I recently watched the very moving documentary, “Rhythm Is It”, which documents a dance project that took place in Berlin a few years ago. In this project, approximately two hundred inner city kids performed a dance piece to Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rites of Spring), by Igor Stravinsky.
The choreographer explains how our culture, and particularly the adults and parents of our culture, have forgotten how essential the rites of sacrifice or offering are for spiritual and artistic creativity.
We see these times of economic crisis as a time “to do without”, but not as an occasion for re-evaluation and regeneration.
Over the last decade, through personal loss, financial instability and job insecurity, I’ve had to question what it is like to grow old without the likelihood of retirement, nor the comfort of a supportive extended family. I spent of few of those years kicking and screaming in stubborn denial, and then anger.
Conversations and interactions with friends and family (my adopted family, or tribe) have made me realise that the uncertainty we live with and the sacrifices we make are a necessary condition for developing humility and compassion. These people have helped me learn the lesson of offering up my “need for more”, in the hope of saving precious resources: whether it is hope in developing the intellectual potential of our children, or improving the air we breathe or the water we drink. The sacrifices I make are perhaps not always voluntary, but I do make them more freely than I did ten years ago.
My generation (I’m now 51) have lived rather blissfully, ignorant of economic consequences, disrespectful of environmental balance. We chose our professions greatly out of personal interests or possible gains. My children’s generation do not have that luxury. They can still consider their interests and gains, but they must also consider how their choice of profession will help “save” or “change” the world. I am looking for friends, family, spiritual leaders, and even politicians to show me how to live my life more fully, despite its existential insecurities. I have two real examples in my mother and my mother-in-law. My mother, the negative example, is doing her best to squander away a large fortune, while squirreling away leftovers in her refrigerator. Her life practices are very much, as you stated, “managing a little generosity here with a large dose of self-interest there”.
My mother-in-law is the opposite. She brought 9 children into this world, and at 69 she is still working part time because her meagre pension (after working on a production line for 28 years) is not enough to support the rent of her one bedroom apartment and her humble lifestyle. Last year, she moved into an apartment across the hall from our apartment. Since doing this, her steps are lighter and her face shines when she comes over to chat with us, or when I go over with a cup of tea to watch bingo with her on the television.
I’m sorry if this is too long of a response. It’s been fun to write and I can only hope there might be a few ideas in there of interest to you.
More information about text formats