Reader comment on Thomas Berry's passage ...

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    On Dec 16, 2010 Somik Raha wrote:

    This passage ran deep for me. Never ceases to amaze me at how much meaning comes out of a passage after meditating.

    The passage seemed to be highlighting for us two opposites: receiving (Thoreau's story) and trusteeship (Mencius' story). Swami Vivekananda, Gandhi, Vinoba, all encourage the rich to think of themselves as trustees of the poor. This attitude did not require giving up one's riches, but it did involve expanding the circle of well-being to more than one's narrow context.

    People like Thoreau could never "possess" a beautiful land in their interaction unless the land were either without an owner, or if the owner, as a trustee, kept it open. Trusteeship is a special kind of giving. It involves holding on for the purpose of giving.

    One of the most powerful conservation efforts in modern times of forest land involves creating clear ownership rights for the purposes of maintaining open access to the land. In ancient times in India, kings demarcated parts of forests to sages, on which no hunting was allowed, and which acted as a natural preserve, a sanctuary for all. The idea of trusteeship can be found to have been with us since ancient times. In modern times, the open-source software movement is notable in its idea of having people establish copyright so that they may then keep their software open without challenge. The trustee aspect of ownership shows us, in a powerful way, that it is not the ownership lines that limit the owner's actions. An awakened heart will find its expression within all limitations, turning the limitation into a beautiful feature, just as a resource owner becomes a trustee.

    Trustees cannot do their thing unless there are those like Thoreau, who can enjoy things without owning them, without putting their stamp on them. Receivership is therefore as important as trusteeship, and requires one to learn how to possess without possessing.

    In a sense, nature is the ultimate trustee, protecting the gift of life with the gift of death. Nature is also the ultimate receiver, for in every ecosystem, we find every species receiving benefits from the actions of others, in a natural manner :).

    The question arises - can we be a trustee and receive at the same time? As we came together in the circle this Wednesday, it became clear that the circle was an example of the two aspects existing at the same time. We were trustees of the space. At the same time we were receivers in that space. And, the number of trustees would always equal the number of receivers, for each person would be a receiver of every other trustee, and a trustee of every receiver.

    It is not always easy to see this in action. We find ourselves challenged by situations where we get attached to one or the other role. Unfortunately, attachment spoils the game, which is really a dance, as Nipun put it. For a good dance, there has to be flow. The best dancers do not dance. The best fighters do not fight. There comes a point where we do not know if we are receiving or giving as trustees. Being aware of the naturalness of that condition - that we are constantly, without any outward action, receiving and giving at the level of our own molecular structure, at the level of our own physiology, and at the level of our own sociology, we come to a point where we realize we can either accept it or sabotage it. Sabotaging is fixating on one role to the exclusion of the other, an unwillingness to dance the dance, an unwillingness to experience what our nature has brought us to. Acceptance is a willingness to dance with both receivership and trusteeship, deepening the intensity without deepening the attachment.


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