Shouldn’t we not rest until every man, woman, and child alive on earth has a roof over his or her head and food to eat and clean water to drink? Wasn’t that what Jesus was getting at? At the very least? But no, that has never even been close to happening.
People, for the most part, do not live their lives “in service” to the greater good. They don’t survive on the minimum and give the excess to the poor. They don’t focus their creativity, their fortitude, and their industry, on saving the world from despair. In fact, for the most part, they do the opposite. Me included. Forgive me Father, for I have sinned…as most of us have.
I do give to charity, and some years it seems like quite a lot, but I do not sacrifice. And if I really was “putting on the mind of Christ” I would not even see it as a sacrifice. As long as there is even one starving mouth out in the world, I should not get a penny more than I need to stay alive myself.
“Whoa, righteous bucks, man!” Yep. Who the hell am I to point the finger? Well, I don’t consider this as any sort of finger pointing. I am really only asking a question. How can we really complain about the world’s inequities, God’s seeming blindness to our needs, the “unfairness” of life when it is completely in our power, our individual power, to change the lives of countless human beings with the snap of a finger?
I am not necessarily saying it is our duty to change our ways and live in a cardboard box under the freeway so we can feed starving children in Africa (or wherever they may be) but really, why do we blame God, or even other people, for all the suffering in the world, including our own, when we have so much power to do something about it all ourselves?
I’ll say it again, I am not proposing anything—I am just making an observation. We can keep on living the way we are living, where those of us in the middle to upper classes in the West have 90% of the world’s wealth—but if we do that, we should stop complaining—at the very least.
It is interesting to note, and of course this is a guess, that if we saw everyone in the world the same way we see our immediate family, and if we were basically decent people (that could be a stretch depending on who I am addressing!) then we probably would make sure our immediate family (the entire world in this hypothetical) was at least well fed. Why is it that we don’t do that?
Well, it surely has to do with the way our basic psychology is wired—tribe mentality and all that. We also have a pretty complex wiring around self-preservation, and somewhere through time that wiring has tricked us into thinking that having a new Mercedes Benz in the driveway is “self-preservation.”
This is no joke. I honestly believe that human beings are wired to believe the most mundane, and superfluous, of material possessions are required not only for pleasure and happiness (which is a given) but also for survival—literally. Neither is true.
That’s pretty weird.
We also seem to be wired to cut our empathic connection completely off if the space between our empathic subject and the empathizer (us) is beyond a certain distance, both physically and emotionally. Empathy is one of the tenets of psychological health, but it really has a very limited range, if it exists at all with the modern human. (I am curious to know if primal cultures had an empathic sense that is equivalent to what we expect in modern times.)
Obviously these points developed evolutionarily to end up at the state they are now—basic disconnection with other human beings on the planet if they are too far away—too far away in physical distance as well as too far away in a variety of other aspects.
Going back to the title of this article. Is that what Jesus meant when he said “stay awake for me, I am just going over here to pray” (paraphrasing Matthew 26: 36-46). Jesus asking the disciples to stay awake for “only an hour” is a metaphor for how quickly we forget there are other humans in the world worse off than we are, the disciples falling asleep and “forgetting what Jesus asked from them” while he “went over there to pray” is a metaphor for “how quickly you forget if I am not within your immediate presence.”
In Luke 22:57 Peter denies even knowing Jesus, which is another example of “out of sight out of mind.” Of course there is more to it than this in the Bible, but you can see how it relates to my point. We are basically designed to ignore or forget anything that is uncomfortable for us. We are pain resistant and comfort motivated.
Of course everything I am saying here is materially driven (not the quotes from the Bible, they were presented only as an illustration of human behaviour). The problem I am presenting regarding starving children and our world suffering due to a multitude of grievances, is a problem that exists primarily because the rich people of the world (which includes us from a relative perspective) are too greedy to share the wealth.
As I said earlier, our “system” believes having the Mercedes in the driveway is equivalent to the discovery of a stash of grubs or a bucket of honey in an old tree trunk that could sustain the family or the tribe through the winter. And if you shared this bounty with the folks over the hill, you would surely die. Today we tend to see opulent wealth as a means to basic survival, which it certainly is not. Our drive to acquire “things” beyond what we need is hardwired because we have been brainwashed to believe everything we want, we need.
So what do we do? Well, as you know, I usually don’t supply top down solutions. I might suggest a bottom up solution, but they are usually too simple and are really only useful during the days following the holocaust when the entire world is destroyed and only six people have survived.
That said, I do think we can all be a little more aware of what we are dealing with. It may help to be kinder to those in need—maybe pay more attention to the homeless people asking for a handout, or be more generous with other charitable donations.
That is indeed “top down” problem solving, but as with lots of top down stuff, if practiced tirelessly, change of deeper systems that really do make a difference do occur over time. We need to prepare for the new world approaching, and I don’t mean the WEF’s New World Order, I mean the real new world—the beautiful and vibrant new world left behind after the smoke clears and the floods recede. It will indeed come, and for that world, God’s intended world, we must be prepared.
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