Dalai Lama: Behind Our Anxiety, the Fear of Being Unneeded
NYTimes OpEd by H.H. The Dalai Lama & Arthur C. Brooks, 11/4/2016
Reflection by Mary E. Latela 7/9/2017
This elegant op-ed piece is like a strong tonic, needed to build up the rather dismal attitude of so many, particularly persons who are elderly, that they are not needed anymore. The result of research is that people who do not feel needed die prematurely. And if they survive, they do not feel joy in every day.
His Holiness explains: “Being needed does not entail selfish pride or unhealthy attachment to the worldly esteem of others. Rather, it consists of a natural human hunger to serve our fellow men and women. As the 13th-century Buddhist sages taught, ‘If one lights a fire for others, it will also brighten one’s own way.’”
How do we counter this dangerous feeling? We choose to help others. We choose to do what we can – even if that is limited – to bring compassion and forgiveness and courage to this busy world. It has to work both ways. I recall my own aunts reaching exhaustion by trying to take care of everyone else’s needs and not attending to their own real, legitimate needs for comfort, rest, appreciation …. an occasional cup of tea.
As we approach those years when it is harder to do everything we used to do, or harder to do very strenuous tasks, it is wonderful and just and perfect to know that others share their love and compassion with us.
The Dalai Lama notes: “Many are confused and frightened to see anger and frustration sweeping like wildfire across societies that enjoy historic safety and prosperity. But their refusal to be content with physical and material security actually reveals something beautiful: a universal human hunger to be needed. Let us work together to build a society that feeds this hunger.”