A TIME FOR GIVING
There is a well known song based on bible verses from Ecclesiastes Chapter 3, verses 1 to 8, which speaks of there being a time and season for every activity under heaven. This led me to thinking what the time that we are living in might be about, and it came to me that it may be that we are living in a time for giving, not just about giving to charity, important though that is, but perhaps something on a wider scale.
We have been through a time of great growth, in the West particularly, when people in general have become better off. In fact the changes that have taken place due to science and technology during the lives of pensioners today have been phenomenal. Yet at the same time there is evidence that these changes have not resulted in an outbreak of great joy and happiness. There is much talk of stress, bad health, debt problems and particularly many unhappy, alienated young people. There is also a feeling of paranoia in the atmosphere, bred by the so-called War on Terror, but also evident in a growing fear , bordering on hostility towards immigrants. We have maybe reached a point of maximum acquisitiveness which has increasingly caused us to question whether material prosperity is enough to bring real happiness. Certainly the anxiety of protecting our possessions is not a joyful state to be in.
Looking at our way of life, the image of gated communities comes to mind. Are they to keep out intruders or they imprisoning the inmates? We can picture cars, alarms set, which appear to shriek when they are touched. Internationally weapons of mass destruction threaten the countries that stockpile them as much as their ‘enemies’, both physically and financially. Another bible story comes to mind, of the man who worked for years to store up enough wealth in barns to keep him in comfort for the rest of his life. Unfortunately when he finally felt he had achieved this objective he died that very night.
It is all too easy for us to be possessed by our possessions, overwhelmed by them, robbed of our freedom to move. The insurance companies assure us that by paying into their schemes we can buy ‘peace of mind’. If only it were that easy! Christmas becomes a worry instead of a joy as our children are seduced by the advertisers into demanding what presents they ‘want’, rather than learning to accept gifts gracefully. Our capitalist economy seems to depend on the less affluent having to borrow money and pay back large amounts of interest to live up to the expectations of the consumer society. Looked at in this light a cheap holiday no longer looks so reasonable.
Taking all these factors into account it begins to appear that we are really living in survival mode with all the fear and stress that that involves. Wars take place which we are told are to protect our security and way of life, but seem to really be about power and greed, for oil and other natural resources. Richer countries hold onto military superiority in order to protect this unfair position, leading to terrorism because that is the only way poorer countries can fight back.
What I would propose to counter this rather dire situation is a complete swing in the opposite direction, in fact a change of heart as opposed to a change of mind. Really only true generosity of heart can disperse this darkness. At the moment money is the major priority. I suggest that people should come first, though of course this can and should be extended to the welfare of animals and the whole of the natural world. I believe that children and young people have a natural understanding of this principal, which is why so many of them are disenchanted and disaffected in the times we are living in, and why so many take drugs and drink too much alcohol as a means of escape. They need something to believe in to give them a sense of purpose. I feel sure that many of them would respond with enthusiasm if they could see a genuine and ethical path ahead.
A lot of the problems in this world could well melt away just by our seeking to live by more just and honest principals. If rich countries really sought to help poorer countries with true generosity rather than with a ‘what’s in it for us’ attitude the response would be different. The paranoia of being under threat is born of the fact that we know we are behaving unjustly.
In our own country many changes are taking place in hospitals and care of elderly people. Day centres are being closed. For many elderly people a weekly visit to a day centre is something to look forward to, a chance to share company and conversation with other people. These experiences cannot be evaluated in terms of money. Likewise smaller cottage hospitals are closing causing visitors to travel long distances to see relatives. If this is not possible patients may not see their loved ones, which could well delay their recovery. Centralised high-tec medicine may have it’s place but cannot replace the loving care given by nurses in small local hospitals. Warmth, cleanliness and kindness can help patients to relax leading to healing of body and spirit.
Returning to young people we could consider non-military service, a youth ‘army’ trained to help, create and construct rather than kill and destroy life, both at home and abroad, helping people in time of need. They could be involved in developing different kinds of lifestyles more in keeping with the needs of the planet in these times of global warming, such as eco-villages and smaller scale farming projects using organic methods. Young people need to be inspired by a vision that can give them a hope for the future.
When we really look at how the world works it becomes obvious that nature is generous. Trees producing fruit, air to breathe, rain falling from the sky, all freely given whether or not we believe in God, or a greater spirit. Surely as part of nature ourselves we too should be the same?
Article by Jenny