Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Which shopping bag do you carry?

Spirituality: Expanding Hearts and Extending Horizons
Excerpt from Jeremy Henzell-Thomas'article: Passing Between the Clashing Rocks: The Heroic Quest for a Common and Inclusive Identity

I believe that the size of people’s hearts is directly related to the breadth of their horizons. The most constricted and stony heart is the one whose horizons extend no further than himself and the satisfaction of his own needs and desires. As the human being develops, his or her horizons progressively extend from self to family, from family to social circle, from social circle to class to tribe, from tribe to nation state, and beyond.

Other people define themselves according to their occupations, or sometimes, sadly, in today’s world, according to their designer labels or, as a recent survey revealed, by their mobile phones. This survey, referred to on the Today programme of 10 May 2003, found that many people in England draw their sense of identity and self-worth from their mobile phone, to the extent that they feel depressed when separated from it. Many people find it difficult to progress further, and are forever confined by their tribal, nationalistic, occupational or “life-style” perception of themselves. I saw a television programme recently about a couple on holiday who decided who was worthy of getting to know by the shopping bag they carried. Someone with a Marks and Spencer bag was avoided, but someone who carried a Gucci bag was actively sought out and cultivated as a social contact. This is the ultimate reduction of the human being, an identity defined no longer by the old questions, “Where do you come from and what do you do?” but by the pressing modern question: “Which shopping bag do you carry?”

The trajectory of the person of goodwill is the widening of horizons to fellow human beings, first to family, then to friends, and ultimately to all human beings and all life on earth, no matter what they do or where they come from. The Prophet Muhammad said: “All God’s creatures are His family; and he is the most beloved of God who does most good to God’s creatures.”


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