Spiritual leader Ram Dass wrote a letter to James Harmon for the book, Take My Advice, and in his letter he quoted Mahatma Gandhi by saying, “What you do may seem insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.” Dass continued on adding his own idea about Gandhi’s quote, “It is important for yourself, as well as for the balances in the world.” This quote resonates with me because it is very easy to feel like a small, isolated, and powerless individual in such a large and complex world. However, approaching the world from the standpoint of this quote, all action seems to have meaning, even if it is small and nearly unnoticeable.
This blog may go unnoticed and it may often feel insignificant for me. However, when I take the approach laid out by Dass, I see that the blog serves a higher purpose than attracting attention or representing me. The blog gives me a chance to reflect about important ideas and work over my thoughts. It helps me return to ideas that I had come across in reading, and as my mind reprocesses ideas I gain a greater mastery of those ideas. Dass would argue that these little steps help me fortify my mind in what ever direction I happen to read and study, which in the end establishes my position on the universal balance beam of understanding vs. ignorance for whatever it is I write.
I think a metaphor that can apply to what Dass is explaining using Gandhi’s quote would be the image of a hanging balance scale. If we compare positivity and negativity, in a broad sense we can imagine the scale has one bucket on each side, and each side is being filled with sand. Every act of kindness in the world becomes one grain of sand dropped into the bucket on the left, and each act of negativity becomes one grain of sand dropped on the right. Our actions of holding a door open for someone, picking up a soda can off the street, or becoming more self aware of our actions towards others will build up the sand pile on the left, and increase the amount of positivity being weighed on our balance scale. However, if we assume that every action is meaningless and allow ourselves to disregard negative activity because the action feels insignificant, we inadvertently pile more sand onto the negative scale. Off hand comments, lazy acts of pollution, and a disregard for the feelings of others are all tiny grains of negative sand that build up and depress the world with negativity.
Thinking about working towards a positive tilt in the universal balance of good and evil gives our lives and actions a new meaning. Rather than focusing on how small our actions seem to be, we can think of whether or not our actions add value to those around us or the universe in general. If it is unclear how our actions add value, then we can at least ask if our actions become a grain of sand on the positive or negative side of our balance. These tiny actions can add up, and help us create a life that leans towards positivity, or whatever attribute we seek.