Anyone who loves words, whether poetry or prose, probably has a notebook or numerous scraps of paper with scribblings that make the start of a great essay or short story or poem. The oft repeated phrase, “Put on your own mask first and then assist others around you” is something I had been toying with for quite a while. It’s an obvious metaphor for having your own affairs in order before trying to help other people in the same situation. The metaphor extends to such wisdom as not being able to support peace if you are yourself not at peace. The phrase could also lead to some clever humour with references to Joseph Campbell.
Unhappily, I have lost the race to exploit this clever phrase. A quick search on Google turned up a number of similar prior uses. One of the most worthwhile was found on a YouTube video where David Lynch explained to a group at Maharishi University in 2007 that it was not selfish to first consider your own understanding and experience of compassion before you could bring compassion to your dealings with those around you. Here is the video at Vimeo;
Maybe it’s not necessary to be the first with the turn of a clever phrase. I don’t think I could do better than David Lynch has done with this one. The “Put on your own mask first” page in my notebook can be discarded.