Life is hard.
Even for the most fortunate among us, it… is… hard.
For the “most fortunate” of us…all the money, all the opportunities…earned or given…, all the hard work, breaks, intelligence, first chances and second chances, windfalls and blind-stupid-stupid luck that any one person might have…life is still hard.
I believe that.
Having all of those things even in spades does not make a person immune from sadness, anger, heartbreak, loss, death, tragedy, mistakes…or regret. Maybe it helps sometimes, but it doesn’t make them immune.
I am not one of the “most fortunate” among us. And neither are most people I know. I consider myself and my circle to be in the “very fortunate” category. We are fortunate, but not excessively fortunate in terms of worldy things….we are comfortable. We have enough of what is considered “good”, enough so that our families can live well; not “want” for anything we need, and usually not want for anything we want.
We have homes. We have food. We have employment. We have a good education. We have doctors. We have friends. We have love. We have opportunities afforded to us through our own hard work, and sometimes given to us through the most fortunate or equally fortunate network of people we meet while living our lives. These things give us comfort while we try very hard to deal with and endure the hardships that are simply a part of being – human. And so we are comfortable.
But I wonder often, very often, what it would be like to be one of the “least fortunate” among us.
We all know what poverty is, but have you actually seen it with your own eyes? Known anyone who… has lived in it, or tried in vain to move past it, or begged-borrowed-and-stolen to break free of it?
We all know what bad-luck means, but have you actually known anyone who… has suffered through seemingly unending streaks of it?
We all know what a lack of an education means, but are you friends with or personally involved with anyone who… has received a very bad one, or very little, or none at all?
We all know what a job is, but do you know anyone who… has lost one and cannot find another to support his family, or who despite their best efforts is unable to keep one, or who is not qualified to earn one, or who has never seen an example of a respectable one?
We all know what a home is, but do you know anyone who… lives transiently, or lives in a shelter, or finds shelter on the street, or simply “exists” nowhere at all?
We all know what food is, but do you know anyone who… doesn’t have the means to buy it, or grow it, or must beg for it, or who is hungry as a permanent state-of-being?
We all know what health care means, but do you know anyone young or old who…has no means with which to see a doctor, or receive check-ups, or pay for the simplest of medicines?
We all know what love means, but do you know anyone who… has repeatedly lost it or who never had it to begin with or has been betrayed by it to the point that they essentially can’t conceive of or remember what it means…at all?
Do you know anyone in your life for whom the answer to all of these questions is………… “yes”?
Now let me ask you this: do you think about those real, flesh-and-blood human beings? Do you think about them? Have you ever tried to empathize with what it would feel like to answer “yes” to just one…one…of those questions? What about two of them? Three??
And I’d like to think the majority of people do. To what degree our empathy shapes our beliefs and actions varies, of course, due to our own personal circumstances. But your average, every-day, healthy cynicism aside…I think most of us as individuals, when asked to picture walking a mile in the shoes of the least fortunate, feel compassion. I believe it truly pains the overwhelming majority of us to see other human beings in anguish, desperation and need. I believe that to be true, literally…for nearly every single person.
I believe that one-on-one, human beings have an instinctual desire to do right by each other. To literally care for one another and act on it in ways that are measurable. And I believe that one-on-one, there is no enemy in the person in need – and no enemy in the person who wants for nothing.
Imagine you’re on a street, alone. Save for one other person…you know the one…the one for whom all the answers to those questions is “yes”. It’s you and him and the lamp-post. No matter your political affiliation, race, creed, upbringing, social standing…I truly believe that no matter who you are it would be nearly impossible to fight against your instinct to see that person as a human being who needs help. And your gut tells you to do just that – help. Care.
But oh my God…how is it that our innate desire to truly “take care” gets so unbelievably screwed-up when we amass as collectives?
Why does that happen?
Some say The Rapture is coming. On May 21, 2011 to be exact. The day that God will literally call up the “believing” and “worthy” of us…and leave the rest of us sorry-bastards here to fend for ourselves against the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse…something like that.
But I don’t know. Something about that smells a little fishy. Soooo… God will call to Heaven the “individuals” who He deems righteous enough to warrant it? Seems simple enough, albeit very time-consuming. But will God judge us on our merits as an individual? Or, rather, will he judge us on our merits as a collective? Very often, these two things do not mesh. There is the individual. And then there is….the herd.
Herd Mentality: The inability or refusal to listen to one’s own instinct or ‘gut feeling’ but to instead follow the majority for fear of being wrong, ostracized or ridiculed.
I believe in God. I can’t say I haven’t gone through my rough-patches with Him…if “rough patch” includes not believing in him at all at different points in my life (cymbal crash…”Don’t forget to tip your waitress on the way out!”)…..
But seriously folks, I do believe in God. I also believe that he surely isn’t fooled by the fair-weather philanthropist who gives at the office, but who throws up a little in his mouth at the very thought of supporting the people who answer “yes to all of the above” in any meaningful, long-term, societal way. His gut might tell him what’s-what, what is right and true and good. So he appeases that gut with his generous contribution as an individual. What though, does that philanthropist support as part of his “herd”?
Does his herd frown upon the downtrodden, the weak, the strong-but-unlucky, the indigent, the poor? Or does his herd put forth into the world the same amount of compassion stirring in his gut?
All I’m saying is that I believe God is efficient. Come The Rapture, I’m thinking he will look at the the herds as opposed to the individuals. Courage and convictions are only truly righteous when what you feel in your soul is made known to the world, regardless of the consequences of what others may think.
In my humble opinion.
If you think this is all a thinly veiled cautionary metaphor of political malpractice regarding oh say, something like the Tea Party….come on. ((laughing, snorting))… That is only a coincidence.
Ugh. That’s not true. It’s not true at all. I’m lying. I’m sorry. I’m sorry!
Trying…..to keep…..it inside………..
I THINK MAYBE GOD MIGHT SUCK THE ENTIRE “TEA PARTY” UP
WITH A VACUUM CLEANER ON
((Exhale, exhale…..whew)). There, I’ve said it. I know. It wasn’t very nice. I am sorry. I just had to say it. It’s been trying to BUST outta me for a week now…..lemme catch my breath. Hold…on…..hold….on….
Okay. Again, I’m so sorry.
I’m hoping that God has a sense of humor. Or at the very least appreciates lame attempts at it. Or at the very, VERY least, you know, maybe likes the Lib-herd a little and I’ll be able to blog to you come Sunday.
Then again…..I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t push my luck right now.