the other day i was wondering whether some of the difficulties we experience stem from the fact that we don’t understand what our share of the world is. our share of love, food, comfort, adventure, security, knowledge – all these things we all want (hunger / lust for?)
this came from observing emily, a delightful little 11-month-old girl who i have the pleasure of seeing once a week. the second she is loose in a room she sets about exploring it, with this huge grin on her face. she claims her space with glee and vigour. when something goes wrong, she starts crying, looks for her mom, and mom comes and picks her up and soothes her. also, when she goes too far, she quite willingly accepts being moved somewhere where it’s safer and more comfortably for all around. she is totally in the moment, knows what she wants, goes for it, and accepts natural limits.
i don’t know about you, but this is – unfortunately – not how i would describe myself. at worst, i am in the past or future, don’t know what i want, don’t go for what i have a hunch i might want, and don’t know, see or accept natural limits. and at best, i have moments like this delightful little girl.
what is my share of the world? what would it mean to have/own it? where/what is “my world”, anyway? geographically, my world is, say, the southern stretch of british columbia, the circle that goes from the kootenays to vancouver, victoria, tofino, pemberton, kamloops and back to the kootenays.
looking at the square kilometres available, the overall population figures and the population density in this corner of the world, i figure that my share of the land is about .112 square kilometres. i know that sounds silly. but since i am confused about what my share of the world is, it’s helpful – for me at least – to have some kind of picture. .112 square kilometres is what i can potentially claim as my range, my territory.
that also means, of course, that i am responsible for it. but it’s interesting how i have to say that right away. i would feel terribly uncomfortable about “claiming” something without immediately talking about my responsibility for it. i am an adult, after all, i have responsibilities! it may just be that this is the problem.
perhaps if as a child i am not allowed to range freely, or if on the other hand nobody shows me my natural boundaries, i get confused. then i have to somehow come up with a way of making sense of this wide space around me all by myself. my way of doing this was to claim responsibility as soon as i possibly could. i used to be very proud that people would call me “wise beyond my years!”. what it means was that i found i had to become an adult “before my years”.
other people deal with that in other ways. greed and hoarding can be another way out of the confusion. this, in turn, can take various shapes. it can be naturally assuming that everything is up for grabs, it can mean an overdeveloped sense of entitlement, it can mean a life filled with jealousy and envy (because someone else “got there first”), etc.
be that as it may, here we stand – all of us who did not develop a healthy sense of what’s ours to claim – and what do we do now? how do we learn to claim what’s ours: our truth, our share of love, our share of wealth, our share of sorrow?
i don’t know what the answer is. (i guess that’s partly because i think there is rarely the answer to anything). one way of looking at it could be to make it more concrete, as i did a little earlier. another way that occurs to me is what is done in many forms of buddhism: to learn that ultimately, there are no boundaries. that “mine” is an illusion because “i” do not exist, at least not in the way i think. we are all one, we are not separate.
great ideas, isabella, but they’re very abstract. i can’t go out and claim a piece of british columbia for myself today, and it’s unlikely that i’ll wake up enlightened tomorrow morning, secure in the knowledge that we are all one.
so what do i do in the meantime?
at least i can state my confusion. because that’s clear – this is my confusion. i can claim that.
and i’m not really saying this tongue in cheek. because this is what i can truly do: i can leave the cave of my fearful confusion and show my muddled thoughts to the world. at least i’m not in the cave anymore. at least i’m venturing out, like my little friend emily.