March 3, 2008

"First, Do No Harm"

The thought, "I can do harm" has, from time to time, made me second guess myself, hold myself back, avoid others. The belief, "They can do harm" keeps me in judgment, separate, afraid. I've questioned these thoughts a lot, which creates some peace around the subject; and in no way does this keep me from doing what I can to reduce harm, or being an advocate for that which appears to do a lot of good. I'm all for activism that arises out of clarity rather than fear and anger; it's no good if I am in fact doing harm in the name of stamping out harm! (Case in point: some people who call themselves animal rights activists recently invaded the home of a UC Santa Cruz biomedical researcher's home, and have made other threats.)

So I hope you will join me in supporting the Do No Harm - um, I don't know what to call it: movement? Awareness? Club? It costs nothing to do so; they won't even take a monetary donation. In fact, the site states, "if you think you're a member, you're a member. If you think you're not a member, you're an honorary member." Gotta love it!

The site will list you as a co-author of their message, should you agree to it, and they'll gladly send you some nice free stuff to distribute—bumper stickers, buttons, decals, wrist bands and the like—with the message, "Do No Harm."

It occurs to me that there is no way to do absolutely no harm. I don't sweep the ground before I walk on it; who knows how many little plants and insects I've crushed? I'm sure that some, if not most of the textiles and furniture in my home were made under poor working conditions. I'm typing this on a keyboard with plastic components, likely not recycled, and the computer itself sends out rays which may be harmful.

This doesn't mean we (I) can't be more conscious; to at least be aware of how we can reduce, if not entirely eliminate, doing harm, even that which is inadvertent.

It's actually quite easy to reduce the amount of harm we do: for instance, by not buying water in plastic bottles (I read recently that 70% of water bottles go to landfill, even with recycling); by stopping to breathe and calm down before lashing out at our children; by not creating toxicity in our own bodies with foods that have chemical additives; by walking, biking, carpooling, or taking public transportation when possible, in order to reduce our carbon footprint; by eating lower on the food chain; by trying to purchase goods from companies with demonstrable commitment to their employees and to the environment.

With a little education ("When we know better, we do better." —Maya Angelou), a little awareness, and a little effort, we can do a lot less harm. "Do No Harm;" I can't think of a better way to capsulize the life I would like to live. I know I can be doing a lot more personally to reduce harm, and I am grateful for the reminder.

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.


Anonymous said...

Can anything real be harmed?

Carol L. Skolnick said...

Dear Anonymous,

Good question. Spiritual teachers say with certainty that nothing is real; that's not my day-to-day experience. For me the answer to your question is "yes," but I can only speak for and from "my" world. Little children, not being aware of cause and effect, will trip another kid to get at the toys first. The child who can't wait to get to the toys may not be intending harm, but tell that to the one sprawled on the ground with two skinned knees!

I can tell you that if I feel something I might do or say could cause harm, that's real enough for me, so I try to be mindful of that. If I feel I've done harm, I'll attempt to make things right. It's inconvenient to carry around my metal water bottle so as not to contribute to landfill, but, you know, The Golden Rule works for me.

What do you think? Can anything real be harmed in your world?


Pandian said...

Devoid of duality a realized person cannot harm any being.The following of morality to the best of one's inner investigation is the basic step to realization of truth.
Hence start with your capacity to observe others. Remember u cannot realize oneness in the mindlevel. But u can start observing that intellectually. If u were the one which is harmed how will you undergo it.Think about it beacuse consiousness is the same but bodies are different. Being unaware one harms others to reap the suffering later. Simply u cannot harm yourself that's it