But By The Content Of Their Character
I am in Louisville, visiting my mom en route to Switzerland. This Saturday morning I’m in my favorite coffee shop and I’m thinking about Aunt Bessie. Aunt Bessie lived just a few hundred yards downhill from Brandenburg Methodist Church, where she had been a lifelong member. On April 3, 1974, a historic “super outbreak” of tornadoes tore across the Midwest, and devastated many communities, including Brandenburg, Kentucky. That day took the lives of many, including Aunt Bessie, and her sister, my grandmother Emma Wilson.
At her memorial, the minister spoke of “Miss Bessie,” and how for years, even in her advancing years, would walk up the hill to the church to water the flowers with her watering can. No one had tasked her and few knew how the pots of flowers so constantly showered churchgoers with the beauty and glory of their Creator. The minister described her as “our saint with a watering can…” Her spiritual practice was quiet service.
Today it is Veterans Day. A small group of Veterans have gathered here in the coffee shop and are together quietly acknowledging the day with the songs of their service — standing when their service song is sung.
In a world rife with selfishness and greed, where “success” is gauged by the number of followers on social media, social status, wealth, power, etc., few exemplify generosity of spirit as do our military veterans. Service. It’s become old-fashioned. In part because society has lost its way, weakened by the seduction of individual interest, availability of distraction, impoverishment of attachment, and the whirring machinery of addictive offerings at every turn.
“Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers” (Wordsworth). Orienting to common cause, the ability to relate in community, and basic human ethics — even in the face of global ecosystem collapse and social strife, prospects for geopolitical armageddon — has eluded us. Unifying frameworks (family, religion, the pursuit of character and the common good) collapse as the stress and trauma of this moment have, like a parasite, silently infected our very nervous systems.
You know the metaphor, right? How the toxoplasmosis parasite causes rodents to be attracted to cats so that they are eaten, and the parasite is then furthered through cats’ fecal matter? (Read the article on NBC News) That’s our situation. Stress changes us without our knowledge, and often against our better judgment we spread the disorder.
In bringing Organic Intelligence® into awareness for people, I am myself reluctantly, but necessarily, wading into the murky waters of commerce and competition in a context of systemic power politics & privilege, of social media, of advertising, etc., etc. Yet Organic Intelligence offers a vision that says it’s a quality greater than oneself that matters — something soul-ish, something deeper, something caring, collective & cooperative, where service is spiritual practice, and the skill we train is listening, listening for a still, small voice…
In this moment, I know people who are quietly engaged in service — unannounced, unadvertised even to friends, or on social media, and with sacrifice to their own convenience and comfort. Such service, as a spiritual and personal development practice, they understand as its own reward. So if you recognize yourself in this writing, I am acknowledging you, and intend whatever energy of support I can offer to your effort — knowing that you don’t seek attention, the limelight, or even thanks. But if this is your path, your way, I want you to know that you are not alone, and that among our quiet community, you are recognized and known, and that your efforts of quiet service speaks with greater volume than all the voices crying “look at me!,” “they’re bad, not like me!,” “my way!,” “do what I say is good to do!”
And Aunt Bessie, and all the saints gone before us who carried watering cans, babies, rifles, comrades, hope, courage, and vision — all of these see your work, and would multiply your unsought reward, which is a most rare and precious commodity — character.
Our own work here at Organic Intelligence continues quietly in areas of concern, like racial equality, economic justice, and care for all. Your participation in our programs helps us help others.