I was a minor princeling (Harvard, inheritance), but fortunately I was too crazy and undisciplined to take my place in the structures of institutional power. (Instead, I took LSD and had visions.) Reading this long article, I searched for a justification of my current work serving meals to the homeless. Why was my path different?
Answer: People who hold onto their wealth believe they deserve it. They believe in a hierarchy of value among humans: There are winners and losers. Some people deserve to live; others, not so much. They elevate this idea into a quasi-religious system which results, conveniently, in them keeping their wealth without interference, while other people starve, sicken, and die.
Jesus, to pick a random example, was a radical because he thought differently. At the core of Christianity is the idea that we are all equal in the love of God, equally deserving of grace and a holy, sanctified life. This parallels the Buddhist notion that distinctions are illusions; the ten thousand things are manifestations of the holy One. Imagine all the people sharing all the world.
So here’s my justification: The work I do (alongside thousands of others in this town and millions around the world) is an assertion that everyone deserves to live. Hierarchy is the enemy; recognition of common humanity is the goal.
Every homeless person I have met is as passionate about their own life as I am about mine, regardless of what challenges they face, what bad decisions they’ve made, or how futile their current situation seems to be. To recognize that common passion – with a hot meal, a smile, and a word of encouragement – is a radical act in the context of a cruel regime. Down with the princes! Let compassion rule!