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I guess it’s up to me

As a guy, I feel safe being outside before it is light. This allows me to jog around my neighborhood before my brain awakens. And, that’s great, because if I go out early enough, I don’t really remember that I really did it, which his good, because I don’t enjoy this form of exercise.

 

In Portland’s six-plus months of winter, I often wear gloves. I do this for warmth and because it allows me pick up trash with a diminished “yuck” factor.

 

A little more than two years ago, I began what is now my routine of picking detritus as I go.

 

Questions and answers about my practice:

 Is this my job?

Yes. 

 How do I know?

Because the trash is there.

 

Did I drop that trash there?

That doesn’t matter.

Whose turn is it to load the dishwasher?

Mine.

How do I know?

There are plates in the sink.

 

If I’m in the house and there are plates in the sink it’s my turn to load the dishwasher.

 

If I’m out walking and there is a piece of trash to pick up, I’m going to do it. (On my home island of Manhattan, my custom is not to do so.)

 

If I want a flourishing democracy, I’m going to go to the phone bank again this Tuesday night and encourage voters to get out there. If I want racism to stop, I am going to use my voice in the moment  – even if it is awkward.

 

It’s up to me.

 

And, it’s up to you.

 

You don’t have to like doing it, you just need to do it.

 

 

With pleasure or not, still do it.

My friend Pierce, a peace activist often says,

There is a big difference between saying ‘I have to’ and ‘I get to.’

So, how am I going to approach this task that is assigned to me to do? Am I going to approach the “work” ahead as something that I have to do, or am I going to approach it as something I get to do?

 

All the tasks before me, when I look at them with the right set of lenses, are meditative, inner practices.

 

Am I my brother’s keeper?

Yes.

 

Am I the one upon whom the balance of the world depends?

Yes.

 

And you are too.

 

Yes.

My friend, John Pavlovitz, puts it this way. He says, “At the end of the day, the world will either be a more or less kind, companion  and loving place because of your presence. Your move.”

 

What are you going to do about this world with all of the garbage around you?

 

Spiritual bypassing ≠ help

by•pass/’bīˌpas/ – a secondary channel to allow a flow when the main one is closed or blocked.”

Reality at times gets too much to handle and we need an alternate route. Shock and denial displace us from reality but this dissociative calm should not be confused with true peace. It is not. A larger than normal number of people are frightened and acting irrationally and you believe you feel magical peace? (You don’t. You are dissociating. Come back, we need more help.)

I know a lot of people who wish and wish and wish that the garbage in the world just go away. It won’t. 

Get out there and pick up trash!

 

Conclusion

There’s a quote in Jewish wisdom literature that dates to before the year 200, a saying of Rabbi Tarfon:

“It is not your responsibility to fix the world, but neither are you free to not do anything about it.”

I’m not gonna fix the garbage situation, but that doesn’t mean that I can jog past trash on the ground without picking it up.

 

I am hereby challengeg you to do the same: fix this world. Make it heaven on earth.  Get out there and pick up trash!

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Rabbi Brian Zachary Mayer

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