Take Good Care
So why exactly do I spend so much damn time hanging out on the porch of Starbucks? Because every once in a while, an experience like this afternoon's goes down.
There we all were, and my buddy the Real Estate Mogul brought up a line of inquiry. R.E.M. is interested in setting up an intentional community (as am I), and he asked all of us what would be some good first principles. Two young people--a boy and girl, aged 18 and 17 respectively--had some really great things to offer. As did I. Great great great conversation.
But here's what just had my mind riding roller coasters...
We were talking about relationships in the community. I pointed out that in monasteries, 'particular friendships' were deemed to be bad, not because they're considered immoral or unhealthy, but because your primary relationship should be with everyone, and a particular relationship with one person in particular detracts from that. So how would it work? Would it be a rule that everyone be sexually available to everyone else? Obviously not. The young woman had some particularly wise-beyond-her-tender-years things to say about relationships. And we came up with this really exciting idea.
Y'see, one of the things we'd try to overcome in the community is possession and ownership. Things that you have that are yours exclusively would be kept to the barest minimum. What was important, we had said earlier in the conversation, was the idea of Stewardship: that you take good care of those things that you enjoy, recognizing that you won't always have them around, and that you should try to leave them better off when you no longer have them around then when you found them.
"That's what relationships should be like," said Ms. Wise-Beyond-Her-Tender-Years, "stewardship. You should enjoy it when you have it, but realize that the person isn't going to be in your life for ever, but do your best to make sure the person is better for having been with you."
There was this moment as it sunk in for all of us. And a couple of gasps were heard. And then everybody started talking at once.
Not about possession or ownership. Not about "this belongs to me" or "this is mine and not yours."
Rather, the Universe has entrusted this person to your safekeeping for a time. And your duty is not just to make sure the person is as good as you found him or her, but better. Better for the next person.
More sure of himself, because you have bolstered him and let him know just how great he is. Better able to trust, because you have been trustworthy. More compassionate, because you have shown him your fears and weaknesses. Kinder, because you have appreciated his kindness. And with more joy in his life, because you have brought him joy, and let him be your joy.
Or maybe it was just the caffeine talking.