For months I’ve been ruminating about what to write next. Here it is the beginning of 2018—and as my niece posted on Facebook, “Two thousand seventeen has been a long decade.” That leads me to my problem. Where could I begin? Where would it end? Why bother? I’m just one person. What can I do? What might I try? What might you try?
Of course, our world and our country have been in big trouble before now. For Americans (of all colors and ethnicities), there was that revolution, civil war, other wars too numerous to mention, slavery, polio and Spanish flu to name a few crises. I won’t attempt to list some of the world’s crises—inhumanity to man would cover most of them.
I could go on, but in this new year of 2018, our world has never before possessed technology which could actually decimate the whole planet quickly. (Nagasaki and Hiroshima might look like child’s play compared to today’s possibilities). We’ve never been so immediately connected around the world. We all recognize news which took months to travel across oceans from one continent to another can now travel with warp speed via the internet. We can participate in revolutions and watch wars in real time in the ‘comfort’ of our own homes.
So, moving right along, they say to write about what you know. It looks as if I’ve gotten off to a bad start! Once we lived in real communities as opposed to cyberspace. Maybe we lived near grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. I knew that world briefly although my parents moved 100 miles away from it to find a better life when I entered kindergarten. The rest of that family remained close knit and suffered together through many difficulties. Even after the wire mill, the town’s largest employer, closed they stayed. Although life wasn’t that secure for most of them, they had each other, drew from that strength and remained close knit for their entire lives.
We’re told by the experts that we’ve become a tribal society. On the other hand, community and all it affords, may be partially responsible for this huge division. I believe we all search for like-minded friends. That gives us comfort which may be similar to what my extended family enjoyed all their lives. Our great divisions seem to be related to both politics and religion.
We set out to build our communities and end up as tribes. Something’s wrong here. David Brooks writes about joyousness emanating from groups in a common effort. Politics and religion fall into that category. However, the “joy” becomes divisive.
Altruistic common pursuits—PFLAG, United Way, Habitat for Humanity, welcoming refugees, Boys and Girls Clubs, mentoring, food pantries across the country all seem to be activities for giving of oneself to one’s community. How do we assess our own “tribes?” In which ones do we want to be active? I’ve always been a believer in pursuing the common good. That may be why some say I have socialist leanings.
Maybe if each of us jumped with abandon out of our comfort zones and found a group of people, a church, a poverty stricken neighborhood or a few homeless people to help, or children to mentor, we might wake up to some activities with which we could get involved. Forget helping many. Help one person. Multiplied (in your circle of friends and family) that could make a huge difference. And, the idea might catch on. And multiply some more. We all have something to give or to give back. Let’s get our “rears in gear!” Let’s start new tribes for the common good.
In an eloquent statement, Marcus Aurelius shared this:
In the morning, when you can’t get out of bed, tell yourself: …“Was I made for lying warm under a pile of blankets?”
“But I enjoy it here.”
Was it for enjoyment you were born? Are you designed to act or be acted upon? Look at the plants, sparrows, ants, spiders and bees, all busy at their work, the work of welding the world. Why should you hesitate to do your part?
“Yes, but nature allows for rest too.”
True, but rest — like eating and drinking — has natural limits. Do you disregard those limits as well? Do you think less of your life’s work than sculptors do their sculpting, dancers their dancing, misers their money, or stars their stardom? They gladly forgo food and sleep to pursue their ends. To you, does the work of building a better society seem less important, less deserving of your devotion? (Marcus Aurelius, 121 – 180)