Becoming extremely interested in other human beings and other beings

Vaark lilies vendor (2002)

The discovery of things new–whether experiences or people or things is heady at times, so much so that we can forget our need to take a ‘loving interest’. The vaark lily (pronounced with an ‘f’ in Afrikaans, like ‘fark’) is named for the word that means pig, or pork. They resemble a pig’s ear as I learned during my time of visit and study. While there, my research assistant and I made sure to purchase from street vendors who sell at the major crossroads leading into towns for items we would regularly consume–like fruit, vegetables, and flowers. It is illegal to pick vaark lilies from the public roads (or was at the time I was there) but landowners would sometimes allow their farm workers to pick from their land and sell them. We bought fresh flowers regularly for our flat as they were inexpensive (on my US dollar). I imagine they get used to tourists taking their photo, although unless it is a clear ‘street scene’ I would always ask for permission. I was quite enamored of the vaark lily and was excited the day we were returning from a research meeting in Paarl to find a vendor at the crossroads where we turned toward Stellenbosch.

As I was looking at the photograph of the vendor earlier, I thought about taking a loving interest in all human beings. If one is a poor person, is there really an option to say ‘no’ to having your photo taken in order to make a sale? He did not make just a sale, as I purchased 3 bunches of the flowers in exchange for the photo. But was it coercive at its core? Not intentionally, as in “I want to exploit this person for what I want”, but was it taking a loving interest in all human beings?

I am not flogging myself in sackcloth and ashes here. I believed it to be a loving interaction in which I always strove to be kind and treat with dignity the people I met who were struggling to survive. It is just a question I am asking myself this morning as I think about the following:

The real mystic who has spiritual realizations or super conscious experiences becomes extremely interested in his fellow beings as he finds the expression of God in them. A mystic feels the presence of God everywhere and so he takes a loving interest not only in human beings but also in other beings.

Swami Akhilananda

No, I am not claiming to be a mystic, nor attempting to become one. I do have an interest in trying to become a more effective human being. On closer examination, is that taking a loving interest in all human beings–not just the ones who agree with us? How does one see the presence of God everywhere when it seems as if so many of us do some very unloving and ungodly acts? Can we not see while seeing?

This entry was posted in Acts of Restorative Kindness, Diversity Equity and Inclusion, Social and Economic Justice, South Africa and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Becoming extremely interested in other human beings and other beings

  1. Katie says:

    Very interesting post. Life’s been chaotic lately, and this one really made me stop and think. And I imagine I’ll be thinking about it for a while. Thank you for sharing!


  2. Betty says:

    Those vaark lillies are gorgeous! It is a good goal to treat others with respect and dignity. It can be hard though at times. I just try to do my best each day. I am sure you have a lot of wonderful memories from your research trip. Enjoy your day!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Beth says:

    I think in taking his picture you showed a genuine interest in him, his lifestyle, and his culture. Perhaps he also realized the beauty of the flowers and was pleased that you did, too. A good thought to think about. Too often we don’t think of our actions and how they are perceived by others. It can work the reverse way too when we want to be thoughtful and are taken advantage of when we are perceived as weak.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Suzassippi says:

      Thank you, Beth, for that perspective. I did often have the opportunity to engage in conversation with people I met and try to learn about their thoughts on things facing their country. Some were very deep and done over a period of time, and others, just a chance encounter.

      Liked by 1 person

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