Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of September 28, 2009

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Duty to Society and the Earth

(Aspect 4 of 12 of the Path of Right Living)

Last week we studied our professional duties and how we contribute to society through our job. But our responsibilities to society do not stop there. We are deeply indebted to society for the whole structure and infrastructure of our lives. For proof, we need only look around ourselves and consider how much of what we see and use we could produce on our own. This remarkable civilization provides so well for so many. We serve our own interests by serving society.

We would do well to take as our starting point the golden rule: to treat others as we would have them treat us, and not to treat others as we would not want them to treat us. That can be a very high standard. We act with civility, even when itís not easy. When driving in traffic, in a hurry, not feeling well, or confronted with a difficult or disliked person or situation, we can still be civil. With our neighbors, we can be friendly, considerate, and helpful. To our friends we can extend hospitality, consideration, and interest. With strangers, we can be courteous. With the less fortunate, we can be charitable. With the weaker, we can be protective. When we make a promise, we can keep our word. We can be respectful of our government as responsible citizens who vote, pay taxes, and abide by the laws. And beyond the baseline of the golden rule, we can each use our intelligence and creativity to further the development and well-being of society, even in small ways. If many do this, we multiply these small positive actions by billions to great effect.

Underlying the life infrastructure that is man-made, we depend even more fundamentally on the infrastructure provided by the Earth and all the life teeming on it. Our indebtedness and obligations to the Earth are unbounded. Because we are so many and have such a large collective impact, we are being forced to outgrow the adolescent and indiscriminate taking of all we can from the Earth. We are learning that we must temper our taking and also give back. This is not an easy transition for it goes directly against our individual and collective self-centeredness. But it is a necessary transition if our species is to survive and thrive.

Clearly we are each a part of society as whole. But in truth the society in which we live extends beyond the human to include the whole biosphere of the Earth, and indeed the whole Earth. A core, enabling aspect of our duty to society is to enlarge our perspective, to shift our identity from the solely individual, from being our family, from being our nation, to being the Earth. We are each a part of the unity that is the Earth. The life of the Earth is our life. We are each ourselves and we are the whole of humanity. We are each ourselves and we are the Earth, both simultaneously. The being and spiritual duties of the Path of Right Living help purify and strengthen us enough so that we can soften our personal boundaries and at least touch the reality of our identity with the greater whole, with the Earth, so that we can act as and for the Earth.

For this week, reexamine the impact of your role and actions on society and the Earth. Bring intelligence, dexterity, and excellence to fulfilling your duty to society and the Earth. And meditate on the widening circles of who you are. Be yourself, your family, your nation, humanity, the biosphere, and the Earth.


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