This is our truth, tell us yours
It’s general election time here in the UK.
Many of my fellow citizens will not vote; one reason they cite is because of the perceived gap between what politicians say, and what they do. The political agenda is driven by dozens of specific promises; this new road, that tax cut, those changes to schools, or hospitals. The political accountancy does indeed reveal a litany of promises that went undelivered because of, as one politician put it ‘Events, dear chap, events.’
If I promise to visit you tomorrow, and I fail, there may be dozens of reasons why I fail. I might have transport problems, or a family emergency. I might oversleep, or decide to re-schedule because I believe it will be a nicer visit the day after. Nevertheless, it is a promise broken. On the other hand, if I promise to always be your friend, to be honest and forthright with you, as a friend should, one missed meeting is not a breach of my promise.
Promises, specific promises,are possessions. Like uncashed cheques stored as insurance against a rainy day, they are things we can have, and hold, from this day forth until, like all possessions, they are as much use as the dust we become. Erich Fromm once paraphrased Karl Marx’s distinction between the world of commodities and the world of humanity as the difference between having much, and being much.
If I promise to nurture you, to be the friend who always tries to provide the space in which you can grow and flourish, I have nothing more than when I set out. Neither have you. However, I believe that by trying to be a nurturing, supportive friend I will be much more than I formerly was, and I hope that you, too, no matter how feeble my efforts might actually be, will be more than you otherwise would be.
Nurturing isn’t just about you, my friend who I could love if only the word hadn’t been so devalued by common currency and my past errors. It isn’t just about the father I care for more deeply the further he walks along the autumn road. It’s about all the unknown people I can nurture by asking if there isn’t a better way than a world where drowning at sea is a better option that the slow death of living under tyranny. It’s about the children I can nurture by opposing poverty, by opposing abuse, by arguing for access to education, and medicine, not just for the child I swore to nurture as I stood in the maternity suite but for every child, even the ones whose birth I have not noticed.
Nurturing isn’t just about that moment when I wiped cracked, dried lips and wished the pain would end. It’s about all those moments when I can live more fully by trying to nurture anyone whose life can be made better by my choices, not worse by my greed.
Ultimately, by nurturing all the others, I am, of course, nurturing myself. Isn’t that the point?