Thursday, April 09, 2009

A Message Of Hope

Y'know, it's pretty depressing out there.
It seems like the world is heading to hell in a handbasket, and I'm tired. I get a new perspective on the Great Depression. It wasn't so much economic as it was psychologic.
At least this week, the news is mixed on the economic front: jobless claims were surprisingly low last week, Wells Fargo, universally acknowledged as one of the few strong banks out there, reported good earnings, new home mortgages are rising, and the trade deficit is collapsing. On the other hand, retail sales are still in the toilet, meaning consumers aren't shopping, the auto industry is still on very shaky ground, and gas prices will begin their inexorable summer climb this weekend as people get their cars out of the garage and start the summer driving season early.
Nevermind the news page, the business section is enough to make people depressed! That's before the piracy in Somalia, the North Korean missile test, earthquakes in Italy, the Twitter uprising in's enough to raise the dead!
What's really depressing is to read blogs and watch television, and everyone is looking for someone to blame. If it's not God, it's the President. Or liberals. Or Muslims. Or immigrants. Or Hollywood.
I have a better solution: it's you!
Now, I realize the way of the world is to make our problems somebody else's. Both sides of the political fence claim the other scapegoats. The right claims we liberals are trying to build a nanny state. The left believes the right wants to deny and deflect their personal responsibility towards their fellow citizens.
Guess what? Both sides have a point (altho you'd be hard pressed to prove to me at this point in time how government is doing too much for us).
So the old saw is shown to be true: if everyone else is wrong, it really is your problem.
For the past thirty years, this entire nation-- heck, the entire world, when you realize that France has McDonald's on the Champs Elysee and Wrangler jeans are hot sellers in Abu Dhabi-- has spent its days, nights, lives in pursuit of the Material Me. Even so-called "radical lefty tree huggers" have to be seen hugging the right tree.
We have the latest, newest, greatest, biggest...and ultimately, most useless...junk on the planet.
Just. Stop.
Focus on the things that really matter: your health, your weight, your family, your friends, your life. The problems of the world will start to melt away if we all just "stick to our knitting".
Want to solve the health insurance crisis? Walk. Exercise. Pay a co-pay and see a doctor before you get sick. Eat healthier. Sleep better. Skip every other drink or every other cigarette. Lose weight.
Want to help solve the banking crisis? Spend less, save more. Take twenty percent of your paycheck and bank it. Put your loose change at the end of the day in a jar, then take it to the bank and deposit it each month.
Want to prevent a war? Talk to people. Don't argue, don't judge them. Just listen to them. Sit in a coffee shop and make a point of truly understanding someone.
Want to be happier with your friends? Be happier about yourself. The weather's getting nicer, take a walk. Take a camera with you. Take pictures of the kids out playing. Do something that has meaning to you but doesn't cost an arm and leg, not because it's "material," but because you don't have to sit there with part of you adding up the total money you just spent.
Search for beauty in an unbeautiful world.
You have a material home. Create a spiritual one. A place where your mind can rest and your spirit can play.
You have a material home that makes you unhappy. You have spent your life pursuing it, because this is what you were told to pursue, and eveeryone else is doing it. That's a powerful influence, that "everyone else". Marketing firms have made entire fortunes on the backs of you and your neighbors, convincing you to buy this gadget or that SUV.
You have the power to quit them. Use that energy, now exhausted, now spent, on yourself. You have a window full of stuff, but a house devoid of what you need. You have things, but no love, because you cannot love a thing. It cannot love you back. You have glee, but no joy. Glee comes from knowing you've bought the new toy. Joy comes from living with what you have. Glee is a drug. It requires constant reinforcement. Joy is everlasting. it grows on its own if you just give it room.
Give room to your joy. Shun your glee. Don't you have enough? Do you have all that you need? Most of us do and are unaware of it. And besides, everything is on loan here. It can be taken from you in the wink of an eye, but the one thing that will always be with you is you.
Give to people. Give your time. Give your love. Give your joy, because the best soil for joy to grow in is soil that two people tend. Don't worry, it grows quickly!
Give your things, too. A gift given gives twice, or so the saying goes.
The damnable trap of the past thirty years is that we have taken, but we haven't taken from others...well, not much. As others have taken from us, however-- and that has happened-- we have also taken from ourselves and our futures. We borrowed money we didn't have to buy things that might not even be around now that the bill has come due.
By allowing others to take from us, we have robbed ourselves of our humanity, our dignity, and our individuality. By buying the iPod or the car or the Britney Spears CD or the Disney DVD, we have allowed others to take "us" in exchange for making us more like everyone else. We have fuller closets and emptier hearts, prettier clothes and uglier bodies, bigger cars and smaller minds.
But when you give, you maintain who you are. You become who you need to be. You keep what and who you want in your life, and you stop pushing aside the important things in life.
Yes, the world is troubled. Yes, you will be buffetted and affected and maybe even harmed for decisions you've made in the past.
But you can be the future, too, and that is where you will live. Do the things you need to do now to make that a better life.