I Can Control How I Respond

I have no idea who this person is.  I noticed him as we walked past along the Promenade.  As we came back an hour later there were balancing rock sculptures appearing.  The next day there were more.  A few days later they were gone as traffic and winds took their toll on the figures.  I do not know if anyone has ever thanked him for his effort.  The next time I pass by, I will tell him how much I appreciated his efforts.  They make me happy twice, first when I saw them in the moment, and now when I remember them.

I have no idea who this person is.  I noticed him as we walked past along the Promenade.  As we came back an hour later there were balancing rock sculptures appearing.  The next day there were more.  A few days later they were gone as traffic and winds took their toll on the figures.  I do not know if anyone has ever thanked him for his effort.  The next time I pass by, I will tell him how much I appreciated his efforts.  They make me happy twice, first when I saw them in the moment, and now when I remember them.

This has been a really tough time for me.  I find myself being disappointed in the state of our collective attitude.  Everywhere I look, I see selfishness and a societal lack of concern for other people. I’m seeing a society in which selfishness reigns and everyone’s primary concern is their own self-interest.

Somehow I believe we have established a social standard that allows us to say, ‘unless I have everything I want,’ society is unjust and I’m being victimized.

The problem with the ‘me’ attitude is that it escalates through a series of steps:

1)    Isolation: Because I am only focused on myself, I do not have time or empathy for others.  Eventually I will drive any friends away and I will find myself alone.

2)    Warped Sense of Reality:  When the only social reference I have in my life is based on how ‘I’ am being treated because I have lost contact with others.  I will see my surroundings through my own perspective that does not mirror the reality of the situation.

3)    Unhappiness: Because it is all about me, no matter how much I have, I will never be happy.

4)    Anger:  Because I’m not happy, I will reason that I am being mistreated.  I will begin to resent others I see who have the things I do not.  I will become angry.

5)    Violence/Withdrawal:  The anger can lead me in in two different directions.  Violence can be a response ranging from scowls as I walk past people on the street to extremes such as Timothy McVeigh in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.  Withdrawal is the other direction I can take.  When I see no way out of my predicament I will end up descending deeper into the dark spiral of mistreatment and loss I have created.

We all have a touch of this ‘me’ attitude.  It is important to our self-preservation and individual survival.  It is this aspect of our make-up, which makes us work hard to finish that degree or certification on the path to a better job.  There is nothing wrong with wanting a pat on the back and some personal satisfaction.

It is when we lose the aspect of social consciousness that our society starts to fall apart.  When we no longer have the perspective that what happens to my neighbor is important to my well being.

Part of our social problem is we no longer understand who our neighbor is.  One hundred years ago it was easy to identify our neighbor.  Our neighbor was the person living on the farm just down the road, or in the house across the street, or in the apartment next door.  We saw them everyday.  We knew their names.  We talked in the evenings as we sat on the porch.  We saw them at school, at the supermarket, at the doctor’s office, the post office, the bakery and the drug store.

Today it is hard to identify our neighbor.  Is our neighbor the person down the street? Is it someone in another country who picks the tomatoes I buy in the grocery store?  Perhaps it is the person who assembled my iPhone in China.

We have reached a social threshold.  As a people we need to realize that we are no longer in an ‘us verses them’ situation.  We are all in this together. 

I need to realize that what happens to other people has a direct impact on my life and direct my life accordingly.