“We can do no great things, only small things with great love,” Mother Teresa famously said. She and other wise beings also indicated that doing small things with attention and the aspiration to act as if we are part of a greater whole can be a source of strength—even grace. Being part of the community of Parabola has revealed much about this in the past year.
Early in November, I interviewed the green Manhattan developer Jonathan Rose for the upcoming “Burning World” issue of Parabola. At the time of the interview, I was heating by wood stove due to the power outage that followed the freak October snow storm here in the Northeastern U.S. Reminded of the way much of the world lives and have always lived, my heart and mind opened to the ideas he had to share with Parabola—among them that the quality of awareness and our actions change when we realize there is no “other.” There is no longer any air or water or planet or people “out there” that we can abuse because they are separate from us. We are truly and inextricably interconnected. I came away from the interview reflecting on how ancient and spiritual the innovative green thinking seems to be: we must pay attention to the smallest details, awhile keeping an open mind, understanding that there is much that can’t be known—and that we are all in this together.
Sometimes marvelous things we could never predict emerge this way. Last week, I was invited to Rockefeller Foundation in Manhattan, to hear a discussion of Infinite Vision. This book (to be reviewed and excerpted in “Burning World”) tells the thrilling story of how, in 1976, a retired Indian doctor with arthritic hands started an 11-bed eye hospital, vowing to eliminate needless blindness. What he lacked in resources, he made up for in the quality of his attention and the sincerity of his intention. Today, his hospital Aravind has treated over 29 million patients and performed over 3.6 million surgical and laser procedures, the vast majority for patients who are too poor to pay.
How did he do it? How can we bring a similar kind of service to the rest of the suffering world? Again and again, the authors of Infinite Vision, Pavi Mehta and Suchitra Shenoy, were asked versions of this question by U.N. workers and members of foundations. Again and again, they stressed the doctor’s attention on small acts and his spiritual aspiration and intention. The discussion in the room shifted to the need to find ways to articulate spiritual truth—that we are all part of a larger whole, that there is no “other”—in terms that everyone can understand.
I realized in that moment that Parabola serves a very important and practical function in this suffering world. I am full of gratitude for the people doing many small things with great attention and care to help Parabola. Please check out our on-line auction, which starts this coming Sunday, to see how Parabola has become a community– a collective way of sharing insights drawn from our time and from every culture and time about how to awaken to our oneness. I have come to see that awakening to oneness—to the realization that no one and no part of the world is “other” than us– is the foundation of every kind of change. For over 35 years, Parabola has helped illuminate this truth. Now this truth needs sharing as never before, and through many small acts on all of our parts it is happening. We really are all in this together. I am very grateful to you all. Happy Thanksgiving!