Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The should/shouldn't mentality

The other night I braved the snow to go contra dancing—a real blast, if you've never tried it. It's a great aerobic workout, so fits nicely into my plan to lose a few pounds.

I had a great time, and stayed until almost the end at 10:30. On my way back to the car, I took the shortcut at a small hill through some trees that I'd taken on the way in. It was covered with snow that others had already packed down, so I thought to myself briefly, That might be icy, just before vrrrrrp taking a spill flat on my back. Thank goodness for my padded winter coat.

I wasn't harmed at all, but I did worry about the next person who would walk that way. At that moment, two gentlemen from the dance came out of the building. I called to them, saying I'd just fallen down and could they help me think of some way to warn others?

Their response surprised me, to say the least. They did not ask me if I were okay. One gentleman said almost gleefully, "Yes, the ticket taker tonight cracked her rib last week on that very spot," and the other said, "People shouldn't go that way, they should only walk on the sidewalk."

"Yes," I said, "but people will walk this way to get to their cars. How can we let them know it's icy?"

"They're not supposed to park over there. They should know to only use the sidewalk."

"Maybe they will have heard about the cracked rib. Maybe you could talk to her about it."

The two of them then simply kept walking. Huh, I thought. I went inside to talk with the injured ticket lady, who suggested I tell the dance caller to make an announcement warning people, which I did. I then headed back to my car, still walking through the trees but at a place that was less slick.

This has stayed with me since then as I've tried to noodle out what was wrong with that picture. And I guess I've concluded that being mired in should/shouldn't thinking to the point that you don't feel responsible for warning people when the way ahead is treacherous doesn't do anyone any good and might even be the cause of harm.

This to me has a spiritual applicability. If we know, for example, that sleeping with your boss or dabbling in cocaine is treacherous, yet we don't speak up when our friend is about to do it, it could be that we share some of the spiritual burden of the result. If we sit by, self-satisfied that we would never do such a thing, as a young person risks their future with an unwise decision or a colleague tries something unethical, we lose some of the moral high ground by not caring enough to help.

I've done this myself, actually. I've noticed on occasion when someone is about to do something stupid, and I've thought, Well, they'll learn from that, won't they? Sometimes, yes, they do need to learn from it. Often they won't perhaps listen to my warning. And I have to be extra careful not to sound judgmental when giving that warning, but to load it with all the respect and love I can muster. But if I do and say nothing, I'm not really being a friend to them. And what a failing it is to feel self-satisfied when my inner prediction of disaster comes true.

Saying something, and making that something filled with love, can at least let the person know you care and that you're there for them if things should go awry. And perhaps you're the only one on the spot who can see the way. If so, you're the guide appointed by the Divine to make a difference. Don’t let the "should/shouldn't" mentality get in your way.

Who is telling mankind of the foe in ambush? Is the informer one who sees the foe? If so, listen and be wise. Escape from evil, and designate those as unfaithful stewards who have seen the danger and yet have given no warning. --Science and Health

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