I wrote and scrapped a thousand-word post about the US election in exchange for a related question that has hit me deeper, one about being human.
Lately, I have been overwhelmed by the brokenness of the world. In my last post, I wrote about our kids’ plights that neither they, nor we, nor, in some cases, their parents, have much control over. Perceptions of the dialogue in America from afar have added another layer to this weight that I break under some days. What do we make of these situations?
Once, and by once I mean a hundred times, I heard someone say that people are inherently good. That education and behavior modification were what we needed to charge into a brighter future.
At times, I have tried on this worldview like a shirt. I want to assume the best intentions of the person in front me. I want to believe that somehow there is a piece we can plug in to the puzzle and right all of the thinking and actions. For me, when I apply this philosophy in practice, the threads separate in the stretch of the world. Here are questions that make uppart of what I have affectionately called The Wrestle.
1. What does it mean to be ‘good’?
A question that resides even further back than this one could be, what does it mean to be human? I believe the different assumptions embedded in my answer, in your answer, keep us dancing around what justice looks like, who ought to lead, and how we ought to live. Can we agree that humans are inherently good if we cannot agree what good is? I follow Jesus’ teachings. Someone else likes the Dalai Lama, for example. Turns out I like a lot of what the Dalai Lama says, but we may still have different cultural understanding of how those ‘goods’ will then be accomplished.
If there were a temple for ‘goodness’, who would be the clergy? And who elects them? How? Could they handle it?
2. If people are inherently good, when given the opportunity to reconstruct a society, would it not turn out better, more others’ minded (look at that assumption!) than before?
See Iraq, see Egypt, see Syria, see America seeming to have a moment.
What are we doing?
3. There are just so, so many of the same issues we have had forever. Different name same story. Power, coercion, manipulation, fear. This is not humanity’s first rodeo. I pray that God helps us move away from the current state of the world, all the while knowing history would predict new versions of our current issues in thirty, forty, fifty years.
On an encouraging note, I have heard many people asking, what can I do today? I’m with you. What can I do?
- I can sling rocks at another camp.
- I can cling to a small group of people who live how I think we ought (preserve myself, ignore the rest of the world, and tell it from a distance about the gasoline in its drinking glass as it goes down in flames).
- I can choose a problem, and do what I can to help.
For this season, I have decided to love some kids who were abandoned and try to help them create a different future. What are you doing? Want to get involved? What will you do? How does your idea of ‘good’ look in your life?
I’ve been meditating on this one:
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)
As always, thank you for reading.