He realised this, and saw that negativity grows and spreads, touching other people and spreading into their actions too. With this he then reasoned that if negativity could grow then so could goodness and peace.
Armed with this idea he started to face the hostility of this man with politeness and respect. He was not excessively nice and false. He was respectful.
Guess what? This was enough. Very soon the man changed and he too started to act respectfully. Now they still don’t like each other and will never be what you could call friends but they have created an atmosphere of distance and respect between them.
This caused me to think on responsibility of actions.
Someone once wrote of the idea that life is rather like a large stew.
I thought we would look at that idea today.
So let us imagine we have a huge stew pot or cauldron. We all come along and add things to it and we are all going to eat from it.
Now most of us know that if we are going to eat from this pot then we have to put in good meat and good vegetables because this makes a much better stew.
Yet there are some who add things which are not so good. Maybe a rotten potato and an old shoe! Now these things are floating about in the stew maybe they won’t cause much change to the taste but someone will get them when they come to eat.
Now the person who gets the shoe or the rotten potato has a choice. They can add good things in the hope that next time the chances are they will get a good bowl or they can be so annoyed and choose to add something from the rubbish bin too.
Now the laws of probability tell us if they add more good things the chance of someone drawing the horrible thing is much less. If they choose to add horrible things then there is more chance that someone will get that thing. The more rubbish we add the more sour becomes the stew for all. The more great vegetables and meat we add the better the stew for all
It is our choice how we respond to negative events.
We can repay with negativity or with positivity. The more we choose to go with positivity the better it is for everyone.
The ancient Greek philosophers had a word for this Eudaimonia. This is often translated as leading a flourishing life. Our life as humans flourishes because we act with goodness. Not because any law giver is telling us to do it. We as Pagans do not need a list of THOU SHALT NOT. We act because it creates the best for all. Our ethical paths are there to grow Eudaimonia. Not from fear of damnation or hell but because it is good for all mankind.
This stew pot analogy also helps us explain in part why sometimes bad things happen to good people and why sometimes bad people don’t seem to pay for what they do. It does seem that there is community karma at work. We are all responsible for the wellbeing of all our brothers and sister and our Earth. Our personal choices can make a huge difference to someone we might not even know. We can create Eudaimonia or we can destroy it.
Yes sometimes we may throw a shoe in and when we come to eat we will get the shoe back but this does not always happen. There is some randomness in the universe and in life. All we can do is try to limit this randomness as much as possible by acting ethically.
That great Philosopher my mum knew this. From being very small she told me. “If he jumped off a bridge would you do it?”
What she meant is think for yourself. Just because someone does something you don’t have too. Just because something not to nice happens to you, you don’t need to pass it on. You are truly your brother’s keeper in a very special way.
Let us as a community make a delicious stew, So that all may eat their fill. Then we can lie around on the grass and sing and tell stories and be at peace around the evening fire with the stars shining above us.