Meditation for Monday of Week 31 in the season of Ripening

Being Altruistic

Altruism is an element of courage: doing for another without regard for or at a cost to the self. It is a natural product of evolution in relation to kin and can be cultivated in relation to all living beings.

Real

True Narratives

The anticipation of being a free woman proved almost too much for my weak frame. The excitement stimulated me, and at the same time bewildered me. I made busy preparations for my journey, and for my son to follow me. I resolved to have an interview with him before I went, that I might give him cautions and advice, and tell him how anxiously I should be waiting for him at the north. Grandmother stole up to me as often as possible to whisper words of counsel. She insisted upon my writing to Dr. Flint, as soon as I arrived in the Free States, and asking him to sell me to her. She said she would sacrifice her house, and all she had in the world, for the sake of having me safe with my children in any part of the world. If she could only live to know that she could die in peace. I promised the dear old faithful friend that I would write to her as soon as I arrived, and put the letter in a safe way to reach her; but in my own mind I resolved that not another cent of her hard earnings should be spent to pay rapacious slaveholders for what they called their property. And even if I had not been unwilling to buy what I had already a right to possess, common humanity would have prevented me from accepting the generous offer, at the expense of turning my aged relative out of house and home, when she was trembling on the brink of the grave. [Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861), Chapter XXIX, Preparations for Escape.]

Personal narratives on altruism:

Histories of organ donation:

Technical and Analytical Readings

Imaginary

Visual Arts

Film and Stage

Music: Composers, artists, and major works

Brahms’ chamber works for strings, especially the quartets, quintets and sextets, are at their core about cohesion. The quintets, with the addition of a second viola, and the sextets, with the addition of a second cello, sound a tone of warmth that is not present in such abundance in the quartets. This warmth, coupled with Brahms’ characteristic romanticism, suggest the fellow-feeling that characterizes heartfelt altruism.

 

Poetry

Feel for the wrongs to universal ken
Daily exposed, woe that unshrouded lies;
And seek the Sufferer in his darkest den,
Whether conducted to the spot by sighs
And moanings, or he dwells (as if the wren
Taught him concealment) hidden from all eyes
In 
silence and the awful modesties
Of sorrow; feel for all, as brother Men!
Rest not in hope want's icy chain to thaw
By casual boons and formal charities;
Learn to be just, just through impartial law;
Far as ye may, erect and equalise;
And, what ye cannot reach by statute, draw
Each from his fountain of self-sacrifice!

[William Wordsworth, Sonnet III, 1842]

Other poems:

Fictional Narratives

This was the second place of captivity which he had seen. In his youth, in what had been for him the beginning of his life, and later on, quite recently again, he had beheld another,--a frightful place, a terrible place, whose severities had always appeared to him the iniquity of justice, and the crime of the law. Now, after the galleys, he saw the cloister; and when he meditated how he had formed a part of the galleys, and that he now, so to speak, was a spectator of the cloister, he confronted the two in his own mind with anxiety.  Sometimes he crossed his arms and leaned on his hoe, and slowly descended the endless spirals of revery.  He recalled his former companions: how wretched they were; they rose at dawn, and toiled until night; hardly were they permitted to sleep; they lay on camp beds, where nothing was tolerated but mattresses two inches thick, in rooms which were heated only in the very harshest months of the year; they were clothed in frightful red blouses; they were allowed, as a great favor, linen trousers in the hottest weather, and a woollen carter's blouse on their backs when it was very cold; they drank no wine, and ate no meat, except when they went on "fatigue duty." They lived nameless, designated only by numbers, and converted, after a manner, into ciphers themselves, with downcast eyes, with lowered voices, with shorn heads, beneath the cudgel and in disgrace.  Then his mind reverted to the beings whom he had under his eyes.  These beings also lived with shorn heads, with downcast eyes, with lowered voices, not in disgrace, but amid the scoffs of the world, not with their backs bruised with the cudgel, but with their shoulders lacerated with their discipline. Their names, also, had vanished from among men; they no longer existed except under austere appellations. They never ate meat and they never drank wine; they often remained until evening without food; they were attired, not in a red blouse, but in a black shroud, of woollen, which was heavy in summer and thin in winter, without the power to add or subtract anything from it; without having even, according to the season, the resource of the linen garment or the woollen cloak; and for six months in the year they wore serge chemises which gave them fever. They dwelt, not in rooms warmed only during rigorous cold, but in cells where no fire was ever lighted; they slept, not on mattresses two inches thick, but on straw. And finally, they were not even allowed their sleep; every night, after a day of toil, they were obliged, in the weariness of their first slumber, at the moment when they were falling sound asleep and beginning to get warm, to rouse themselves, to rise and to go and pray in an ice-cold and gloomy chapel, with their knees on the stones.  On certain days each of these beings in turn had to remain for twelve successive hours in a kneeling posture, or prostrate, with face upon the pavement, and arms outstretched in the form of a cross.  The others were men; these were women.  What had those men done? They had stolen, violated, pillaged, murdered, assassinated. They were bandits, counterfeiters, poisoners, incendiaries, murderers, parricides. What had these women done? They had done nothing whatever.  On the one hand, highway robbery, fraud, deceit, violence, sensuality, homicide, all sorts of sacrilege, every variety of crime; on the other, one thing only, innocence.  Perfect innocence, almost caught up into heaven in a mysterious assumption, attached to the earth by virtue, already possessing something of heaven through holiness.  On the one hand, confidences over crimes, which are exchanged in whispers; on the other, the confession of faults made aloud. And what crimes! And what faults!  On the one hand, miasms; on the other, an ineffable perfume. On the one hand, a moral pest, guarded from sight, penned up under the range of cannon, and literally devouring its plague-stricken victims; on the other, the chaste flame of all souls on the same hearth. There, darkness; here, the shadow; but a shadow filled with gleams of light, and of gleams full of radiance.  Two strongholds of slavery; but in the first, deliverance possible, a legal limit always in sight, and then, escape. In the second, perpetuity; the sole hope, at the distant extremity of the future, that faint light of liberty which men call death.  In the first, men are bound only with chains; in the other, chained by faith.  What flowed from the first? An immense curse, the gnashing of teeth, hatred, desperate viciousness, a cry of rage against human society, a sarcasm against heaven.  What results flowed from the second? Blessings and love. [Victor Hugo, Les Misérables (1862), Volume II – Cosette; Book Eighth – Cemeteries Take That Which Is Committed Them, Chapter IX, Cloistered.]

Novels:

This Is Our Story

A religion of values and Ethics, driven by love and compassion, informed by science and reason.

PART ONE: OUR STORY

First ingredient: Distinctions. What is the core and essence of being human? What is contentment, or kindliness, or Love? What is gentleness, or service, or enthusiasm, or courage? If you follow the links, you see at a glance what these concepts mean.

PART TWO: ANALYSIS

This site would be incomplete without an analytical framework. After you have digested a few of the examples, feel free to explore the ideas behind the model. I would be remiss if I did not give credit to my inspiration for this work: the Human Faith Project of Calvin Chatlos, M.D. His demonstration of a model for Human Faith began my exploration of this subject matter.

A RELIGION OF VALUES

A baby first begins to learn about the world by experiencing it. A room may be warm or cool. The baby learns that distinction. As a toddler, the child may strike her head with a rag doll, and see that it is soft; then strike her head with a wooden block, and see that it is hard. Love is a distinction: she loves me, or she doesn’t love me. This is true of every human value:

justice, humility, wisdom, courage . . . every single one of them.

This site is dedicated to exploring those distinctions. It is based on a model of values that you can read about on the “About” page. However, the best way to learn about what is in here is the same as the baby’s way of learning about the world: open the pages, and see what happens.

ants organic action machines

Octavio Ocampo, Forever Always

Jacek Yerka, House over the Waterfall

Norman Rockwell, Carefree Days Ahead

WHAT YOU WILL SEE HERE

When you open www.thisisourstory.net, you will see a human value identified at the top of the page. The value changes daily. These values are designed to follow the seasons of the year.

You will also see an overview of the value, or subject for the day, and then two columns of materials.

The left-side column presents true narratives, which include biographies, memoirs, histories, documentary films and the like; and also technical and analytical writings.

The right-side columns presents the work of the human imagination: fictional novels and stories, music, visual art, poetry and fictional film.

Each entry is presented to help identify the value. Open some of the links and experience our human story, again. It belongs to us all, and each of us is a part of it.

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