|Best time to plant a tree: 20 years ago. The 2nd best time: now. 3rd best time: about a year ago.|
The tree on the mountain grows larger slowly and imperceptibly. It spreads and gives shade, and thus through its nature influences its surroundings.... The tree on the mountain, like the trees on the earth... represents influence by example. - The I Ching
Across a multitude of beliefs in many times and nations there exists within a rule that is golden. From ancient Egypt to ancient China, religions of the East and West, all the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Baha'i), Buddhism, Hinduism, and Wicca and Scientology - this rule. Philosophers from Isocrates to Kant (though he would say not exactly, even so, close enough) to Sartre have thought themselves to this same rule.
Though often encased in doctrinal fog, ritual eccentricities, and murderous unction, this rule is plucked and shined by those believers who insist upon more from their beliefs than bludgeons or watchtowers or iron maidens. Believers not satisfied with critiques of hypocrisy, irony, and folly. Believers determined to believe anyway. Writing as Karen Armstrong does:
All faiths insist that compassion is the test of true spirituality and that it brings us into relation with the transcendence we call God, Brahman, Nirvana, or Dao. Each has formulated its own version of what is sometimes called the Golden Rule, "Do not treat others as you would not like them to treat you," or in its positive form, " Always treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself." Further, they all insist that you cannot confine your benevolence to your own group; you must have concern for everybody - even your enemies. [Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life]In 2009, invoking this rule and the compassion it calls us to embrace, Armstrong lead others to the drafting of a Charter for Compassion that called out the urgent need to make compassion "a clear, luminous and dynamic force" in our world.
Armstrong reminds us that this rule is not some notion, idea, or doctrine. It is method of living. The rule's force derives not from coming to believe it, but rather from learning to live it. She offers a daily discipline of compassion that begins with simple acts of kindness. "This need not be a grand, dramatic gesture;" she writes, "it can be a 'little, nameless, unremembered' act that may seem insignificant to you." Each day look for an opportunity to treat someone as you would like yourself to be treated. The point is not to wait for the opportunity for an act of kindness to present itself, but to seek it out, to be mindful of others.
Of course, we're probably not in the habit of looking for opportunities each day to be kind which makes it challenging to do so. After all, it's not like acts of kindness grow on trees.
Except when they do.
A bit over a year ago, I wrote in the post "Being tree" of an elm planted in Forager's backyard and of the Chinese proverb about the best time to plant a tree (i.e., 20 years ago). "With all the becoming-a-great-tree that only twenty years can bring," I said, "there are twenty years of being-a-tree along the way. All that a tree is it is already, including all that a tree can be."
Last evening this elm became one of The Giving Trees and a site of #masskindness.
Want to know more about The Giving Tree? See ABC 6 News here.
The Med City Beat here.
You might also be interested in Journey to Peace VII: Compassionate Caring for All Beings, Sunday, October 23, 2016 2:00-4:00 pm at Assisi Heights. See here.
In Lak'ech Ala K'in