We have entered an interesting point in American (and world) culture. The internet has changed the way we get and disseminate information. We have a whole generation that does not know what it is like to not have all of the world’s knowledge instantly at their fingertips. To put it in a little bit of context – because it can be hard to put vision to this level of information, here is a picture of a few bookshelves in an old book shop in Minneapolis. Just in this picture there are enough books that it would probably take YEARS to read and comprehend them all. This is a small fraction of the books available in the world. A very small fraction. Here we are, we can look up anything about anything anywhere in the world. This is a MIRACLE.
Yet, we have a level of ignorance and arrogance that is unprecedented. We can look up and research ANYTHING, yet most people don’t. We pass along old wives tales and urban legends unchecked at an increasingly alarming rate. We could literally take 2 minutes and fact check anything, yet it rarely happens. And the arrogance? Oh the arrogance. We have forgotten what it is like to feel small. At least in public we do. Most people seem to go through life blundering about each day feeling superior to everyone else. We are a nation of Donald Trumps. We say what we want, when we want and “F-’em” if nobody agrees or if they get offended by it. We are the only ones on the road, we are the only ones on a bike. We are the only ones in line, we are the only ones trying to cross the street.
We are the only ones of importance.
The exaltation of self has reached the only point of importance in life. To be individual is king. We need to tell everybody our thoughts at all times. We need to share what we are seeing, what we are feeling, how our rights are being violated and how others are trying to squelch our sense of self-importance.
I am here to tell you this is all bullshit and deep down you know it.
Hell, not even deep-down. It’s plainly at the surface. It is all a facade. You fill your life with noise and distraction so that you don’t have to think. You puff yourself up to fight the thoughts of inadequacy. You get angry at others to keep them away, you dehumanize them so that you don’t have to care about other lives. If you are the most important life on the planet then it is perfectly fine to act the way you do.
But you aren’t. YOU ARE NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN THE WORLD.
Let that just settle in for a minute. Really stop and think. Look up into the night sky at the vast expanse of space and realize how small you really are. Stand on a high point anywhere and look across the landscape and realize how you are just one small part of this place. Put your phone down, turn the TV off. Close the laptop. Get out of the car. Take a walk. No ear buds. No music. No podcasts. Just listen to the sounds of the Earth, the city, your neighborhood.
People are still dealing with all sorts of horror all over the world. People are still dealing with all sorts of horror right in your back yard. Your friends and your neighbors are going through hell. This nation is going through hell, and there is no simple solution. Every single facet is complicated. Racism is complicated. Politics are complicated. Big business is complicated. The justice system is complicated. The medical system is complicated.
EVERYTHING IS EXTREMELY COMPLICATED.
Stop pretending it isn’t and that there is just a simple solution to it all. “If only this person will be President, then everything will be fine”. Right.
“If only I had a better job, then everything will be fine”. Uh-huh.
“If only I worked out and looked better, then I would be happy”. Or if I only had the latest gadget, or if I had a different spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend/family.
None of these will make you completely happy, and you know it.
It is time for us to look at each other again. Look at the humanity in the person you pass on the street. Look at the humanity in your family. Look at the humanity in a person that has a different skin color than you. Look at the humanity in a person from a different country. Look at the humanity in the person that is of a different religion, or has no religion.
We all want the same things. We think we need to look inward to take care of ourselves, but the opposite is true. We need to look at each other.
This is messy and complicated and it can hurt. It WILL hurt. It will take time and effort and sweat. Most importantly, we need to put ourselves second. To paraphrase the words of Jesus: “to lead – you must serve. To be first, you must be last.” It’s time to put away selfishness. There is a whole world out there that needs your help, but you can’t help the whole world. You can however, help one person. You can make a difference in the lives of those immediately around you. It’s all you can do. You are in control of your own attitude, your own actions. This is your power. Use your attitude and your actions to help those those closest to you. Share a smile. Give a dollar to the homeless person. Take a moment and actually SEE other people. Hold a door. Forgive the small things. Forgive the big things.
I’m not the first to say these things. There is no way I’m arrogant enough to think that. Others have said them countless times, better that I ever could. I won’t be the last either. I just want to do my part where I am with what I have to spread the message. I want to get at least one other person to start saying the same thing.
That’s how it starts. Small. Personal. It is the way of the Kingdom of Heaven.
It’s your turn now. What will you do?