So once again i was doing my mediation practice and one of the things that came up was the importance of my individual effort. I meditate in order to;
- wake up
- see things as they are
- bring more sanity and kindness into the world (literally, like bringing a gift to a friend)
- there must be other things, but those seem to cover the basics (Oh, be more satisfied with my life is another)
Depending on how you look at the first three, they all of benefit to other people, but in order for them to happen, i have to do something — like “wake up.”
The logic, as i understand it, is that if i wake up and see things as they are i will almost automatically act in a way that benefits others. Click on the Buddhism tag to find links that will expand on that. Another way to think about it is that i meditate to wake myself up, and as i wake myself up i’m helping others wake up. But the weird thing is that they have to wake up themselves, or at least notice that they’ve awoken.
So individual effort is required to wake up/ get enlightened.
Of course, not all of us spend our entire lives trying to get enlightened, or recognizing we are enlightened (which is why we call it ‘waking up’). We have work to do, friends to hang out with, cooking and cleaning, and writing blog posts. All of those take more or less individual effort.
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
I didn’t get it at first, but this is a picture of Gandhi holding the V for Vendetta mask. Both Gandhi in real life, and “V” in the movie changed their world’s; in part by individual effort. But the actual changes came about not simply by those individuals working for change, but because they motivated others to work for change as well.
But without their individual effort, nothing would have changed.
The Fetish of the Individual
So how does this fit in with the fetish of the individual – which clearly i think is a bad thing?
Well, the fetish of the individual is focusing on what is good for me, and just me. It is looking out for me and mine, a dog eat dog kind of approach.
It seems to me there might be a conflict between individual effort and the Fetish of the Individual, but as i reflect on it the conflict doesn’t really exist. Individual effort (often as part of a group effort) is required for things to happen.
What is important is the motivation for the effort, for the actions. Are we working for the benefit of others, or for the benefit of ourselves? And if we are working for the benefit of ourselves, is it the objective for us to have a decent life, or for us to have a good life at the expense of others?