One of the comments following my post yesterday suggested that if we are all involved with one another, don’t we have to take a stand against atrocity, injustice, against the raping of our planet? Don’t we have to speak out?
Yes, yes, yes! I born during WWII, and if I learned anything from my second-generation German father, it was a passionate conviction that to say nothing, to do nothing because it’s none of my business if I myself am not in trouble, is to participate in the atrocity.
But that conviction as I understood it as an idealistic teenager has matured since then. I have learned, for instance, that I can’t be everywhere. I can’t do everything. I have learned that more often than not I do not know how to even begin to take a stand, to say no in the face of injustice and atrocity. I have learned that sometimes in an effort to help I can actually make things worse. I have learned that I am not a morally superior human being just because I am so often outraged at what other people do.
I am even less judgmental of the German people who let the gas chambers be built and to consume 15 million innocent people. Could they have done more to stop this terrible holocaust? I am sure they could. Many of them did. But let us remember that they could not call people out onto the streets in protest using the internet. Even today, superior military power is mowing protesters down by the thousands. Fifty years ago the midnight knocking on the door was a constant danger if you were even suspected of not supporting government policy. I wonder today not so much what so many Germans should have done as what I think in retrospect they could have done. No, not do nothing. But what they could have done that would have been effective is not all that obvious to me, even now.
What have I done about Guantanamo, for instance? What have I done about Syria? What have I done about the millions of people starving in Africa? Are my annual donations to Oxfam and Amnesty International the solution? Obviously my petty cash is a pitiful contribution.
But so is the pollinating activity of a single bee. That is all a single bee can do. And yet we desperately need every single one of those bees. We are all part of a much larger whole – we are all in this together. And the important thing is not that I attempt to save the world single-handedly. It is not that I should even feel depths of anguish over every single struggling, suffering individual I hear about. What is important is that I pollinate the flowers that are given to me. It is important that I do whatever small or big things that come into my life.
And to trust, even though I do not understand it, that this creation, this universe, this incredible enterprise of which I am a part, has an intrinsic value that I can only partially grasp.
We are all in this together. It is terribly important that I do my part. But I’m not God.
I’m a bee, with the limitations of a bee. Metaphorically speaking, of course.
As a friend has just pointed out to me, even bees are imperfect. Given the option, they seem to prefer artificial sugar-laden maraschino cherry juice to working for the real thing. Ah! does nothing measure up to my standards of perfection?