People who treat others with kindness and respect, who put the well-being of others ahead of their own, are sometimes patronized as much as respected. Their virtues are thought of as only appropriate for school rooms and Sunday church. Once you’re out on the playground so to speak, away from the watchful eye of the teacher or minister, the law of the jungle is thought to reassert itself. In the realms of business and bare-knuckle politics the only rules are the ones set by the strong. It’s as though ethics and a humble attitude are a consolation for children and those too weak and simple to make the cut.
Our instinctual primate behavior, described as the eight worldly winds in the Dharma, are seen as the final arbiter of our worth – status, success, domination, and gratification.
In other words, peace, love, and understanding are for chumps.
Decent people are weak.
This is exactly backwards.
Decent people are strong. Decent people are disciplined. Decent people must constantly push against the immorality of the world and guard against the more unsavory aspects of their own animal nature.
The worldly have only one priority, themselves, and one standard of truth, their own delusional mind. Their little life and its struggles are all that exist for them.
For the decent, every person is a priority and truth must be constantly sorted out from the chaos around them. They live in a much larger and more complex world — the world of noble ideals and eternal standards of conduct that they try their best to meet every day of their lives. This is hard work, mentally, physically, and spiritually.
But, there are compensations. The worldly are half-blind, seeing only their material existence. They are half-numb, feeling only animal pleasures, transient and fleeting. When they succeed, they only have a moment’s peace before their appetites drag them toward the next mirage their mind has generated. When they fail, they have nothing to fall back on but their pain and confusion.
Decent people, good people, live in the light of eternity. They are brothers and sisters with all who have gone before, keeping the lamp of civilization lit. Good people help the next generation learn to tame themselves and see a higher way. They are willing to forfeit their own privileges to make a stronger community for everyone. They help those who are still stumbling because of difficult circumstances throw off their shackles of ignorance and join the true circle of humanity.
Is there any other work worth doing? Is their any other life worth living? How sad it is to be caged by one’s appetites, to never feel the pull of a higher calling, to always live in the garbage of one’s unruly passions.
Once you are freed and you realize what it really means to be human, you can’t imagine going back to your old life, despite the new burdens you have taken on.
Even though we don’t fully understand the mystery of our lives, we feel the pull of the infinite — and we answer as best we can.