As was the case during the US presidential election, and again during the inauguration, unrest dots the American landscape today. Those agitated are protesting. Those angry at the protesters are scoffing. In all, there are large amounts of activity and time spent attacking one another.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the back and forth.
There are people and groups who stand for causes that rub me wrong, that clash with my understanding of right and wrong. So though I try to observe these scrums with limited allegiance, my ego is also tempted to pick a side, root for it, and wish the fall of the other. With this investment, I catch myself drifting into news stories about the issues, people, or groups toward which I react. Sometimes before I even finish the piece about such a group, I go straight for the comments. What are the people saying? Are they supportive of that which I am not? If so, I’m irked–even insecure and upset by this tide running up against my beliefs. On the other hand, if the commenters criticize and attack my “foe,” I take pleasure in this entity being torn down.
Yet in either case, I am losing.
‘Cause I’m either feeding the fear or the pride. In either case, I’m in the shallow end of the existential pool where my ego wades, watching how others act, not accomplishing or contributing anything of my own to my life or to the world.
Let’s pretend we’re at the beach…
I look over to see a group that bothers me building their own castle (their opinion, project, or movement). Others (the commenters) watch. Maybe they cheer on (or even lend a hand to) the group building their castle. Now I’m threatened. But if the commenters are booing and hissing (or even attacking) the castle, then I think to myself, “Ha ha, take that!” All the while, there I am standing in the sand building no castle of my own.
To the degree that you let others’ activity or negativity prevent you from offering your own positive efforts, is the degree to which you’ve reduced your usefulness to the world. Of course we wish to have a positive impact on humanity, but this comes from a place of genuine concern and peace–not from a place of contempt.
Your castle is your family, your work, your projects, your outings, your events, your trips, or even your relaxation. The beach is your life and the castles are what you add to it.
If I read about these controversial issues, I try hard to retain my commitment to my castle. If I see an ill or injustice in the world, all the more reason to build a castle. If I do attach myself to the activity of others, I aim to cheer on solutions-oriented people building productive castles of their own. To take satisfaction in another’s fall or to voice dismay about these politicians/political issues often amounts to nothing more than cynicism, gossip, judgement, schadenfreude, and tribalism.
Observe the happenings of the day, but I’ll commit alongside you to do so from deep end of the pool and to continue building our castles for the continued benefit of our and others’ lives.
This article was adapted from my weekly email. Each Sunday evening I write to friends and readers updating them on my latest travels, projects, writing, and a message for the week. I’ve been writing these emails for the past 2+ years whether in East Africa, Southeast Asia, or home in Minnesota. I’d like to include you. If interested, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org