Life Is Common
Life is messy. Today began at 3:30 AM. Well, for me it did. For my computer, the day has yet to start. I did post a picture earlier. If you follow me on twitter on Facebook, then you saw the picture yesterday. I took it while waiting in the drive-through of a fast food/drive-in eating establishment. It is hard to tell but the trees in the picture are growing on a steep incline that continually suffers ground erosion and washout. Yet, these ordinary trees, so common in this area, continue to hand on, to defy gravity and logic in order to thrive. They accept their common being and make something amazing out of their existence.
Yes, life is messy. I have stated that fact before and will no doubt continue to say it again in a number of ways with an even greater number of illustrations. Because we are here, because we exist, we often think life should be straightforward. Certainly, I thought so when I turned on my computer. I would push on and it would respond. Many times, because we share so much in common with one another, we think we should have what they have. That’s not really called something in common, though; that’s called entitlement.
Diogenes of Sinope lived in the fourth century of the period known as BCE or Before the Common Era/Time. Known in history as Diogenes the Cynic, he might appear as an odd being to be the father of a school of thought in the field of philosophy but that is exactly what he became – the father of Cynicism. As you might guess, Diogenes of Sinope was not one who answered the proverbial question “Is the glass half full or half empty?” with a positive response. Born in the area of modern Turkey, Diogenes was the son of a wealthy money-changer. He was exiled for minting coins under his father’s dominion with base or lesser metals and went to Athens.
Diogenes made begging his profession. He extolled the virtues of his simple living and rained criticisms on the heads of those who favored worldly possessions and materialism. When asked once why he was walking under a portico or porch backwards, Diogenes replied with a question: “Why do people walk backward through life?” It is a valid question. We all know that person who preaches environmental concern and then gets in their sixty thousand dollar gas-guzzling vehicle. We’ve all had to plan a dinner party around the vegetarian who frowns loudly – very loudly and often – omnivores, all the while wearing a leather jacket which matches their alligator handbag and snakeskin shoes.
Despite the anecdotes which might portray Diogenes as a man with antisocial and/or mental health issues, he encouraged living in harmony and adopted his personal lifestyle to encourage living in harmony with nature, albeit from a negative viewpoint. He saw mankind as being equal with nature, neither above it nor its master which nature served.
Diogenes truly saw all men and women as equals. No one person was better than another. His doctrine of Cynicism, the questioning of everything, maintained that the purpose of life was to life a life of virtue, virtue found in harmony and balance with nature. He encouraged self-sufficiency and dedicated his life to austerity and shamelessness. His lifestyle might seem absurd but he used it to illustrate the needlessness for many accepted conventions in life.
Diogenes saw much of what we devote our living to as being a roadblock to real living. The man or woman who spends half their waking day working and then a third of the remaining half traveling to and from work is left with two-thirds of a half for living, sleeping, interacting with family and friends, exercising, and relaxing. In other words, twelve hours spent working and three to four hours spent commuting leave six or seven hours for getting in three hours to eat, seven to eight hours to sleep, and three hours for personal time, family interaction, and relaxation. Hint: 12 working plus 3 commuting plus 3 eating plus 7 sleeping plus 3 does not equal 24. Of course, most people spend 10 hours working on the clock, another 4 checking work emails at home or studying to prepare for job advancement, three hours commuting, two hours to eat three meals and any snacks, and five hours sleeping; adds up to 24 but personal time has been forgotten. No matter how you add it up, the common man does not live a balanced life. Diogenes foretold our common living long before our current Common Era/Time.
In the city of Boston, a young man is in the sentencing phase of his trial for participating in a bombing that killed three, injured many more, and frightened an entire nation and world. I was almost two thousand miles away, have never been to Boston, will never run a marathon, and yet I had a good friend whose cousin was one of those losing a limb in the bomb blast. Not once, during the course of the trial, has the defendant, a young man of legal age and considered therefore to be responsible for his actions, ever looked any of his victims in the eye. There aren’t any reports of him even looking at their faces, many of whom testified.
The rationalization that encouraged this young man’s behavior is faulty. One might claim it to be faulty on many levels, but I am not referring to moral, ethical, or religious beliefs. It is faulty because it fails to see. It forgets one important thing. We live in the Common Era/Time. Common means shared, mutual, joint, collective, corporate. Whether it was BCE or ACE, mankind lives with mankind. Common Era/Time is the period of man and we are all therefore “common”. We are all one.
We need to see. For almost two years I attended a meeting every Wednesday evening. The meeting was held in a room about sixteen feet by twenty feet so we were sitting in chairs that were very close to each other. Just before a break, the same group of people attending would stand up and greet one another, and often people would hug. For almost two years I went faithfully every week and every week the same man would approach me, greet me, and hug me. However, close to the end of the two years I saw the man at a larger meeting in the same building but in a different room. When someone said “And of course you know each other”, someone who knew we had been at the same meeting on Wednesday evenings for almost two years, he replied: “No. We’ve never met.” I do not want to imply the insincerity of this gentleman but even though he’d touched me, physically greeting me with words and hugs, for almost one hundred and four Wednesdays consecutively, he had never seen me.
We need to see each other. The bombing defendant did not and does not see men and women and children. He failed to see the eight-year-old boy next to whom he placed a backpack with a bomb inside. He saw only the propagandistic words of a greedy, ego-driven leader happy to sacrifice the defendant to gain notoriety and fame. There was no religious tenet involved; no admonition of faith in the action of destruction and terror. The defendant needed to “see” those standing there. He needs to “see” what his admittedly has done. The lives he has forever changed.
We need to recognize that we need to truly “see” each other, recognize our commonalities, the corporation of our beings. The man or woman sitting beside you may be a beloved companion or an unknown entity. That doesn’t matter. We are all a part of each other. We share this world. We are connected in the fabric of the life of the world, in the weaving of lives past and present and future. We are life and life is common. We need to walk forward and see the beauty of creation, not retreat backward into perceived social requirements or because of fear.
Life is messy and that is what we all have in common. I am certain I am not the only one experiencing computer frustration today. I have that in common with others. We all feel, love, cry, hunger, want, and yes, live. Walk forward in your living today and let yourself experience the beauty of creation. Give a smile; receive a smile. Share a laugh; hug and share a tear. Life may be common but living… Living is extraordinary!