In the face of the hysteria and disunity of modern American culture, when all it takes is five minutes on Facebook to bring me down and put my emotions and brains on overload, it can be very difficult to not feel defeated, fatigued, and overwhelmed by it all.
The pessimism can be draining. The hypocrisy and confusion are running rampant. Everybody has an opinion that is a fact and a fact that is an opinion. There will be no sides taken in this blog post. I’m just expressing what I have witnessed. Both sides to any issue are very sure of themselves on everything. However, if I understand the frailty and fallibility of humanity, it would be a wonder if anybody had everything figured out. Rarely do you find anybody who is teachable or humble in their approach. Instead, everyday there are countless posts by people who feel entitled to deride other people’s entitlement, at the expense of actual conversation, real connection, and the clarity of perspective and humility.
I listened to a little bit of Bob Dylan today. In particular I decided to listen to his song “Talkin’ John Birch Blues”, a tale of McCarthyism gone crazy. It hit hard. Truly we live in a time where everybody is under scrutiny. What will we find and where will it lead?
I was sitting on a bench today, waiting for some food, when a clearly intoxicated homeless man approached me. He saw that I was wearing a Calloway hat and decided to start talking about golf before asking for some change. While I would desire to help in other ways, I decided to give him a couple of dollars and some of my time, engaging his conversation, which meandered and didn’t make much sense. I’m sure you all have thoughts as to how I should have handled it. In the moment, though, I just wanted to be polite and express my concern. After a little while more, he decided to head out, stating that he would be buying some beer, something I was concerned about. A stranger nearby told me that I handled the situation well. We talked about how it can be awkward and we both lamented the fact that this stumbling stranger most likely had a different life at some earlier point in time. I mentioned a few spiritual things that I had been reading about recently and how they could perhaps be applied to that man’s current predicament. I made the brief remark that there are also people in our world who look like they have it all together from the outside, but are a mess internally, to which he agreed. Around that time, my food was brought to me, so we exchanged some pleasantries and I went on my way.
Those were two interactions that were rife with several opportunities for conflict, opinion flaunting, dissent, and “insert social yuck here”. Yet none of that happened. Conversation happened. Statements were made to which no rebuttal was felt needed, because we didn’t have the time to devise a contrary opinion. We also didn’t feel the draw to do something like that when we were just a few people in a unique situation.
Then Facebook happened to my afternoon. Shots being fired. Misinformation. Misunderstanding. No patience. No humility. Only escalation. In a moment of genuine despair, I closed my eyes and set my phone aside. I prayed in silence, not knowing what to actually pray for. It was truly an inward groan. I felt the negativity. I felt the tearing down. I felt the sucking away of the joys of life. The narcissism of the modern world. The influencing. The “me” – right at all costs.
In that vacuum of roaring static, I felt a sudden calming thought flash in my mind which made me sit up, suddenly at peace.
Add things to the world.
Such a simple concept. When I want to escape the world through entertainment, what if I added something, instead? When I want to veg out, numbing myself from the pain? Add something. The quick self-service? Do something of value.
It’s that simple. There is nothing inherently wrong with being entertained. In fact, it’s pretty much necessary to human morale, maturity, and growth. But let’s be honest – garbage in, garbage out. I don’t want to fill the world with more garbage. I want to add things of value. This may not speak to you and maybe that inner voice was just for me. Nevertheless, it’s worth pondering.