On the Demands of Care


This whole week I’ve been incubating something. There’s a hairy little worm somewhere in the back of my throat, slightly below my nose. It wriggles when I wake up, taunting me with the specter of a full-blown respiratory infection, before curling up into a ball and settling down for the rest of the day. Every so often it’ll rouse itself, triggering a sniffle, a sneeze, a cough, a rasp.

That it’s remained largely quiescent is probably due to my yoga practice. That it’s remained at all is probably due to my refusal to rest. And why I refuse to rest is because of all the difficulties I encountered in the month just passed.

Among the many painful things that I learned this June, it’s that things and people require unremitting care. Care (in its manifold expressions as time, effort, attention, presence) is the only antidote to entropy. Our worlds will collapse without us, if by world we mean our carefully constructed and scrupulously maintained rhythms and routines, affections and relations, possessions and environs. So much of our lives is spent on merely living; to exist, and to go on existing, and to preserve the world upon which our existence depends, is no mean feat.

Which is probably why it’s called the business of living. It is a business. It is a busy-ness.

(And we all hope the revenues exceed the costs.)

Right now, all my time, effort, attention and presence are being channeled into my collectives cares. And this points, perhaps, to the true goal of spiritual life, which is not to transcend our collective cares (for what would spiritual life be then, if not an empty and deluded evasion of responsibility?) but to bear them lightly and gracefully—with room, even, to bear the cares of others.

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