A question I ask myself from time-to-time, and it can be applied to all manners of sins and societal follies. We have news and sports blasting us with “information” twenty-four hours a day. Often supposition is made to look like a fact, and how could we have not known about this “fact” (unbelievable look of incredulity upon my face)? Every day we pile on a new layer of intrigue or perception of no hope for a decent future. We even have pundits ask the rhetorical, “what will be left for our children?”. So just another layer of morose, unhappy existence, only to be topped by the next scandal or incendiary event. Is there no control over any of this?
Simple answer; you have the control. You choose your poison, and when you do, don’t be angry at someone else. Ultimately, control has always been in your hands. The media is only going to show you what you want, they don’t make money otherwise. Everything is about the money (slightly cynical, I know), and money has two different outcomes, used for the good, used for the greed. You can choose what it should be used for. I for one, don’t want anyone telling me how to use my money, and if I choose that charity is the best use for it, then I can know it was my choice to be charitable and not an unseen entity creating a bar of distribution I neither know the beginning or ending to. The interesting question should be, if everyone choses to charitably give their money to anyone in need, or chooses to give their monies to a more altruistic cause, would our world be in a better place? Maybe, maybe not, but at least in the end, you made the right moral decision(s). It’s about sacrifice, look at our nation today, built upon the sacrifices of others; not built upon what we can make people do, or how can I get what I want.
Morality, where did it go? Is it hiding from us, have we allowed, as a society, others to tell us where our morality should be? Society can benefit from some simple foundational pillars. First, I am a man of God, so my first pillar and my strongest pillar is my belief in God (God is in every decision and everything I do). Everything good comes from this. James Martin SJ, a prolific writer, priest, speaker, and campaigner for those marginalized in our day, indicates the Jesuit belief, “God is in all things”. A recognition of this simple yet profound belief causes and arc of understanding which points to truth and love as the central focal points for a productive society. Not love from a song, or the misperceived love displayed by our decrepit entertainment industry. I mean the love of self-denial, the love of “no”. I tell my kids all the time, “I tell you no, because I love you” (of course I get an eye roll, but it doesn’t make it untrue), and I truly mean this. What I mean by “no”, is simple, “no” to the extra drink, “no” to the acedia, plainly “no” to what I want when what I want might just be the problem. A little more of this and we might see a night and day difference in our perceptions as a culture.
Education is the next pillar. Our world is getting ever more complicated and this complication requires a three-fold system of education. The first is, we must in every fiber of our culture encourage education; Mike Rowe makes an excellent point in referring an antiquated understanding of higher education. Not everyone is made to be a college graduate, and at the same time not every college graduate is competent to handle the trades (Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs, with tremendous eloquence espouses this theory, even to the extent we have a deficit in good paying jobs in the trades which need to be filled). We need them all though; we as a culture must encourage every opportunity to advance one’s education as a must. Our place in this world from every place on the global spectrum is tied to education in one form or another, and this combined with ingenuity to create is what helps us to tackle every opportunity placed in our pathway. However, competition in a realm of first place, second place, and loser is just simply outdated to one extent. The subjectivity with which anything can be measured, and those of us who want a simple answer to all things are what create a complete inability to compare ourselves based on a perceived training, but instead the result should be our focus. Instead of asking, if everyone went to college, shouldn’t we ask if everyone has a job? There is either a do or don’t do, a desire to be the best at what is tried, and education provides us this, but education can mean anything and should, we should never pigeon hole ourselves into a paradigm which stifles the very nature of who we are. I don’t care if you can count the best or do math the best, I care that you’re creative and understand what is needed; if you can do those things, we’re always going to be on the cutting edge, but we can’t get there without education.
Family is so important for the perpetuation of the first two pillars, is it any wonder why we have a dwindling faith and education culture in our society these days? Family is there to lift you up, tell you how wrong you are, and create a sense of worth rooted in the deepest levels. Without family, you’ve become Edmond Dantes and all you have is your goal and your vengeance to pursue. Vengeance against society for somehow holding you back, guess what, society doesn’t care if you’re held back. Society just is, but family does care, they are the ones to open doors for you, and push you into areas where you once thought impossible to attain. Our culture has celebrated the broken family; we’ve celebrated the “courage” it takes to do everything on one’s own. I do think this requires courage, but I also must be honest, if people would take more time being selective with whom they introduce into their families, apply a true understanding to faith as a covenant with a familial relationship, and accept family not as a dividend relationship but one of giving we have a real chance to see an applicable change in the paradigm. We can’t, as a society do much to change past cultural decisions. However, we can apply this to our future generations, and it begins with family. A family to teach and educate children in the truth, the faith which brings us closer to God, and gives us a sense of purpose on both accounts.
The last pillar is community, how can we claim to care about the other pillars without a successful community. The community helps us as a society to move forward with advancements in all realms of the society as they pertain to morals, laws, and general cultural idioms we face from day-to-day. Community gives us sense of purpose; a purpose to clean up areas of concern within the community, or provide a future for future peoples who inhabit our communities. Take for instance crime, if crime is an issue in any single community, the first thing to do is not blow it out of proportion, the second thing to do is realize the police are never the final answer. The police are brave souls who risk everything to help a community attain a level of safety which will provide potential for growth. Growth is good for anything to become healthy and sustainable. The police are simply a vital cog in the wheel of the community, and an equally vital cog is the society at large. It’s up to the citizens of any community to create a safe environment through involvement in community activities, and informing the local law enforcement when these are in jeopardy through illegal means. How much better would our communities operate if the local police had an inside track, or neighbors looking out for other neighbors? We see in poorer neighborhoods less trust and greater propensity to violence as a way of life, though a solution by the Office of Policy Development and Research suggest investment in the community is vital to reduction of crime, increase of jobs, and increased social awareness. The solution of community is giving back, the government’s solution isn’t even one of putting money into, but rather putting an awareness of social progress as the driving factor for any community over any economic gains. We have the tools to fix our communities, we just must be unselfish enough to work to achieve those goals (https://www.huduser.gov/portal/periodicals/em/summer16/highlight2.html). When there is a paradigm of “I want what they have” or “they got that benefit because of the way they look”, it pursues a cavernous waste of racism, but also denies the truth of the matter. Some people got where they are because of luck, and others received what they have because their earlier generations (i.e. grandparents, parents) worked hard to achieve something potentially never realized in their own lifetime’s. To deny a person their past because you don’t care for your own future, is wrong. When there is a general mistrust of all these pillars we see communities break down and become cancerous lesions dotting our society, bent on the destruction of the society in general if the few in power get their decided piece of the pie.
For me, all four pillars must be embraced for a society to function properly. If we choose to acknowledge their existence and choose to move in this direction, I think society will have its problems, but on a whole, won’t appear to have the systemic issues it currently does or be as bad off as everyone perceives it to be. When we can recognize, the news and entertainment are solely pursuing an end and means with money as the main motivator (cynical yes, but not altogether untrue), we can find a middle ground whereby we look for the information which exists and not someone with an unexperienced or extreme opinion about a topic. The truth is, we listen to people’s opinions about topics where they are neither and expert, nor have much experience in the subject whatsoever. Just like now, you read my words, but I would be just like everyone else if I expected you to take what I’ve written at face value. No, I expect you to search deep and find a place of truth for anything which you’ve read today. It’s the only way you can truly begin to create an expectation for yourself and the others around you.
Finally, my expectation of everyone is something I hold myself to, it’s not acceptable to be anything less than the best representation of yourself always. Yes, this means, you should make the right decisions for you, not because someone may think less of you, but because it represents truth and you should desire the truth. I hope and pray, my words help light the fire for a pursuance of God, and a more fruitful existence within a better society, a better you, and a truth which is neither good or bad, but just is. May God bless you and your family!!!
God is good all the time, and all the time God is good!!!