The Universal Backpack
Dear old and new friends,
As we enter into this new week of a new year the journalist Mignon McLaughlin reminds us, “The past is strapped to our backs. We do not have to see it; we can always feel it.” Regardless if you are trying to live differently in this new year or are simply going on with life as you did in old 2015, check your backpack. Not only children going to school or hikers wear a backpack, each one of us does. We carry and are affected by our past experiences and past thinking. Does that mean we are supposed to examine our thoughts about life back in 2000 or 1960?
Further back than that even, for we carry on our backs attitudes, thinking and fears that go back to when we dwelled in caves. The Ice Age began 2.6 million years ago when glaciers and ice sheets covered for a prolonged time northern parts of the world. Seeking shelter from the bitter cold and icy winds, it is believed former tent dwelling hunters inhabited caves for protection. If you live where bitter biting cold, snow and ice are common this time of year in North America, you can identify with your most ancient ancestors seeking the warmth of a fire in the shelter a cave. Scholars believe we today are still hardwired with some of the attitudes and thinking of those prehistoric times!
This brief review of history is directly related to our daily needs and those of the poor. While the Salvation Army bell ringers aren’t collecting for the poor now, the daily needs of the unfortunate are just as real, if not more so than at Christmas. Compassion is a 365-day attitude of the heart, not just at the holidays. However, after all the many requests for our generosity in the days before and at Christmas, we can easily suffer from what psychologists call “psychic numbering.” This causes us to see but not feel, and to justify our lack of compassion by saying, “I gave at the holidays.”
Take the case of a small child in dirty clothes and face who stops you on the street and begs you for help. Moved by compassion you reach for your billfold. Then another identically poor dirty child appears begging for help. Suddenly your loving compassion suffers a serious puncture, if not a major leak. Because of what’s hidden in your backpack it doesn’t take ten other children for us to react negatively…only one more! It seems we are prehistorically psychologically wired to help only one person at a time! Also studies show we are less inclined to donate to large scale relief for some major disaster because of cave day thinking such as “My gift is only drop in the bucket.”
For a really fresh “new” year, lighten your load and enliven your life by disposing of as much as possible of your back pack. Keep your mind up to date with the times as you jettison cave dwellers’ fears and discard childhood worries in a personal evolution of your mental habits.