“Bhikkhus, these two kinds of persons are rare in the world. What two? One who takes the initiative in helping others and one who is grateful and thankful. These two kinds of persons are rare in the world.” – an II 119
an 2.32 “Monks, I will teach you the level of a person of no integrity and the level of a person of integrity. Listen & pay close attention. I will speak.”
“As you say, lord,” the monks responded.
The Blessed One said, “Now what is the level of a person of no integrity? A person of no integrity is ungrateful & unthankful. This ingratitude, this lack of thankfulness, is advocated by rude people. It is entirely on the level of people of no integrity. A person of integrity is grateful & thankful. This gratitude, this thankfulness, is advocated by civil people. It is entirely on the level of people of integrity.”
We live in a bubble, and we are eternally ungrateful for it.
What do I mean by that? When was the last time you flipped a light switch to turn on a light and thought about the immense infrastructure and the tens of thousands of people who are working all day every day to make sure you can have light in your house?
Now multiply that a thousand fold to all of the things that go to create this wonderful comfortable and safe bubble we’ve created in the first world that keeps us from nature, the nature of the world, and human nature.(health/first aid/police/energy, on and on)
People really love nature, especially if they’ve never really spent a bunch of time in the woods and realized that it didn’t care if you existed or not and your survival chances were near zero if you were stuck out there with no modern support. Nature, reality, is a brutal truth we try to escape from as much as we can.
And so we see in some places with the pandemic, that what we consider to be modern health care systems that are so wonderful for all of us, are so overwhelmed that they have to triage(if you’ve never experienced even a practice run of a triage, I highly suggest you do if you have the chance, I did multiple times as a teenager who had a lot of emt/fire friends) who lives and who dies.
That sounds so foreign to us in modern first world country. We just take for granted that we can just save people, that we can’t just “let” people die. We have a hard time mentally wrapping our head around it… and that is because we live in a bubble that protects us from a large amount of the things that our ancestors had to face on a regular basis.
Most of you know i’m a bit of an eternal optimist. I’ve been through a good amount of crisis and death in my life, and it’s never an easy thing to go through, but it helps you set your priorities straight, and allows you to handle a crisis much better and more mindfully, which means things go better for you and those around you.
It also teaches you gratitude, for so much, even the people who are long gone from your life but helped you become who you are. That gratitude for even the small things in life helps keep you on the right track.
My hope is that people will start taking many less things for granted because of this, including the people around them, their community, their family, the people that help keep the bubble running strong every day. I’m not saying its bad we live in the bubble, but it’s bad when we take it for granted and lose sight of reality, that leaves us unprepared for the next time nature/reality comes and bursts our bubble for a little while.
I remember 15 years ago sitting there watching my wife slowly die while on intubation, understanding that there was nothing left in medical sciences power that would keep her alive and it was her time to go.
In this time it’s good to keep in mind one of the core teachings of Buddhism, the 5 Subjects of Contemplation. The Reminder that you are subject to old age, sickness, death, loss of loved ones, and are responsible for your actions.
The last one is perhaps the most important.. you are responsible for your actions, and when put in a situation where you have little to no control(you have very little always, we just fool ourselves into thinking we way more then we do) over what is happening to you, how you choose to act is the most important thing, and one of the few things you have control over.
So stay healthy, and may I suggest to use this time to reflect and practice dhamma, practice developing gratitude for so much that is positive and supportive in our lives, that for better or worse shelter us from reality, that same reality that we as meditators seek to understand with insight.