Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Wishing for a backbone

Have you a moment to mull over a statement I heard the other day?
It was made by Caroline Myss, the powerful writer and teacher:
"Today, in the Western world," she said, "we don't have backbones, we have wish-bones."

That phrase has stuck in my mind. Why? Because the truth of it hit me forcibly. How has our culture become so confused that all we can think of is not our blessings in the present, but what we wish for in the future - all those possessions or situations that we convince ourselves we need, the things that we tell ourselves we are entitled to?

Surely we have never been more privileged? For the majority, the necessities of daily life have never been more abundant. But where is our backbone on those isolated occasions when things go wrong? Rather than accepting some minor accident with stoicism, we look to see whom it is that we can sue for this totally undeserved mishap. We wish for compensation. Life, we feel, owes us a smooth passage.

A backbone offers support. It is strong, but flexible, the vital channel for information up and down the body. Like a tree it can bend with unexpected pressures, similarly it can right itself when these pressures are removed. It can stiffen to provide courage, and curl itself lovingly around those in need of protection. It draws in information from the toes and fingertips, and responds as the situation demands.

But a wish-bone? In order to activate a wish-bone it needs to be broken. What sort of support is that? And whilst we are concentrating on all that wishing, surely we are ignoring what we have already?
We would be so happy, we tell ourselves, if only we had a larger car . . . or that special holiday . . . or an extra bonus.
But what about the car that is already serving us so well? Or the picnic that we enjoyed the other day? And has there ever been a bonus that can actually buy happiness?

I'm reminded of the old saying, 'Be careful what you wish for in case you get it.'
Just think about it for a moment: are all those objects and situations that we think we need really worth the sacrifice of Western society's spinal column?

But there could be a solution.
This Christmas let's wish for the return of our backbone . . . and we don't need any outside help to make this wish comes true.