Thursday, July 12, 2007

For Your Own Good...

I've been thinking some about my values around seeking comfort and tolerating / enduring pain.

I believe there are times that it can be a positive, healthy thing to simply be present to hurting and learn from it rather that run for medication or distraction to not have to experience that difficulty. But there are also PLENTY of times when being tough and enduring pain serves no useful purpose. The trick is to figure out which is which.

In my SOC class I have a lecture I give about the functionalist view of the "sick role" where in people may be excused from ordinary expectations if they are grieving, ill, or facing some major challenge. However there are some very particular rules that each culture dictates as to how long we are willing to be sympathetic of someone going through a rough time and what we expect them to do on their own behalf to get better.

In the class we talk some about the social nuances of how we respond to someone with a chronic condition that will not get better, why we react differently to people with physical conditions than we do to those with emotional/psychological ills, and how the force of profit and commercialism in western medicine has trained us to seek to avoid pain of any kind.

I've thought some about what things make me whine or seek comfort from others and what things I stoically endure in silence. I've explored some issues around what sorts of resources I'm willing to spend on self care and what seems silly, excessive and self indulgent. I'm still coming together with some thoughts on this stuff that I may write more about later. But then I came across this:

"Theravada Buddhism is often portrayed as a self- centered doctrine, the Buddha teaches that there are two types of good that we have to take into account. One's own good and the good of others. He says that there are four types of people:

1. There is the person concerned with neither his own good nor the good of others.
2. The person concerned with the good of others but not his own good.
3. The person who is concerned with his own good but not with the good of others.
4. The person who is concerned with both his own good and the good of others.

The Buddha pronounces the fourth person to be the most excellent. But he goes further to say that concern for the welfare of others has to be tempered by the recognition that we can only benefit others truly to the extent that we have benefited ourselves. A person who is himself stuck in the mud cannot help others to get out of the mud. If he tries to do so, both will sink down. Hence in order to assist others effectively we first have to establish ourselves on firm ground; that is, we have to first develop in ourselves pure spiritual qualities." (Foundations of Buddhist Social Thought.)

Maybe it was Buddha who wrote the script for airline attendants about why we should put on our own mask in the event that the cabin depressurizes before helping our traveling companion?

Where does it make sense to make personal sacrifice to help my family? My neighbors? The world? Where does it make sense to look out for number one?

No comments:

Enrich Your Word Power!

Word of the Day
Quote of the Day

This Day in History