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June 26, 2019

Next time you’re Losing Heart.


“In the age of information, ignorance is a choice.” ~ Donny Miller 

…from the comments, below.

I’ve lost heart. Maybe you have, too.

It’s a vulnerable thing, the last thing we want to feel. It’s a lonely thing, a sad thing, a clear thing, a final thing.

And, surprisingly, from a Buddhist point of view, it’s a positive thing:

When we hit rock bottom, we’ve nowhere to go. No more strategy. No more bullshit, or self-deception.


The truth of suffering, the Buddha’s first Noble Truth. Just: reality. No more ambition, no more cynical questing for a mirage of happiness.

​Just: being.



I just can’t.

I don’t mind folks who try. I don’t mind folks who know, and act—I admire them. Folks like Jane Goodall, or Rachel Carson, or MLK Jr., or Jamie Oliver, or Paul Newman, or Robert Redford, or Wangari Maathai, or Michael Pollan, or perhaps the lady working the bodega on the corner or the gentleman cleaning up your local school, or my mom, a beloved teacher of generations of students, or someone who comes to mind in your life, for you—we’re surrounded by examples of heroines who serve and heroes who sacrifice.

But, too, we’re surrounded by folks who don’t give a care—who have the information, who are well-educated, who have access to Google, who have access to their local public library, and yet who continue to shop on Amazon or torture animals or get a plastic-lined togo cup or let our car idle or poison our lawns or…

…and that person may well be me, or you, or one of us.

And it’s heartbreaking. There’s probably no more heartbreaking quality than knowing but not caring, or knowing but not acting on that knowledge.

From a Buddhist point of view, this feeling—losing heart, hopelessness—is a doorway to further caring. For when we give up, it is sometimes or even often our ego, frustrated, disappointed, giving up.

And then, something opens. Our original mind, our basic goodness, shines forth—and we find in our lowest moment, our sadness, or isolation—we find joy, community, and a second wind.


In inspiring others (say, your family) I think the key is not to make it about virtue, per se–ie I’m doing this moral thing and you’re not, which feels exclusive or pretentious or holier-than-thou–but rather to invite them into understanding and caring why you care. Then it’s fun! This is what my mom did—making me feel included, part of a cause, virtuous in an empathetic not put-down way.

“One will weave the canvas; another will fell a tree by the light of his ax. Yet another will forge nails, and there will be others who observe the stars to learn how to navigate. And yet all will be as one. Building a boat isn’t about weaving canvas, forging nails, or reading the sky. It’s about giving a shared taste for the sea, by the light of which you will see nothing contradictory but rather a community of love.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Or, as it’s better known:

“If you wish to build a ship, do not divide the men into teams and send them to the forest to cut wood. Instead, teach them to long for the vast and endless sea.”




“Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do.” ~ Voltaire

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