What Is Service Fundamentalism?

Posted by Somik Raha on Jul 13, 2017
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This week's Awakin was an excerpt from a remarkable blog post on service fundamentalism by Zilong Wang: The False Duality Between Work and Service.

The comments in response are equally remarkable. Jagdish Dave writes, "There are many faces of work. No one face is better than the other face. The face that looks down on other faces is not a service face. Humility is an integral part of service."

David Doane shares, "What makes service virtuous is it being done freely, done out of choice. Obligation is toxic. The setting doesn't matter. That is, it doesn't matter whether a person is on the job or unemployed or what kind of job a person has. What matters is where the service is coming from. Service out of obligation or rule lacks virtue and may even be toxic, and service out of free choice is virtuous and healthy."

Vaibhav noted that he began reading thinking this piece will criticize those in jobs. "As i read along, I found I was also holding an assumption 'to serve fully, one has to quit his job.' Life always seemed difficult working in a system. There was a constant attempt to quit the system, move out of it and say all the worse about the system. Somewhere from last one year there was (a) slow shift towards working in (the) system." Vaibhav notes that the motive was not to "fit in" the system but to work unattached. He also shares what particularly stood out for him: "Zilong Wang has beautifully summed this up in his last line: Ultimately, the practice is to serve from wherever we are. No one form of service is superior and holier than another. We are all placed in the grand scheme for a reason."

Pranita notes the beauty of interdependence, "My move from a corporate job (dominant system) to a startup job (soon-to-be dominant system!) to an NGO felt to me as my ideal way to gradual full-time service. But as a part of an NGO, we are always having to crowdfund money in the schools that we teach, which is when I realised we are being able to carry our "noble" work only because the others continue to serve in the dominant system. They support us with money because they don't have the time or sometime the willingness for hands activity. Basically, there is interdependence, and there is so much beauty in it too. This article gave me so much more clarity and insight into the topic."

Brinda appreciated the visual metaphors in the piece and notion of going deep wherever we are, "'Serve from where you are' and 'Find the nooks and crannies in the world to plant seeds'--that visual will stay with me and is very powerful. I am close to someone who has spent a lifetime as a "karma yogi" and has impacted so many people with kindness, selflessness, integrity and generosity....whether mentoring, finding just the right job for someone, creating opportunities for others to grow and flourish, leading with values and never ever thinking about the "fruits" of the labors. So this example reminds me all the time that if you "go deep", always stay true to your values, and don't worry about the "fruits", service is the natural flow....."

Cal writes, "I've experienced 'regular' jobs characterized by selfless service, and "charities" characterized by turf and elitism, and of course, mostly those that are somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. All wonderful opportunities to be mindfully engaged in positive change. I'm reminded of the 'embrace tiger/return to mountain' concept- I need both tigers and mountains in my life."

Sonia writes, "All duality is here to serve us to move.... nothing is fixed or permanent. Hence the need to shift to serve in the manner best.
What holds true in this moment, will not be so, in the next."

Kristin shares beautifully about her experience of sacred work, "I relate to this so much! As a Cause-Focused Storyteller who chose to quit her job, sell her home and possessions to create/facilitate a volunteer literacy project in Belize in 2005 and then re-renter life in the US as a freelance Storyteller/Speaker/Trainer and Coach who currently serves as a Storytelling Consultant at the World Bank in Washington DC, I was told by some that I was 'selling out.' Perhaps I was learning that 'wherever you go, there you are.' Meaning that wherever we choose the serve, there we are if indeed we are serving with mindfulness and intention to the task, it matters not where we do it. <3 I have experienced deep sacred moments serving while I teach presentation skills at the World Bank: when I have connected heart to heart with staff reminding us all to listen, learn and value those whom we serve. Recently, 3 staff who had taken my online monthlong intensive course, then attended a face to face with me. When I asked why given it was the same content, all 3 separately replied, 'So we could be in your energy in person and hug you to thank you.' This is transformation and to me sacred."

Rick writes powerfully, "This is a wonderful 'problem' to have and to engage with. It challenges all of us to serve from where we stand, not from where we think we ought to be. Where we stand is ever and always the present moment - we are never elsewhere, all superstitions and 'occurrings' to the contrary! And so we will always serve from where we stand, be it in volunteerism, corporate America, politics, the world of NGOs, at home with our loved ones, alone on the trail, on the line, sharing in the Circle. As we live our lives as stewards of love and possibility, where would we not choose to serve? Every venue in life calls out to us and even the most 'unlikely' (the boardroom, perhaps?) are openings for healing and workability. A world that works at every level and for all time is made from all of these!"

Alissa appreciated the honesty of Zilong's sharing, "What a brilliant and provocative piece. This duality and tension has always impacted me as someone who is very much in the work/paycheck/mortgage paradigm and sometimes feeling judged for my commitment to stay in this paradigm for now. Big ups for the courage in airing the shadow side of service - it is very rare to get a chance to hear about this in such an authentic, truth telling way, from someone who has walked around the entire perimeter of work/pay/service/gift economy and seen many angles and lived so many parts of the puzzle. Thank you for the raw and real thoughts."

Manjo shared, "Agree now after few weeks of trying to console myself that only way is to run to other place and do my sadhna for purifying and sublimating mind desires."

Terrific reflections on a topic of great relevance to our times.

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Comments (1)

  • Preeta Bansal wrote ...

    This was such a rich Awakin reading (thanks to Zilong), and the reflections are equally beautiful! Thanks to you and to all.