Meaning in Doing


We live our lives with others—in families, in neighborhoods, in communities, in social networks beyond seeing. We are affected by the well-being of those around us. Their well-being is also ours. When others are unhappy, it is difficult for us to flourish.

Our lives are stitched with that of others. Collaboratively we make our lives. As surely as a fish must swim in water, we must live with other human beings. And just as a fish will suffer in polluted waters, our spirit will die in a land that is brutish and cruel.

However, unlike fish, we are co-creators of our environment. A fish isn’t responsible for the water, but humans cannot avoid responsibility for the world in which we live. Each day we make the world over by our words, by our thoughts and, most of all, by our deeds.

With love and honor, in justice and in peace, in respectful relations we come to realize the fullness of our humanity.

Here is a teaching story from China: teacher decided to go to the new sage in order to decide for himself if the teaching was more profound than his own.

The two met and the traveling scholar elucidated his points. The host sat silently. At last the visitor came to the end.

“And now let me hear your philosophy,” the traveler said.

The host replied, “Avoid evil and do as much good as possible.”

The visitor became angry. “What? I come all the way to meet with you and this is all you have to say? You quote a little jingle and I am supposed to take this seriously? Are you mocking me?”

“No, of course not,” the host replied. “You are right. This is a little jingle. But please consider that while every three-year-old knows this verse, even the elderly sometime cannot live up to it.”

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One thought on “Meaning in Doing

  1. Dobrin writes: “We live our lives with others—in families, in neighborhoods, in communities, in social networks beyond seeing. We are affected by the well-being of those around us.”

    So true. When I moved back to my native St. Louis from affluent Orange County, California in 2001 it was a culture shock all-over-again. I eventually found a job on the Northside which has as many liquor stores as churches. Every once in a while I’ll see a lamppost wrapped in stuffed toy animals indicating a child killed needlessly by stray gunfire or negligent driving. The end result: my well-being is chronically lower than I’d like.

    Regarding the “little jingle” that adults fail to live up to I think we have to keep trying, get rid of the jingles that don’t work any more, turn off the radio to that musical jingle advertising some ware. Life is chaotic enough.

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