by Troy Chapman
Nature hates a vacuum and this is true spiritually as well as physically. Suck the air out of a container and whatever happens to be around it will rush in to fill up the vacuum. Failing to actively define ourselves creates the same sort of vacuum with the same result: whatever happens to be around us will rush in to fill up the empty space.
I don’t believe most people consciously choose to be consumers or fashion addicts. Yet when they fail to consciously choose to be something else they often become these things because that’s what’s around them. We just came through a period when “gangsta culture” was the big in-thing. Gangs and inner city youth (and later, suburban wannabes) were suddenly walking around with their pants hanging below their buttocks, gaudy gold jewelry around their necks, their shoes untied and too often pistols hidden on their persons. This was no more a conscious choice than the preppie trend was. It was empty vessels, sucking in whatever happened to be around them.
When 9/11 occurred, George Bush easily defined millions of Americans as angry avengers. Why was it so easy? Has the propaganda industry gotten so good at what it does that no one can resist it? Or were we a nation of empty vessels? The people who rejected this definition were people who had already consciously chosen to define themselves in some other way.
In prison I see prisoners who allow themselves to be defined by the system as scammers and schemers. And their lives become a game to see if they can steal an extra pop from the chow line, sneak somewhere they’re not supposed to be or pull some scheme without getting caught. Or they allow the prisoner culture to define them and end up stabbing someone over a two dollar debt to prove they’re tough.
All of these examples convinced me of the enormous importance of consciously defining ourselves. It’s one of the fundamental duties of being human.
We’re not talking here about defining ourselves in physical or social terms — whether to be a CEO or a lawyer, etc. These things are what we do for a living. We’re talking here about defining ourselves spiritually. Whether we end up delivering pizzas or being president we still have to choose who we will be spiritually. And in this category, there are really only two choices: those who serve life and those who serve some lesser agenda. The lesser agendas are everything from one’s self to one’s religion, nation, ideology or race. They’re all ultimately some form of selfishness.
To serve life is to say the world and all people are my people and my first allegiance goes to them all. This is ultimately some form of setting aside self-service for life-service. These people take no side in any situation but the side of life. In the end they find themselves defined as healers, because in the end this is what life needs most right now. It doesn’t need one side or another to win; it doesn’t need Christians or Muslims to come out on top; white hats to stamp down black hats. It needs love to emerge as the victor on a global scale.
So here’s a question. Do you define yourself as a healer? Or are you playing some other role? What reflects your deepest values? And what is the truest reflection of what you love?
Next time we’ll talk about what this means on a day-to-day basis. Until then, peace.
Painting by Troy Chapman