Tuesday, July 1, 2014

When Choosing An Activity, Choose Wisely

Activity, in the modern usage of the word, is usually meant as action which brings about a change in an existing situation by means of an expenditure of energy. Thus a man is considered active if he does business, studies medicine, works on an endless belt, builds a table, or is engaged in sports. Common to all these activities is that they are directed toward an outside goal to be achieved. What is not taken into account is the motivation of activity. Take for instance a man driven to incessant work by a sense of deep insecurity and loneliness; or another one driven by ambition, or greed for money. In all these cases the person is the slave of a passion, and his activity is in reality a "passivity" because he is driven; he is the sufferer, not the "actor." On the other hand, a man sitting quiet and contemplating, with no purpose or aim except that of experiencing himself and his oneness with the world, is considered to be "passive," because he is not "doing" anything. In reality, this attitude of concentrated meditation is the highest activity there is, an activity of the soul, which is possible only under the condition of inner freedom and independence. One concept of activity, the modern one, refers to the use of energy for the achievement of external aims; the other concept of activity refers to the use of man's inherent powers, regardless of whether any external change is brought about. The latter concept of activity has been formulated most clearly by Spinoza. He differentiates among the affects between active and passive affects, "actions" and "passions." In the exercise of an an active affect, man is free, he is master of his affect; in the exercise of a passive affect, man is driven, the object of motivations of which he himself is not aware. Thus Spinoza arrives at the statement that virtue and power are one and the same, Envy, jealousy, ambition, any kind of greed are passions; love is action, the practice of human power, which can be practices only in freedom and never as the result of compulsion.
Love is an activity, not a passive affect; it is a "standing in," not a "falling for." In the most general way, the active character of love can be described by stating that love is primarily giving, not receiving. - Erich Fromm

In my current professional role as an Emergency Department "greeter" in the hospital where I work, over the course of the last year, I have stumbled upon a spirit of love that leads me to a place of empathy, sympathy or compassion. As a result, I have experienced an emotional and physical adjustment occurring within, one that enables me to draw from this deep well within, bringing forth an attitude of abundant love for the other person. Strangely, this change in me appears to consistently invoke a positive response from the patient that I am attending to at the time. This complete exchange or connection takes place in a very short period of time; just a few minutes.

In the beginning, it was nothing more than a random occurrence. However, I am now able to intentionally ignite this flame within myself and reproduce the affects with the majority of patients that I interact with. In many instances patients will hold on to my hand longer before letting go or make a comment; "you are a good human being." It is as if they need to acknowledge that they have felt or seen something that has convinced them that I truly care for them, feel their pain or recognize an immediate need for them to be loved in that moment.

It is in these moments of oneness with another that I feel as though I have chosen the right work activity or maybe more accurately that this specific work activity has actually chosen me. I am very surprised by, yet enormously grateful for, the recent uncovering of this hidden capacity to love.

JD