For a tiny book only 61 pages long, Henri Nouwen’s Out of Solitude is more provocative than any philosophy dissertation or self-help tome bought at Borders. Consider the question, “What would you like for dinner?” or “Shall we take a vacation?” When the answer is “I don’t care” we too readily attribute this to an agreeable personality. Nouwen would make a solid argument in protest. Agreeable (to me) means that when there is a differing of desire or wishes, one person is willing to compromise and negotiate with the other. There is an engagement and a dialogue. The better response is, “I was thinking pizza, what would you like?”
Then the discourse begins. A happy lifetime can be spent in this intimate dialogue, navigating the eddies and rivulets of life. When everyone has an oar in the water and contributes to the momentum, intimacy is created. It becomes the mortar for building a solid and loving existence. Unfortunately, so often, one person simply says, “I don’t care, whatever you want.” And this person is mistakenly considered an agreeable sort, easy and affable. Occasionally this would be a fine trait. But, repeatedly and perpetually, it silences intimacy and something dies. Indifference suffocates, apathy starves.
In group dynamics, if everyone defers and never offers counter-response, then what you really have is a leader and a bunch of followers. And it is very possible, that the person “in charge” is there by default simply because no one else really cares. CARES. To CARE is to be engaged. To have an opinion. To participate. To be invested. And when everyone has a bit of skin in the game, there is intimacy and richness far beyond treasure.
A pearl is made through the friction caused by a grain of sand. A diamond is made through a millennium of pressure. Artificial pearls and cubic zirconium can pass for the real thing, but not for long and not forever.
When I am overwhelmed, I beg to “care less”. I say with forcefulness, “I don’t care!” or “I could care less!”. It is a farce. Anyone who truly knows me knows I care deeply. I care about others. I often care more than they care. And I think a life of caring is one worthy of the risks. I am not a physician by accident or logic. I am definitely a family doctor because of how I care about others. I am a small business owner fiercely loyal to my staff because I care. I care about their lives, their progress, their families, their journeys; it all matters. But I cannot abide by a life with people who endeavor for a life of disengagement and indifference. It is not a worthy aspiration to care less about this one life I have. I aspire to care more, feel more, engage more, share more and to know more. This is not MORE in the definition of consumption. It is a desire for greater dimensionality and depth. It is not a rant or a diatribe, either. It is just a presence….to think, consider and decide actively on a course for the day.
I care about what I set before my eyes, what I hear, what goes in my mouth, what goes on my plate. I care what comes through my door, what I wear on my back. I care where it came from, how it was grown or made. I care about what I throw away, where I lay my head, where I will be tomorrow. I care where I step and the impact of my footprints. I care what I breathe and how deeply. I care who I kiss and touch and hug. I care about your sorrow and stress and suffering. I care also whether you really care. If you cannot care about yourself, your life, your journey, your place in this world….I cannot care FOR you and you cannot care for ME if you careless about yourself. You cannot truly love if you do not care.