“The Zero Effect”–Daily Metta

August 27:

gandhi-21“But I know that I have still before me a difficult path to traverse. I must reduce myself to zero. So long as one does not of his own free will put himself last among his fellow creatures, there is no salvation for him.”

–Gandhi (Autobiography)

In many cultures around the world, people understand the idea of being “a zero” as an insult. Gandhi, however, considered it an ideal toward which to strive. In the same way that we talk about zeroing our impact on the climate, or leaving zero waste behind when we go on a picnic, we can strive toward a kind of personal zero effect. It happens not when we let go of personality all together and think of others as better than us (seeing ourselves as inferior), but rather when we see ourselves living in a balance in the world around us–where our needs are valuable and our dignity matters, but so is everyone; and their needs.

As children, we learn to ask ourselves, who is going to get through the door first? How do we decide? Is it okay to push someone out of my way to get there?  The questioning should not end when we become adults, but rather, as Gandhi implies, it should undergo a radical shift. We have to ask ourselves bigger questions like, am I easy to live with? Do I work well with others, supporting them as much as I myself would like to be supported?

To be perfectly honest, it’s not a lot of fun when people do not strive to think of the needs of others, and it actually makes life, work, and society more difficult. What would happen to the world if we saw ourselves as agents of serving others rather than serving ourselves; a world where we made the radical wager that if your needs are met, then mine will also be fulfilled? Gandhi hints, rather loudly, that not only would things go better, but there really is no other way to find fulfillment.


Experiment in Nonviolence:

Find a beautiful paper and a colored pencil or marker, etc. Draw a zero in front of you. Reflect on its lesson for you today.