We are all mortal and conscious of our mortality. A natural response to this apparent temporal vulnerability should be pure self-interest, survival of the fittest, and lonely isolation. But many people try to struggle with and pursue a selfless, self-sacrificing path. Why is that? Some would argue that this path is just refined self-interest cloaked in self-delusion — an intricate mask thrown over the simple imperative of species survival. Those who consciously pursue this path must consider this as a real possibility. Maybe they suffer from delusions of righteousness, but some just keep persisting. They don’t ask for praise or attention, they don’t advertise it or try to convert anyone to it. They continually examine their own motives and suffer over every decision. What do we call that when we see it?
There are Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists, animists, agnostics, Buddhists, Hindus, Taoists, pagans, gypsies, and druids who act in ways that express caring, kindness and charity to others. There are those who do “good works” and profess “right action” from a place of empathy and compassion. Then there are those whose spirituality is an ever-evolving search that defies definition. All of these diverse peoples either attempt selfless action or at least contemplate the attempt. They do this in the face of their apparent ultimate annihilation. Why then are they not all selfish, grasping, egomaniacs who play each encounter to their advantage and focus constantly on satisfying their appetites? Why would anyone even conceive of the idea of selfless action? I believe this impulse, this conscious awareness of “right action,” should be the starting point to define the word “faith.”
When I first served as Plenty’s Board Chair in the early 1990s, as a newly graduated M.D. working in emergency medicine I wanted to snap those hippies into a well-oiled machine. I was frustrated by the lack of linear thinking. It was like herding cats. Over the last twelve or so years as I watched from a near-by hiding place I saw a pattern emerging: still working for almost nothing on behalf of endangered cultures, still debating the content of right action, appropriate technology, cultural sensitivity and inclusion. Grinding over each decision, careful with each step, “keeping the faith,” quietly, inauspiciously and asking for nothing in return.
Plenty wants to do much more and will always strive to find the right path. Please help with your input, your conscientious hard work, and your financial support. Keep the faith.