Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Not Alone

And speaking of saints, while I was plowing through that prayer of St. Patrick's for that Pink Invocation the other day, I noticed that the Saint gives credit to lots of others for his simplest accomplishment. In the early parts of the prayer, "I arise this day through ..." begin a long catalog of everybody that Padraigh believes helped him get up today, from Christ, to angels, to the sun and moon, wind and fire. It's a very medieval prayer, but worth contemplating for this:

No one of us accomplishes a single thing in our lives by ourselves.

In America, since the rise of the penny-dreadful novels that romanticized the Wild West, we have created a mythology of the self-made man, who acts alone. We believe that he and he alone (never a woman, and nearly always white) is responsible for his success or tragic failure.

This is demonstrably a load of hooey. Just as much as the mis-spoken idea that we are all equal, this is at the heart of the American mythology, and it is a mistake of the original credo. We all have the same rights under the Constitution, and should be treated the same under the Law. We have the same opportunity to succeed to the limits of our native ability; we are not equal. We are not starting from the same starting line in the race of life. Some of us inherited better brains. Some inherited better looks. Some inherited better bodies and reflexes. Some were better treated and trained and educated as children. Some have more inherent drive and ambition. And some of us arrive with more wealth, and are taught how to manage it.

None of those things make us EQUAL. And none of those things come from us alone. We get those things from generations before us, whether we are speaking of genetics or wealth, or teaching, or even ambition. Even just the help of friends and neighbors as we grow up and live makes a difference. If you lived in a close-knit, loving family or in a distant, unloving one; if you grew up in a supportive neighborhood or town, or a part of town where everybody minds their own business, it makes a difference in you.

All the people in your life, are lifting you up. I arise this day, by the power of the loving, caring and kind people in my life. I arise this day throught the light of the sun, brilliance of the moon, splendor of fire, speed of lightning, swiftness of wind, depth of sea, stability of earth, firmness of earth, firmness of rock.

No comments: