Thursday, December 26, 2002
The week between Christmas and New Year is one of my favorite times of the year. The gift-buying, family-entertainment storm surges have subsided, giving way to smooth sailing on seas of introspection and reflection. The year is almost finished--ahead lies New Year''s Eve, the final hurrah, then the winter hibernatory (don''t check, you won''t find it) self-examination that leads into spring''s growth spurt of creativity.
This past year has been trying for us all. Trapped in an emotionally scarred hangover from 9-11, American society catatonically plodded along, going through its usual motions unconvinced that any of it made any sense at all. Unspoken, oftentimes unrecognized sadness cloaked folks in a veil of ennui, creating a heaviness in us all, like slogging through a marsh while wearing a chiffon bridal gown.
The last thin veneer of respectability dissolved, exposing corporate culture''s decayed core, reinforcing knowledge understood by most of the populace for at least two generations. Big government, swelling exponentially like a force-fed liver, goosesteps unabated on a collision course with itself, stomping down everyone who cherishes understanding, fairness, good will and peace.
The most advanced civilization in the history of humankind casually accepts widespread hunger, mass homelessness, endless degradation of the natural world, rampant lack of education, grotesque economic imperialism, reckless procreation and inconceivable genocidal tendencies as routine. These are harsh realities to face. It is not a proud time to be human.
Increasingly, the need to focus on simpler, more easily comprehensible events takes priority. Tackling small behaviors leads to a feeling that. eventually, larger behavior will change. For instance, if we all were a little more reluctant to throw our trash on the floor of the movie theater and decided instead to hold onto it until afterwards when we could simply deposit it in the receptacle waiting by the exit, might there not be a hope that this behavior could extrapolate itself globally?
Simplistic and a little naïve to be sure, but not far-fetched. The most abhorrent expressions of human behavior are not sprung forth fully matured. Their roots take hold slowly and are built by many tiny, seemingly insignificant acts of cruelty, rudeness, insensitivity, selfishness, greed--you know the lineup. We all are accountable for our every thought and action. Anything less than total commitment to a better world is futile.
As we transition to the coming year and its inevitable disappointments regarding how our country is perceived by most of the world''s peoples, perhaps taking this time to look back upon our everyday behavior will awaken in each of us the realization that we are all responsible. Whenever we mindlessly disobey our conscience, even with something as innocuous as tossing a gum wrapper out the window of the car, we have missed an opportunity to help alter the direction of the world toward a higher principal, a greater good.
Just do the math. If there are X number of humans across the world and a large percentage of them each commits a selfish act, the global resonance of that act applies tremendous stress to the very fabric of human existence. Contrarily, if a large percentage of people each commits a thoughtful act of kindness, the world breathes a sigh of relief and is better able to heal itself and grow.
This is a simple, age-old concept. By examining the condition of our world, it is obvious that most of its human population has repeatedly made individual choices without regard for the greater good, resulting in our current state of emergency. And if you don''t think this world is in a state of emergency, you are living with your head up your own assemblage of fantasies, because we are already a ways down the wrong turn at the crossroad, and the only way we''re getting to the promised land is to start thinking about blazing a new trail.
I''m not entirely sure that anything less than the complete collapse of life as we have always known it is not inevitable--certainly I hope that I am wrong. But to examine the world as it is right now, taking into account how human behaviors have created a teeming cesspool of impending collapse, does not leave one with much feeling of optimism.
I am sorry to be expressing these feelings, but I truly believe that they are foremost on the minds of many, many thoughtful and intelligent people throughout the world. I, and most of the important people in my life, feel helpless and worried that our actions will be too insignificant to effect change. Regardless, I will continue to try my best to choose caring about the simple things, hoping that each little decision made with love will unite with every other person''s loving actions and alter the course of the future.
--Write Ray at firstname.lastname@example.org