Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Sharing the Problem



Focus - we could “fix” the world if we had it.  We know that when we put our minds to something, it’s amazing what we could achieve.  That’s what is said about us on an individual level.  It’s even truer at a collective level.  When we team up, we are more than just the sum of our individual energy.  Two people can get a job done more than twice as fast as a single person.

If the world focused on “big picture” problems like global hunger and poverty, then we could solve them.  The world has enough wealth and resources in it to do so.

I would like to bring to the foreground some of the highest paid members of our society:  professional athletes.  It’s not unusual for them to make millions of dollars in a year, essentially just to play a game.  I recognize the amount of effort and work that needs to be put into achieving and maintaining that career, but what purpose does this work have other than to have fun and to entertain?  There are a lot cheaper (and free) ways to have fun and to entertain others.

Essentially, we need to ask ourselves how much the achievement of our self-realization and goals are worth.  Capitalization is based on competition and on individuals looking out for themselves.  But is the elevated state of comfort we achieve worth the pain and death of others due to their poverty?

But why should you care about others?  Just because a better state of the world is possible with co-operation, why should you care?  It may seem like a selfish question, but it’s a legitimate one, and it reflects the attitude of a great deal of people.  I’ll answer that question in a bit.

This year Ft. McMurray was devastated by a fire.  Many people lost their homes and their jobs, escaping the fire with little more than the clothes they wore.  An entire city evacuated.  The rest of the province rushed to their support.  We had people driving up water, gasoline, and supplies to give away.  There were so much goods donated that the aid organizations said to stop giving stuff because the time it took to organize all the donations was taking time away from doing other things to help the city’s refugees.  People opened up their homes.  Businesses gave discounts to Ft. McMurray residents.  During a time when we were debating how we should respond to Syrian refugees, there was no question what we should do to help out our closer neighbours.  We needed to do everything we could to take care of them.

Was it our responsibility to help out the victims of the Ft. McMurray fire?  Did the people donating cash, goods, and time need to do this?  After all, people needed to take a break from achieving their individual goals to take care of others in this way.

I don’t think that it’s wrong that we are better at focusing on the problems around us than the distant ones.  After all, the ones near us are the ones that we are better equipped to do something about.  I do think we tend to draw the line in the wrong spot.  Instead of drawing the line where our ability to help draws short, we tend to draw it on our borders, or through divisions in class, ethnicity, and ideological beliefs.  We let our proximity to the problem determine how much of a problem it really is.

Three days ago, on Christmas Day, a plane carrying 92 people crashed, and it is believed that there were no survivors.  I didn’t see this mentioned a single time in my Facebook feed.  Yes, it was a Russian plane that went down, not a Canadian or American one, but that still doesn’t lessen the absolute tragedy of it.  Yesterday, Carrie Fisher, an American actor, died at the age of 60.  Half of the posts that I saw on Facebook immediately after that were about her.  I’m not saying that it was wrong for my friends and media to grieve the loss of Carrie, but I do want to use the contrast between the two stories to show what we as North Americans are more focused on.

YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, all use algorithms to allow their users to view what they wish to view.  However, that means that in an age where the entire world is more open and connected as it ever has been thanks to technology, its residents have been having their viewpoints narrowed by viewing and focusing only on the things that they wish to.

What’s wrong with that?  Why should our responsibility extend beyond taking care of ourselves?  The question isn’t hypothetical or ridiculous.  There is more than one way to answer it, and it depends on the way one sees the world.

If we believe that humans are merely evolved animals, then the only reasons we should take care of others would be for reasons of our own construct.  Helping and working in unity with others is beneficial for the human race and its survival.  But the universe doesn’t care whether we survive or not.  The known universe has an expiration date anyway:  when it reaches its heat death.  If a person only gets one life to live and nothing happens after they die, then it would make perfect sense for them to want to get the most out of life; if this life is all there is then behaving selfishly is no more wrong or right than working together with others.

If God put us on this planet and designed our purpose, then it would be up to him to decide how much we should take responsibility of the welfare of others.  We learn from reading the Bible how God sets himself apart from the secular world view.  Since God created us, our value doesn’t depend on how much we can contribute to society.  We are valuable because we were created in his image, and the ones in need around us have just as much value as us.  God commands us to take care of the less fortunate.

I live among people who fully intend on helping others, as they recognize the need, but they wish to spend time achieving their own goals first.  I find myself having a similar mindset at times.

But the second commandment tells us to love our neighbours as ourselves (Matthew 22:39).  As ourselves, not after ourselves.  In fact, the Bible tells us honor each other above ourselves (Romans 12:10).

I’ll tell you what living like that means for me.  It’s not my intention to boast.  Rather, I want to give some explanation of the way I do things.  I’m not better than anyone else, but I do have my strengths.

I’m far from perfect, but I generally try to spend my money wisely.  I try to buy only things that I need.  I don’t give all my money to the poor, but I don’t see my money as mine to spend on myself, either.  I do save up money, but only because maintaining a certain level of wealth allows me to more efficiently help others, such as taking advantage of the ability my vehicle allows me to be of service to others.  At the same time, I try to make sure that much of my money is active right now.  While I save, I also give.  Money doesn’t do much just sitting in the bank.  Yes, it accrues interest, but that small amount of interest doesn’t compare to the immediate results of being invested in someone’s life.

I am very hesitant to take an extended vacation.  Maybe eventually I’ll need the rest and refreshment a vacation will provide.  For now, the rest I get within a single week is sufficient enough to not take time off.  Even though it goes against my adventurous side, I’m currently not saving up for any luxurious cruise or trip across the world.

I do have a goal of becoming an accomplished author.  However, I made myself and God a promise that in the process of doing that, I would not let my desire to get writing done stand in the way of me building relationships with others and being there for the people who need me most.

I may be strong in the use of my money, but I’m weak in the use of my time.  I still find myself wasting too much time doing activities that have no productive purpose.

Another area that I wish to grow in is recognizing the needs of the people who I am most suitable to help, and figuring out the best way to give that help.

I see it as my responsibility to help others, and that shapes every aspect of the way that I live.  What about you?

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