Reciprocity & the Appreciation of Wisdom in Today’s Age
In today’s world, with a global communications network, push button everything, and essentially humanity’s collective knowledge available instantly upon demand – I’ve witnessed a depreciation of respect and appreciation for that which is truly valuable. Valuable is relative and subjective, however I believe that every human being can agree that we have certain necessities for life that are non-negotiable, mainly quality air that we breathe, fresh clean water that we drink, healthy and nutrient rich foods that we eat, and health promoting medicines. Beyond the material world, there is an infinite amount of information out there… But real knowledge is a science of how life works. It’s replicable, it’s pointing to something directly (even if that something is very subtle). On the spectrum of knowledge, it can be for how to perform certain tasks, how the human body works, how to do taxes… There are countless possible focuses… And then there is knowledge for how to live in a balanced way, knowledge for how to be happy, knowledge for how to live in harmony with all life. In a way that takes care of the most valuable material resources… In my opinion this type of knowledge is most valuable because when applied it gives a tangible experience of something that no money can buy, and no button can produce. It is something very special that I believe is our birthright and that every human being is biologically inclined to seek… This type of knowledge is sacred. It has been passed on from generation to generation as the evolution and synthesis of all trial and error that has come before it. This type of knowledge in large has been lost to many modern societies. It is still available, but it is not necessarily shared and lived. Instead it is instead forgotten, and falls into the background, drowned out by the commotion of day to day life. Just having this knowledge does not produce an actual experience, it’s only through the application that there is experience. So knowledge is useless unless it is living knowledge. The types of people who live this sacred knowledge are very rare in today’s age… In times before the internet and the boom of worldwide public transportation, people who embodied this knowledge were highly respected and sought after. They were considered wise, as we can say wisdom is the understanding that comes from living experience – and those who live the edge of humanities evolution are keepers and stewards of the wisdom / knowledge that is passed on to future generations. These wise ones would often take reclusive positions, because many societies would not be living in the ways that give the experience of balance, happiness, or harmony – so those people did their own thing. They chose to live in harmony and experience happiness over living in a society that was lost and had forgotten the ways of those who have come before. When a person sincerely wanted to find meaning and purpose and happiness, they would seek out those who were happy. There was not a button, but there were shoes, there was a pathway into the forest or up a mountain or those remote places where the wise ones lived. Often there were very very far distances with many many challenges along the way to reach these stewards of the sacred. On a quest for the sacred a sincere seeker would face inner and outer challenges along the way and find themselves in unfamiliar territory, yet they would persevere with the hope of finding what they intuitively felt existed. This journey created a type of inner growth and fundamentally shaped their character – posturing them in an attitude of great respect and reverence for the wisdom keepers and what would be shared when they finally reached what they were seeking. Empty of other desires, the seeker would arrive and many times would meet other trials until the wisdom keeper would share a drop of wisdom with the seeker. This did not come in the form of a lecture on the nature of the cosmos, this often came in the form of a lifestyle habit – like rising before the sun… It may take years before the seeker understood many deeper implications that the habit imparted upon the seeker’s life…The seeker would need to let go of the old in order to experience the reality of what the wisdom keeper had to share. This way is not old and outdated in today’s day and age – there is a science encoded into it that is just as relevant today. In order to receive something there must be an emptying out. There must be a sincere effort to let go of the old and effort to live into the new. To truly understand something takes living it, not just for a few weeks or maybe not even a few years… True understanding dawns in its own timing – it only does so once the individual has undergone the changes themselves to be able to appreciate the value of life itself… It’s a deconstruction process and only when there is emptiness is there spaciousness to truly see and be filled by life. In today’s world we have the internet, we have global transport, and we have elders who have been living these ways passed to them by their traditions – for their entire lives – who are traveling around the world to share. Or they are sharing their messages in a way that can reach people all over the world through the global communications networks. Now the wise ones from the forest or mountains are actually coming to us. THEY are the ones who make tremendous effort to reach humanity – where they are at, instead of the reverse. What I am witnessing is that the messages of the elders often come like water poured on a rock. The rock has no opening to receive. Sometimes the rock even demands the water… Its impossible… The words are useless and are soon forgotten in a sea of social media, catchphrases and imagery that our psyches are drinking in as they are constantly bombarded on a daily basis. A zen monk would contemplate a one line verse for months or years single pointedly until true wisdom dawned through letting every other pursuit go, living in utter simplicity and devotion. There is a law in Andean cosmology called Ayni. Ayni translates as reciprocity – it is the universal law that there must be giving in order to receive. Likewise in a more modern application of universal principles I learned that in offering classes or workshops or any form of sharing – in order for the “student” to receive, there must be a “sacrifice” or an offering made. This does not have to be financial, it can also be effort, service, or some type of sacrifice in one way or another. It is not about paying the “teacher”, it is about creating a space for there to be a receptivity to be able to receive. If there is not space, then there is actually more work for the one sharing, the energy doesn’t flow naturally, and many times the person sharing finds themselves with a room full of rocks instead of feathers blowing in the wind… I was talking with my wife the other day and discussing how a person with $1 million dollars would need to give more than a person with $100… There needs to be a sacrifice that actually creates space. Ajahn Chah of the Theravadin Buddhist tradition used to say, “if you give a little you get a little, if you give a lot you get a lot, if you give everything you become total peace.” Today we have societies that do not understand the value of respect. There is not a value on that which is valuable – there is a value of the dollar. People think they can throw money at things and move mountains that have taken hundreds of thousands of years – grain by grain – to form. Yes there are big machines that can be hired, but there will continue to be the same sense of disconnection and seeking as before… To really receive there must be a deconstruction and humbling – to fall flat on one’s face and live there – face in the Earth. Then we must let the Earth move us, at Earth speed and let the wisdom of life wash us clean of all desires. We cannot peel away the petals of a flower and expect to receive the beauty or fragrance of a flower… We have incredible wisdom keepers and elders from traditions which are fading as global consumerism becomes faster and faster moving and more and more forgetful of who we are and where we have come from – and what is truly valuable. These elders have something very special to share, but no amount of words can convey this reality. In order to receive there needs to be sincerity and humility, respect and sacrifice of the old – with a willingness to apply the knowledge to experience the new. When the elders come to us, the law of Ayni, reciprocity, still exists. There must be sincere effort in order to receive – it is a science of life, it is the wisdom of how things work… Let us all come to life with humility to learn at the feet of those who have something valuable to share. Let us listen to our elders and live forth their wisdom in order to walk in harmony with all of life and be the elders of tomorrow for the good of all life today and for all future generations.