This morning I had a massage. I lay on a warm table in a darkened room while a strong but gentle woman kneaded all the aches and tensions from my body.
A massage can be very good for you, but in many ways it is also the ultimate indulgence. You lie there, passively, while another person focuses all of her attention on you. Her purpose is solely to relieve your pain, your stress.
This massage was all the more special because a friend of mine paid for it as a Christmas gift. He is one of my fellow students at the Aikido dojo where I train, and he gave this same gift to several of us who teach there -- a perfect present for people whose bodies are wont to use pain to point out the errors we have made in our training.
As I was lying there, I thought about the first comment posted to Pamela's post, "This I Believe: We must do more than talk; we must act." An anonymous person said:
I don't need to act or talk about politics at all. I do not have television or newspapers in my life. I used to and they made me angry and unhappy all the time.
Perhaps this sounds ironic -- I was indulging myself in a great pleasure and yet contemplating whether one should act, or at least think, politically. But I am not engaging in irony.
In truth, both taking care of oneself -- including indulging in the occasional luxury -- and acting in the larger world are important. All too often people who are committed to "saving the world" drive themselves into the ground, never taking care of themselves, never allowing themselves the joys of life. (The same is often true of people with demanding careers that don't necessarily further the needs of the world.)
Others live in a world of total indulgence. I wonder if a massage would feel so special if you could afford one every week.
Anonymous, I'm sure, does not live in total indulgence. But I would suggest that by opting out of the political affairs of her community, her nation, her world, she tends toward the indulgent side. Just because you don't know what is being done to your neighbors, or to people you never heard of, or to your planet, doesn't mean that it isn't happening. And not paying attention does not absolve you of responsibility, especially when evil or careless things are done in your name.
There is no way any one individual can do everything that needs doing in the world. And political action is not the only thing that needs doing. But everyone needs to do something to help make the world a better place.
It's a balance -- we need to take care of ourselves and we need to take care of our world. Going too far in either direction puts things out of whack.
I would challenge those who think they must save the world to make sure and leave a little time for themselves. And I would ask those who have concluded that they will only be happy if they ignore what's going on out there to open their doors just a crack and see if there's not something they can do -- write a letter or tutor a child or vote in the school board election -- to help address the problems we all face.
Find the balance. Take care of yourself and take care of our world.
If everyone did that, I bet we'd have fewer problems crying out for solutions.