[Editor Note: we’re exploring a completely different format for this 20-month-long blog!]
In my life I have known someone who seems to be a prisoner of forces within himself that he doesn’t understand and which cause him to repeatedly engage in dangerous promiscuous encounters. When I have asked him why he does this he responds that he doesn’t know why, but that when the day comes that he does understand, he will stop.
His mistake, and that of many of us, is to view our inner and outer lives as somehow unrelated to each other, as if only the interior life can inform the exterior, and not the other way around as well. My experience in life has been that sometimes I need to change what I am doing or the way in which I am doing it in order to come to understand why I am doing it. In fact, I am slightly aware of a Japanese form of therapy called Morita therapy, whose premise is that if our behavior is screwing up the happiness in our life, we cannot simply wait until we understand why we do what we do: Sometimes, changing what and how we do something can give birth to a new understanding within us about ourselves. In other words, just as our interior life can inform us about ourselves, so too changing our exterior behavior can unlock within us some understanding about our mysterious motivators.
Gravity works whether or not I understand why it does. Just because I don’t understand how something works does not mean that it doesn’t; it only means that its truth is not yet understood by me. My understanding of how electricity works is very limited; nonetheless, when I flip a switch I still expect the fan to work and cool me off. Just because we don’t see how changing our behavior can give birth to interior enlightenment… doesn’t mean that it can’t!
And to that end, even if we feel little compassion for others, we should engage in compassionate acts of kindness towards others. Such participation in kindness, even when one does not feel especially kindly, has the power to grow within us that seed of the Divine’s own compassion and bring it into the mature fruition of our spiritual life, which was the very reason why it was planted within us. Waiting until we “feel” like a good person has absolutely nothing to do with goodness: Goodness is not only what we wish upon others and the world, it is also what we do to them.
Determine that each day we are going to engage in one random act of kindness, regardless of how we feel. In the end: Who cares what we feel… just do it! Who knows, it might change us and unlock the mystery of ourselves.