- You Don't Have to Jump Off the Bridge
Courtesy: SS Mani, Kalakad
When I was a teenager in the late 1960s and growing up in New York, I can remember so vividly what all the parents in our neighborhood told their kids whenever the youngsters asked if they could participate in an activity that the parents deemed unsafe or inappropriate given the child's age. Here's how the dialogue typically unfolded:
Teenager: "Mom, a lot of people in my class are going for an overnight trip in a few weeks. Can I go with them?"
Mom: (after finding out all the details about the trip): "No, you can't go. I don't think you are ready for that yet - and there isn't enough supervision."
Teenager: "But Billy, Ron and Jake are going - their parents gave them permission to go."
Mom: "If Billy, Ron and Jake jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?"
Of course, Mom's point was this: just because other people do something doesn't mean it's a wise thing to do. Mom was going to make her own assessment and not blindly follow what other kids or their parents were doing.
How does this relate to your spiritual journey? Spiritually, many people are jumping off bridges. They are playing the game of "follow the follower" - and the activities they are engaging in are draining their spirits. Let me offer a few examples. I'll start with the obsession about money and consumption. The holiday season revolves around money. Peace and love are nice ideas, but who has time for that? The meaning behind the holidays themselves is virtually lost. Everyone focuses on shopping. Businesses want to maximize profits. Kids are taught to worship the newest toys. We're jumping off the bridge, conforming to what others are doing. And we lack the guts to "break the chain" and say "I'm not going to follow that. I'm going to set a different example for my family."
As I see it, you can "deprive" your child of some material possessions - or you can deprive them of their spiritual development. You're choosing one or the other, whether you realize it or not. I'm not recommending that you renounce all material possessions. Money is as "spiritual" as anything else. There are many wonderful ways to use money and I see nothing wrong with having the comforts life can offer. But money seems to be the highest priority these days. We're at the point where we allow businesses in the U.S and around the world to pollute the rivers and the environment so these companies can make more and more money - and we (as consumers) can save a few cents on the cost of an item.
Speaking of possessions, think of the stuff we stockpile in our homes and apartments. Do we really need all of it? Does it "free" your spirit - or drain your spirit - every time you look at all the clutter you've accumulated? Here's another example - the complexity of our lives. As a teenager, I remember doing my homework after school and then going outside to play sports with my friends. It was quite simple. Now, kids in the U.S. have several structured activities every day. Their calendars rival those of busy executives. And their parents have to drive them from one place to another so the children can follow this hectic schedule!
The kids never learn how to just BE - or to play without any agenda. They are trained to expect activities all the time. Of course, this also takes a tremendous toll on the parents, who are stressed out and overextended. But very few parents are willing to stop jumping off this bridge. The argument parents offer is that they don't want their children to miss out on any opportunities. They don't want them to be at a disadvantage since other kids are engaging in these activities.
These parents are choosing to play according to "rules" set by others. Perhaps the child WILL get into a "better" college or earn more money in the long run by becoming a busy person from the age of three - but at what cost to the child's spiritual development? I could go on and on citing examples, but there is no need. I have no doubt you could come up with a dozen more ways we're jumping off bridges and getting away from our divine connection.
The more important question is: what bridges will you STOP jumping off? I admit that I still jump off some of these bridges, but I'm doing it less and less... and it feels better and better. My spirit thanks me each time I don't jump. I'm not suggesting that you go on a crusade to convince others to be more "spiritual" and to change their behavior. This message is addressed to one and only one potential bridge jumper - YOU. When you refuse to jump off bridges that everyone else is jumping off, be prepared for people to ridicule you or tell you that you are not being "realistic" in today's world. No need to argue with them.
Just smile and know that each bridge you refuse to jump off brings you closer to the peace and lasting satisfaction that bridge jumping can never bring.
Think before taking out your car Instead use available public transport, whatever may be its status! It will better than, your children suffering tomorrow with less of resources
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