My dear departed friend Michael had a postcard on his refrigerator that I coveted. It became my secret motto, and it looked something like this:
It’s hardly an appropriate mantra for a mindfulness teacher, so as my practice has developed I’ve modified my interpretation. Whether it’s ear-splitting music shattering the peace of a secluded beach or earth-shattering climate chaos, it’s the ignorant choices of some other people that ruin things. It’s not the polar bears or the giant redwoods ruining their own habitats, it’s people. It’s not the natural desert sucking the Rio Grande dry, or grazing bison depleting the Ogallala Aquifer, it’s people. These are just the tip of the melting iceberg, of course: Everyone has their own examples, from wars to weeds.
But while it’s true that most of the horrible things I lament in the world are the result of other people, it’s also true that other people are responsible for almost every good thing in my life. They’re certainly responsible for my survival from birth, the education, employment, and other opportunities that shaped me and enabled me to settle here, and my ongoing thriving in this wonderful community. And just like me, most other people are doing the best they can with what they have to live their own little lives without causing intentional distress for anyone else.
Other people are responsible in some way for everything on this table, from the copper watering can and ceramic bonsai pots to the coffee, its mug, the ingredients for the cookie and its plate, and the table itself. Other people created from natural materials all the construction elements of the sunroom where the table sits, from the adobe bricks to the window frames and the glass windows. All the art in my home (including photographs I made) came in some way from other people. Even the tiny percentage of food that I grow in the garden (that other people helped me create) relies on the efforts of other people for the seeds, water delivery, soil amendments, and help maintaining. It’s an infinite pool of reliance: I’d be nothing without other people. So I’m profoundly grateful for other people.