Tragedy. Grief. Despair. These all seem to come in massive waves that threaten to cause a rift in the minds of many Americans, pushing us further toward a mindset that asks what has become of the world in which we live. Often we take it a step further, asking if there is any hope of a brighter, happier future any longer. It is easy to get caught up in the tales of horror, of sorrow, and of sheer frustration born of seeing long-winded, naive or uninformed diatribes concerning any conceivable topic and feel that these are the darkest of times. The world is not that simple, though, and in becoming so focused on darkness we lose sight of all the stars that threaten to break through the black veil of night.
We live in a society that is, without the slightest doubt, of our own design. We have allowed things to happen or not happen. We have chosen to speak out on matters of lesser import, and leave those massive concerns for other people. In essence, we continue to sow the seeds of discord, of blame, and of outright stupidity, and expect that what we reap is something different.
We look at others and see differences and flaws and belittle them, instead of celebrating the differences that provide us with unique perspectives and ideas. We mock or laugh at those who do not see things from our point of view, instead of taking a moment to try to understand why our views differ. We look at others and judge them, instead of accepting them into our world and finding common ground. We shun those who do not meet our standards, instead of accepting them as fellow men and women of a world that shapes us all differently.
Regardless of one's faith, religious views, political ideas, standards, thoughts, or feelings, we are all human. We are all walking upon the Earth and trying to survive through the uncertainty that life brings. In the midst of it all, we are all also making horrible choices as often as we make decent ones.
This week alone has illustrated the above poignantly, but the focus should not be on any single incident or time frame. All throughout the history of the United States these concepts have been illustrated time and again, and yet we still stand complacently by while various members of our society become overly vocal. We watch as events unfold and express our concerns, our thoughts, our feelings... all the while turning inward to manage our own lives and neglecting to act on our concerns, thoughts, and desires for bettering our community, area, state, or nation.
It only takes a simple act of compassion, of reaching out, to profoundly impact a life, and yet we often just walk on by the socially awkward coworker without a word, or fail to muster up the courage to walk up to the gorgeous blonde and just say hello. All too often we get trapped in the stereotypes of the nation, and avert our eyes or path from that Muslim ahead instead of smiling and saying good day. Even worse, we fall prey to the vileness that permeates many of our societal peers, turning uncertainty and a lack of understanding into outward signs of bigotry, hate, fear, and misplaced anger.
Even in light of all that is wrong with our society, there are those who try to stand up and be heard. To be counted among the people who say they will not be silenced and will not stop trying to make a difference. We look at them with contempt, believing them to be fanatics of some sort or another because they choose to act. In short, we even do what we can to make those acts of kindness, the spreading of something good, out to be just another fad or to have an ulterior motive.
We take it even further at times, and resort to irrational arguments and name calling in an attempt to make someone appear to be unintelligent, all because they stood up for an ideal. On the flip side of that, though, all too often those people who stand up for an ideal are the ones who fall prey to the same issues already outlined above, just from the opposing perspective.
I spent many years exploring the darkest depths of internal suffering and disillusionment with the world. I looked at things objectively and analytically, and when I felt that that perspective failed I turned to examining my life through the senses and emotions. Neither approach works independently of the other, yet both are necessary in order to effectively change. I examined religious beliefs, practices, and philosophies in an attempt to make sense of everything around me, and I explored the sciences when I felt that religion fell short.
In the end, none of the above are perfect explanations. We must believe in something, whether it is simply in the idea of hope or in the comfort of a deity, whether in the explanation of things through scientific discovery and observation or the objective analysis of the world much like one would examine a puzzle, it is faith in something that drives us forward. For some it is simply confidence and belief in their ability to touch the lives of others, for some it is a complete and unwavering faith in God, and for still others it is any of a massive range of other reasons. This is the beauty of our humanity, and the underlying difficulty with finding agreement among those with differing views. Regardless of what we believe in, or choose to place our faith in, we should all be able to agree on bringing change to the world in which we live.
I place my faith in God, yet that does not mean I feel I should blindly say that God will take care of everything. My life here is still my responsibility, and my actions and inaction, my thoughts and opinions, my feelings and desires, and the path I choose to walk in this world are all things for which I must accept accountability. I have been fortunate enough to understand that life is not only what we make of it, but what we allow others to make of it. My faith, in short, is not a crutch upon which I hope that things will work out, or upon which I can lean and say "please provide for me," but is instead the reason that I know that I have the strength to face this world and make a difference.
I mentioned, briefly, my struggles with trying to understand this world and my examinations of the darkest time of my life. Eventually I saw myself through the lens of an objective bystander, and realized that it was not who I wanted to be. I made the decision to change, and to crawl back from the depths of despair and become the person I am today. Knowing the power of choice, of belief in oneself, and of the strength inherent in us if we simply choose to believe in something, I want to challenge each of you: choose to make a difference in the life of another person.
I chose to write this piece without citing examples or sources for a reason. We tend to look only at the issues cited and debate the nuances around those examples, rather than focusing on the overarching issue. Further, we look into our perception of the facts presented instead of looking at the ideals examined, which only leads to further clouding the issues and creating semantic debates. It is with these ideas in mind that I challenge us all to do our part in bringing about change in our area, be it the community, the region, the state, the nation, or even the world. No focus is too small or too large unless we allow it to keep us from trying.
My goal with this post is to illuminate the things that we must focus on in order to change things, and to realize that change does not mean perfect agreement or harmony among so many varied social and cultural backgrounds.