Works of art are rich of all possible interpretations, including those the author didn’t think of - at least not consciously. And of course one can find different layers when reading multiple times, at different stages of one’s life, and every historical era can read it through the lens of its own preoccupations.
I chose to read this passage in the sense that every action has its effects, and cultivating our own self and taking good care of our immediate environment, even if it’s a small, isolated corner of the world, can have an effect in changing the world.
I put this into practice a lot in my own life. I feed the cats under my house, I have saved and taken in my house quite a few in the course of my life and I also give 40 euros every year to a foundation for strays. That’s all. I do know that there are thousands, hundreds of thousands for whom I do nothing about, dying on the streets. But, distressing as it is, I say to myself “that’s what I can do in my immediate environment. I’m not ready to give up my life and go around the whole neighbourhood or city to help”. In the same way, I volunteer for an organization for unaccompanied migrant children. Not actively, every week. Just every now and then, when I have time, and I get an email about a child needing company or care.
Also I recycle stuff, and use cloth shopping bags, reusable Tupperware water bottles and lunch boxes. But I don’t give up my only Sunday to go to the beaches to pick up plastic bags. Although I know it would have been great if I did that, I have bad knees and a bad back, and I weigh the double of what I should, so I get breathless very quickly.
In the same way, I don’t pick up all the Viki projects that are given to me, just those I really like, and only a few at a time, because I don’t want to do it as a chore and be overwhelmed by deadlines.
That’s what I can do in my present situation, as a middle-aged woman with children, a job and an elderly mother to take care of. I refuse to stress and think of the overwhelming quantity of things I am NOT doing but desperately need to be done. I do what I’m comfortable doing with whatever I see in front of me, knowing that if everyone did just that little, the whole world would change.