others. She has always been my ideal -- still is, which is silly because she's fictional.

I have good intentions of helping others, but my physical limitations make it difficult to actually DO what I want to do. But my intentions often fel stronger than my actual follow-through, illness or no illness.

Anyway, it's late and I've forgotten some of the other questions in your post, even though I've read it daily since you posted it. But these are great questions to chew on ... wish I had more brain to do your post justice, Carrie. :)

Ampersand said...

Carrie, these are challenging questions and my answers, while revealing my worldview, also reveal the incompleteness of my conclusions about these matters!

What do you think constitutes a "life well-lived"? To live as authenitically as possible. To do things because I want to and not because I am coerced by others or by group norms.

What gives your life purpose and meaning? Living now, in the moment, being open to whatever may happen, not shying from anything out of fear or doubt.

Are there any "shoulds" and "oughts" when it comes to how we live and how we treat others? I’m not sure, I like to live without shoulds and oughts, but then again, my wants don’t include hurting anyone. I’m totally stumped when it comes to universal shoulds and oughts. Theoretically, I'm against them :).

Do you believe in eternal consequences, or does the here and now matter more? Here and now, totally. Have no certainty of an eternity. And I actually like living as a finite being.

Are labels helpful or hurtful when interacting with others (self-identifying as a Christian, agnostic, conservative, minority, etc.)? I think they are both. They are helpful when identifying something that is important to a person and central to their life; as categories of shorthand for bias and prejudice, not so helpful.

What does it mean to live for others? I’m not sure what it means. All I know is love. Love for self and others. I don’t try to translate that to living a certain way.

How can we be Christ to others? Or if we don't self-identify as "Christian," what does it mean to sacrifice for others?
I don’t value sacrifice as a specific intention. I think it comes along the way on the path of love and compassion. Sometimes just in the eye contact between strangers, or better yet, in not pulling away from or ignoring others’ pain. Being there, truly, one hundred percent present with another person without telling them or yourself a story about why it is all okay.

Do you think people are basically good? Do you think it is a natural phenomenon for people to love and serve others? Why do some people oppress and take advantage of others? I think people react out of fear. Some of this could be remedied by removing the source of fear, but even still some would still be afraid and others would still love despite fear. I am not sure why this is.

carrie said...

Susan- I like what you said about taking care of yourself first. It's like on the airplane when parents are told to put their own masks on first in an emergency. That not selfishness; it's good sense.

carrie said...

Susanne- Don't be too impressed with my "thoughtful" blog. LOL! I'm just processing out loud because that's the only way I can. I learn so much about myself as I type (or talk!).

I hadn't occured to me before that my beliefs in an afterlife could effect how I interact with others, how willing I am to help. I need to examine how my own thoughts work in that area!

Thanks!

carrie said...

Ampersand- I appreciate how you answered these questions...that you were conscious of not having a complete answer. I think that's the honest answer for most of us, even if we disagree on the parts we do feel secure about.

I don’t value sacrifice as a specific intention. I think it comes along the way on the path of love and compassion.

Perhaps I should have used "unconditional love" instead of sacrifice. I think you are right...it comes along the way on the path of love and compassion.

Thanks for all your thoughts.
Carrie

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