Voboril: The inverse golden rule
This is a community of givers, of doers, of the selfless, of the inspirational. Juxtaposed against the vocal minority of locals that curmudgeonly complain about anything and everything, the swift and silent accomplishments of the many pillars of our valley make me that much more awestruck.
Our locale’s abundance of exemplary humans surely makes our per capita excellence among the highest imaginable. Yet lost in the heartwarming stories about heroic exploits is the unspoken toll taken on the toilers’ bodies and psyches. As we strive to rebound from this global hardship, we must be mindful not only of the golden rule, but also of its inverse.
I have been dazzled, as I am sure that you have, by the altruistic impulses of those who have gone to work each day to help those in need, whether of medical care or of the food that nourishes us through quarantine. Even more amazingly, they view what I consider great feats as nothing more than ordinary, as just part of their duty to humanity.
The humble conclusions at which they arrive are belied by the exhaustion in their faces, in the tears that they cry when they believe that nobody is looking. In treating others how they would wish to be treated, they have forgotten to treat themselves as they treat others.
Indefatigable of body and spirit though people can be, we are nonetheless mortal and do not have reserves that are inexhaustible. In order to best aid our brethren and families, we must take care to care for ourselves, to not expect from ourselves that which we could not possibly expect from others.
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Of course, it is this exact dissonance that typifies noble souls, that drives them to push past their own discomfort to offer comfort to those they serve. It is irrational, solipsistically speaking, to allocate one’s scarce resources to another. But it is equally irrational to allow another to suffer when such pain is preventable through simple effort.
As we creep cautiously forward, the only certainty is that we face an uncertain future. Even under optimistic estimates, there are many more challenges ahead. Fatigue is a grave concern; the outrageous levels of energy that have sustained us through these first weeks of turmoil are simply unsustainable. All the more reason to reset, regroup, reevaluate, restore.
There is a fallacy, believed most strongly by those that it damages, that any attention paid to oneself is selfish. Those called to service above self often take the mantra too literally, think that the individual must always succumb to the collective. Looking outward, we recognize, may even recommend, that a friend or loved one should take some much-needed time to herself. We need to grant ourselves the same courtesy.
True balance might not be possible in a time of crisis, but there is always room for at least a mild readjustment of the scales. It starts with a deep breath, with an acknowledgement of the pride in one’s work and, of equal importance, the havoc that the labor has wreaked.
Grateful for the moment of peace in a hectic existence, the breath extends into a break. A real one. It may be active inaction, like zoning out to a classic movie, or a moving meditation like biking or fishing or just rambling. But it needs to remove you, at least for a spell, from the stress of the daily struggle. It is what you want for others. It is what you need for you.