Saturday, November 29, 2008

Finding Yourself (In Prison)

I turned on NPR in the middle of an interview this afternoon. I don't know who the interviewee was, but it seemed that he was an advocate for prisoners who had completed their jail sentences and were being reintroduced into society (usually not very successfully). In the 10 minutes I listened to him, he made a few really potent points...

He said that the five virtues that all religions agree upon are STRONG, CALM, KIND, HUMBLE, and CAPABLE. That when we're faced with hard times, these are the traits that will get us through the chaos, pain, or sorrow. This struck me as a fascinating list. Calm? Capable? Surprising -- I've never really considered those as virtuous -- but so on target. You really can't successfully get yourself through any challenge without these qualities.

Sidebar...I recently read an editorial in our local paper (from a syndicated columnist whom I can't recall), that focused on parents who just want their kids to "be happy". The author wrote that this is a relatively new trend and is leading to an over-indulged generation that can't cope. He suggested that we should want "strong" and "intelligent" for our kids instead of "happy" because happy isn't really going to get you through life. I couldn't agree more. Sure, I'd do anything for my kids to be happy, but hopefully that happiness will be a by-product of first being strong, calm, kind, humble, and capable.

Back to NPR...another point that resonated was that the interviewee said that as people face inner challenges, they often look to spend money or hire someone to fix their problems. Rarely do they truly look inward at themselves. His point was that prisoners don't have any resources other than their own souls, so when they look inward, they do it under the purist possible circumstances, and they end up stronger and more absolute than the average person. Whether I buy this, I'm not sure.

First, I'm admittedly wary of former criminals and their self-actualization journeys. Someone who has done time in the Big House makes me wary. (Guess I need to practice a little Buddha love here.)

Second, therapy sessions have certainly helped me find some clearer paths in the thick of my mind's forest. So I've used resources to help me look inward, and it worked for me. I'm sure I wouldn't be where I am today without some objective third-party nudging. Nevertheless, relying on only yourself for self-discovery sounds like a pretty liberating approach. But it seems like prison or an ashram in India -- where you have absolutely no other options -- are the only places you could do that. So I guess us average people will just need to pay up to find ourselves.

A cop out? Probably. But I'll accept strong, calm, kind, humble, and capable in any way they find me. Some truly glorious personal goals indeed.

(486 words)

No comments:

Post a Comment