Saturday, October 4, 2008

Do Small Acts With Great Love

If life is hip hop, and hip hop is life, shouldn't an MC use her microphone not only to give voice to THE truth OUT THERE but also to HER truth WITHIN? Can she rhyme about society's ills if she can't reveal her own ills? Can she ask us to confront the evil in the world if she hasn't stared the evil within her in its face? How can we expect society to cure itself of all with which it is plagued, when she can't cure herself? Can we afford to preach goodness in the world but check our preaching at the door to our own home? Am I so busy spreading social justice, that I forget about my personal justice and justice to those I love? Can I make change from an island where I stand alone, or must I first make change within my own complex ecosystem?

Love begins at home. We need to heal ourselves so that we can heal the hood. You see, it is all one. We are not separate from the world out there - when harm is done to the world, harm is done to us. When we do harm to ourselves, and those around us, we do harm to the world. Yesterday, an amazing artist and person I know, Leon, sent me one of his favorites quotes - the Hermetic principle: "As above, so below; as within so without." It is all one - we are fooled into thinking that the distinction is real between our inner journey and our journey in the world.

I grew up in the Hindu tradition, but went to Christian schools. I used to believe that Hinduism / Buddhism were selfish religions because there was such an emphasis on liberating the self and self-enlightenment. The other religions seemed to explicitly talk about serving others. So my righteous social justice-oriented self resisted Eastern traditions for that reason. It was only as an adult that I read more in Buddhism and realized that I'm not ready to serve the world until I have served myself, until I have examined my own suffering and how it impacts me and those around me. When you can finally start to create love within, that love becomes so powerful that it emanates outwards, and then people in the world can absorb it. Activists said, "We don't want you to come here to do good until you've worked on yourself and done good by you and by those around you."

The shattering of that duality was an important lesson for me. There's a lot of folks out there talking the talk of progressivism, compassion, peace, justice, self-knowledge, but who haven't really figured out what it means for themselves. And in the process they hurt more than just themselves.

So I encourage you to try incorporating these love lessons into your own personal life:

-- stay mindful of all your actions and words; don't let your dark side become your master - in everyday situations, strengthen your faith in the positive aspects of your mind - love, compassion, honest communication, empathy, and patience

--meet each moment with pure love, give as much as you can to those around you with the intention of pure love, because each moment is precious and cannot be taken for granted

--value the gift of the relationships you share with those you love, no opportunity should be lost in being kind, letting go of petty issues and forgiving, in being generous, in bringing as much comfort as you can to those who may need it

--make sure that those you love know beyond a shadow of a doubt how much you love them - by everything you say, everything you do, and everything you show them. It makes all the difference.

Gandhi's words were timeless in their truth: "We must be the change we wish to see in the world." Practice love in your own lives and the world will change. Just you watch.


Mogambo said...


Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Your note reminded me of the poetry of Bulleh Shah. There is a kafi called "Ik Nukte Gal vich Mukdi" sung by Abida Parveen in "Chants Soufis du Pakistan" in particular that I thought expresses the notion that one should conquer onself first before trying to confront Shaitaan:

"Paddh Paddh Ilm Hazaar Kitaaban
Kadi Apne Aap Nu Parhiya Nai
Ja Ja Warde Mandir Maseeti
Kadi Munn Apne Vich Warya Nai

Aiwein Larda Shaitaan De Naal Bandiya
Kadi Nafs Apne Naal Larya Nai
Aakhe Peer Bulleh Shah Aasmani Pharhna Eh
Jehda Munn Vich Wasda Ohnu Pharya Nai"

Sorry, couldn't find an acceptable translation.

The lyrics are at:

Here's the album, it's great:


VerbalKint said...

An intriguing mini-memoir. If you had to write its ending in 6 words, what would it be?

Meetali said...

Hi Jayanth,

Thanks for your comment! I'm not surprised Abida Parveen has sung about this; her lyrics are so on point. I do think its a universal theme across culture - after all, what is the evil out there but an external manifestation of the evil within ourselves? If we haven't been able to create in our own lives that love to which we aspire, how can we start to go into the world and tell others how to love? It just doesn't seem to make much sense.