It’s a crushing thought. Entertainment arts have been flooded in recent years with dystopia. I know a number of people who are writing dystopian novels, especially for young adults. It has been trending and selling for some time now. What is behind this trend? Is it hopelessness? Maybe people are obsessed with exploring their fears— if they talk about them, perhaps they won’t happen. Or it could be merely a new playground for our imaginations, giving us plenty of opportunities to test our human strengths against new and scary scenarios. Sometimes I’m right there with these writers, with my love of stories of apocalyptic proportions, but I differ a little from this rampant dystopia.
Merriam-Webster’s definition: 1: an imaginary place which is depressingly wretched and whose people lead a fearful existence.
Now to me that sounds frighteningly unappealing. Who would want to live in such a scenario? I can’t imagine any human beings in their right minds who would desire such a world unless they had personal death wishes, or were completely disillusioned by people and desired revenge on humanity. But perhaps there is something else.
Obsessed by our Fears
I am no different than many in taking a rather dim view of the future based on the rampant crime and evil acts we see and hear about all over the world. But when has this ever been any different? Each generation has had challenges that shook it to its core. The Doomsday Clock has been around since before many of us were born. Initially it signified the distance to doomsday due to nuclear weapon proliferation. Now our doomsday fears include climate change, nuclear waste disposal, and other messes. The clock currently stands at three minutes until midnight. The last time it was this close was in the early 1980s.
As I drove through town today I looked around at the houses people live in. A majority of the inhabitants must be somewhat decent people with the same desires for living a decent life that I feel. Why can we not, as a species, rise above our undesirable traits?
The Search for Utopian Stories
I searched the web for lists of books or movies that had non-dystopian depictions of the future. What I found was quite surprising. The only one that came close to what I wanted was Star Trek. The newest Star Trek movie did not disappoint, either. A few others were listed, such as I, Robot and AI. But beyond those few, most of the others labeled “utopian” were actually dystopian utopias. By this I mean that humankind had achieved a more-or-less peaceful existence, yet by undesirable means and with undesirable controls. This list of 25 books will give you a good idea of what I mean. The first two on the list are Brave New World and 1984. And that was it. I thought, “What gives?” So I asked myself the question. Do I personally believe we have a chance at a peaceful, problem-solved future?
Optimism, Realism, and Pessimism
My ability to see all sides of an argument gives me a stake in each of these perspectives. Optimistically, I believe the human race is fully capable of rising to the challenge of any problem the world can produce. After all, look at history. One can clearly see the resilience of humans in the face of every kind of threat. Realistically, we know that humans do not always respond to threats with peaceful actions. Immerse humans in enough violence, and they will often react similarly; first as a matter of their own survival, then out of a sense of anger or hopelessness. Pessimistically, I can see the selfish greed and debasement of humanity as its ultimate undoing. It certainly seems to be moving in that direction. But is it?
The Bees Have a Secret
We took on a new hobby about four years ago—beekeeping. I love my bees. They are fascinating to watch. When I open the hive I stop and sense the hive atmosphere. I swear I can tell whether they are happy or stressed. They exude a happy hum when they are busy and productive, when their queen is doing well and they are doing what they are meant to do. When the queen is gone or they are upset at my intrusion, the hum of the hive is gone and the bees are riled up, or in a state of confusion. Recently I noticed that the bees from only one of our hives flew at me, banging angrily, recklessly, into my bee hood. Later, I realized this was the hive that had an invasion of ants. Makes sense now.
We caught our first swarm this year. Bees swarm when they feel the need to propagate themselves. About 60% of the bees, along with the old queen, leave the hive. They settle on a branch somewhere not far from their old home, and send out scout bees to find them a new one. They form a tight cluster, all surrounding and protecting the queen in the center. When the new home is chosen, the bees fly to it together and take up residence. A few bees may be lost along the way, but as a whole they have successfully navigated the dangers of change by supporting and protecting their species as a whole. You might say they helped and protected each other. The bees who were left behind somehow sensed the imminent change, and had already begun the process of raising a new queen from the larvae left by their predecessor.
Is there a parallel here? If so, it might be that the human race is happiest when engaged in productive, outcome-based work that benefits those around them or society as a whole. Threaten that too much, and we will fight for the right to survive.
I Love Reading (and writing) Science Fiction
The imagination of sci-fi authors, from H. G. Wells, b. 1866, author of The Time Machine, to Andy Weir, b. 1972, author of The Martian, have stimulated my own mind to imagine places and scenarios based in reality, though often far-fetched. I prefer not to leave reality behind completely and escape into fantasies, as I find it fascinating to imagine concrete worlds and settings with at least a smidgen of realism, and to ponder how humans would react to more-or-less realistic future scenarios
Many think Star Trek got some of it right, but not all. Our future, if we extrapolate outward from what will soon be possible, includes things such as human enhancement and life extension. But I like to think that humankind will be…well…kind. Like the Star Trek characters. Well mannered. Intelligent. Caring and cultured. Mature and responsible.
We rented a sci-fi series disc from Netflix recently. The people of Earth, Mars, and Ceres (a dwarf planet in the asteroid belt) were on the verge of a galactic war. The characters in the show had no more maturity and civility than what I see in the world today. I was sharply disappointed in the show; although it did have some interesting futuristic aspects and seemed to be well made, most of the people were jerks. Because of this, I didn’t enjoy it. When will we learn?
If thousands of years of existence—from the first humans who fought over ownership of territory, goods, and people; to today’s global world, where the same things are still occurring; and into the future, where the fighting will be over galactic conquest and resources in space—what can possibly solve our internal sickness? Why can’t we simply be like the bees?
Psychology tells us that when faced with a threat, people tend to
band together to fight it. We saw this happen during WWII and other threats to humanity. Too bad we can’t live like this every day. We love movies like Independence Day and Armageddon. Far be it from me to wish these things on us, but sometimes I do feel we need a reset to our self-centered existences. I have read that science fiction is falling out of favor, while fantasy has been exploding. Why might this be? Do we gravitate toward escapism when our world becomes too messy?
I do have great faith in mankind’s abilities to learn and grow, to solve problems and exhibit truly magnificent ingenuity. We are the most fantastical of beings but can also be the lowest and most debased of creatures. Maybe it takes more strength than what we can generate and maintain from within ourselves. Maybe we need more than physical healing; maybe we need healing of our souls. Could we be better people if we were to live with a daily awareness of our own “soul sickness” and seek help from a higher power?
I resist becoming jaded toward humankind. There is much that is good, and there is a way forward. There is a redeemer of human lives, and we see daily evidence of good on an individual level. That may be the best place to focus, rather than on our distress over our future.
No doubt we have more growing pains ahead, but I strive to reflect my hope and belief in the good, in the possible, in healing, and in a future path that weaves its way through dystopia and breaks out into the light.
Our mail carrier seems to have an irrational fear of dogs. It’s so bad that she stays in her truck and honks the horn until we come out to get our packages rather than get out of her vehicle and carry it past our two tail-wagging dogs to the front door. She says she never trusts dogs because she has heard too many stories of friendly dogs attacking mail carriers. She has a point. She exhibits fear based on real life events that have caused harm to peace-loving, public-serving mail carriers. I don’t fault her. Would we call this cautious mail carrier a dog-hater? How about a canineophobe?
Are those so flippantly labeled Islamophobic or any other negatively-charged label villains? Should they be ridiculed, ostracized or treated with contempt and disrespect? Should they even be smacked with a label?
Just as we can understand the mail carrier’s reluctance to leave the safety of her vehicle, so should we understand the reaction of Americans who have little-to-no personal experience with certain groups of people. These individuals are reacting with normal human caution to a perceived threat. They want to protect their families, communities, and their world from something that they believe could cause devastating harm. Why do they think this way?
It shouldn’t be difficult to understand. Reports of terrorist attacks everywhere they look. Radicals purportedly infiltrating every facet of their society, causing anxiety and fear. Reports of Muslims immigrating in droves into European countries and even Canada and the United States and insisting on changing their way of life-what they serve for lunch in their schools, how they conduct their laws, threatening the freedoms and democracy they hold so dear. Add to that a real verbal threat from Islamic leaders who call them the “Great Satan” and threaten to destroy them by any means, even martyrdom. How can they turn a blind eye to that? They see some progressives welcoming the very ones who have caused harm to their country. They don’t want to lie down and do nothing. And they definitely won’t let their best means of defense be stripped from them by those insisting on “change.” They aren’t convinced.
The mail carrier loves dogs. She has a dog of her own. She feeds him from her own hand. She trusts him. But she doesn’t blindly trust every dog she sees just because it is a dog. She is smart not to.
Those accused of being Islamophobes may well have Muslim neighbors, doctors, friends, hairdressers, fellow-students and salespeople to interact with, and be just fine with that. After all, Americans have lived with diversity since this country was founded, so that can’t be the problem. Maybe the problem is that until the threat is gone, people will act in predictable ways in order to protect what they hold dear.
There are people who spew irrational hatred and bigotry toward anyone different than themselves, who commit crimes against humanity, who use no common sense or discernment in their condemnation of others. They should be soundly dismissed by the majority. But to dispel the reasonable fears of reasonable people, one must fight the proper battle.
Rather than attacking the ones with the fear, maybe we should unite-Muslims, Christians, Jews, Atheists, and Progressives-and fight the ones who cause the fear. Only then can we live in a peaceful society. Each group must not be so easily offended, but must look at the problems from all sides, with understanding, in order to find a solution acceptable to all. The way I see it, both sides of every modern-day issue are guilty. Both sides are fearful that their way of life will be threatened, so they react too strongly out of fear. They push hard against the other side who pushes back in equal measure. They force change to occur too quickly by the use of power-governmental power, the power of loud, angry voices, etc.-without giving dialogue a chance, without giving misperceptions time to be dispelled. Force is used, rather than diplomacy, civility, and respect. In serious, immediate matters force is sometimes called for, but it should be a measured, majority-approved decision.
Fear gets a bad rap. Fear is an emotional response induced by a perceived threat. It causes a change in brain and organ function, as well as in behavior. Without the fear response, we would be unable to protect ourselves from dangers, and we would not survive. Fear has to be admitted, accepted, and understood before it can be conquered and made to serve our purposes.
We have the opportunity like never before in history to use global communication to solve our problems. We must use non-divisive language and practice non-divisive attitudes. No one group is “the problem.” We are all the problem, and we all must be the solution.
The 1950’s are characterized as a time of innovation and energy, optimism and hope for the future. Popularized in the late ’50’s by Frank Sinatra, the song High Hopes won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. I remember singing the song in my elementary school music class. It had a catchy tune, and a message that the impossible was not so impossible after all, and that troubles and hardships would flee like the pop of a balloon. These are wonderful thoughts, but do they contain substance that we can cling to? Is an attitude of hope alive today? Just what is hope, and what does it look like?
For Americans, hope is tied into the American Dream in ways both large and small. We still believe that with enough hard work and resourcefulness, anyone can make it in America. Opportunity is available if one works hard enough. This is well and good, but the generalization falls short for some. Society seems bent on deteriorating. It is harder than ever to make it on one’s own without a hand-up by a caring individual or two.
The dictionary defines hope as “the feeling that what is wanted can be had, or that events will turn out for the best.” As a verb, hope means, “to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence,” or “to believe, desire or trust,” or “to feel that something desired may happen.” On a scale of one to ten, how hopeful do you feel?
Cautioned that one should not base one’s happiness on feelings, which are quite fickle, but rather on what is real and true, we often find that things hoped for are not within our grasp. They are future possibilities. Hope, which is a feeling, must be based on something else that is real and true. I can say, yes, I have hope, because generally 95% of the things I fear never come to pass, or because time passes and I do get through the difficult things one way or another. Often things turn out okay, but not always. Sometimes things just plain suck. Bad things happen. People get sick. They hurt. They cry. They suffer losses of all kinds. Jobs, faculties, health, loved ones. Not to mention the pain of relationships gone bad.
During these dark times I force myself to look outside of my current calamity. I lift my eyes up and allow myself to take a God’s-eye view of the world and my place in it. Like a bird or a pilot, I soar above and look down on the earth from a wide-angle view, outside the bounds of time. Troubles seem small, and the things that seem to matter so much shrink and wither, leaving me with the essence of what really matters. That is, who am I? Who does God say I am? What do the things I worry about today matter in the big picture? What does matter?
My brother loves to fly. To him, a sailplane is the ultimate experience, with not even an engine disturbing the calm and peace as he soars above the earth. It is simple and alive. I find the same experience in nature. When I’m on a mountaintop, away from civilization, or taking a walk in the woods , none of the normal distractions intrude. It is me, the earth and sky, and the presence of God.
Several studies in recent years have shown that nature is essential to the physical, psychological, and social well-being of humankind. The complexities of life create many of our problems: boil it down to the basics and many of those problems dissipate. Become a minimalist and you will decrease stress. Let go of fear and you will have peace. Get in touch with nature and you may well touch something else you desperately need.
One of the beauties of faith in a God who cares, who has a purpose for your life, who holds the world in his hands, is the lack of a reason to fear. If God is God, and we live our lives before him as he enables, with integrity, humility, and a good work ethic, there is no reason to fear. We can leave the number of our days in God’s hands. We can relax and feel content about who we are and what we have done with our lives. Not only that, but we know that the mistakes we’ve made are covered in God’s forgiveness. There is hope for the future because God is there.
Two verses are especially relevant here:
Isaiah 40:29-31 “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (New International Version)
Hebrews 6:19 “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” (NIV)
In conclusion, I trust that my “high hopes” are not a pie-in-the-sky figment of my imagination, but are based on something real and true. I have great optimism for mankind, who has achieved unbelievable and marvelous things that I see with my own eyes every day, and who has capabilities that could change the course of the future. After all, man is made in God’s image.
Recently I had the honor of keeping my mother-in-law’s Jack Russell terrier while she took an extended trip to her childhood home in England. Most people who know me well enough know that I don’t particularly like small dogs, especially yappers. Enter Jasper. His sudden, spine-straightening, high decibel eruptions at the slightest noise are more than my nerves can tolerate. I have kept Jasper many times, but over the last year or so he has grown progressively more blind due to detached lenses until we’re convinced he can’t see through his cloudy blue eyes at all. Now he uses his nose as a bumper. He stands in front of various pieces of furniture or the wrong side of doors waiting for them to open and let him out. Where once he was a force of male canine self-importance, now he spends many of his dog days in boredom and lackluster enthusiasm for everything but licking plates.
When you want something, take a big bite of it and never let go until it’s yours.
As Jasper wandered around the yard one day he came across a big piece of bone one of the other dogs had dragged home and left in the grass. He thought he’d won the doggie lottery. He sat chewing on that nasty thing until I discovered him. I knew I had to get it away from him, as he has not digested bone fragments well in the past, and I wasn’t about to have a mess all over our new carpet. His growl warned me he wasn’t about to give it up with my nicey-nice request. I got tough. I got mean. I tried everything and he would not let it go. Jaws of steel had clamped down and dug in. There’s some instinct in human nature that loathes giving in to a stubborn little dog, but I had no choice. Jasper came out victorious until he chose to let it go for some reason. When he wandered around desperately sniffing for it again, my heart hurt for him, and the lesson of perseverance-to-success was not lost on me.
Confidence is born from repeatedly following the same course until it becomes second nature. Or in other words, practice makes perfect.
When Jasper is in his own home he knows where the furniture is. He knows where his food and water bowls are, and his bed. He gets around very well. He seldom falls down the steps. But in a new environment he does not fare so well. He has no stick he can swing from side to side. He goes slow and uses his nose and whiskers to tell him where doorways, stairs and obstacles are. But he courageously joins our two dogs as they romp outside and he feels a freedom in wide open spaces where he can run and enjoy nature. He has a sense out here in the country that certain areas are obstacle-free. Knowing his surroundings gives him courage.
Courage comes from within and gives one dignity in the face of hardship.
I find it difficult sometimes to not anthropomorphize with my canine buddies. When I want to attribute his actions to courage, maybe Jasper is just doing what one would reasonably expect an animal to do when confronted with blindness in middle age. But I swear he shows courage in the face of his handicap. If I were faced with the same situation, and I may be, since I am experiencing the first signs of macular degeneration, I’d have trouble facing each new day with a good attitude. The higher intelligence of humans may be detrimental in this kind of loss, but I can’t help but find it inspiring to watch Jasper cope. He eagerly runs to the car when invited to “go,” and does his best to hop in on his own. He tries to jump down out of the car or off furniture although it is obviously hard for him to trust that he won’t fall too far. He listens and relies on our voices or the tension of a leash to know where to go. Learning new skills in the face of fear and loss takes courage. Jasper has his days of moping, but overall he meets his life’s new challenge in a way I can only hope to emulate with my own losses, with tail-wagging enthusiasm for all the things I am still able to do.
Do the animals you know inspire you? Share your animal stories in the comments.
Advances in biotechnology promise us the ability to not only heal the sick but to enhance the human body and even create new life forms. Rapid advances in molecular genetics led to the creation of the Human Genome Project, an international mega-project, completed in 2003, that sequenced and identified all three billion chemical units in the human genetic instruction set. Eventually your personal genome will be available to you on a disc or chip. Sound impossible? It isn’t. In fact it has been done more than a handful of times already. It will list all your approximately 25,000 genes. It will be your “owner’s manual” which you will be able to take to your doctor. This opens up a new field called bioinformatics, an interdisciplinary field that develops methods and software tools for understanding biological data.
Gene mapping will result in some wonderful cures. Individual genetic diseases, specific cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, even aging will be affected. We will also likely be able to enhance our genes to enable us to excel in sports or change our appearance, or beautify our children so they can have a better chance to succeed in life.
One troubling development in all this is the potentiality of bringing back extinct species of biological life. Our DNA differs from that of chimpanzees by only 1.5% It will soon be possible to reconstruct the genome of the “missing link,” and potentially we could even bring back the Neanderthal. But this raises many ethical questions, the least of which is, what do we do with them? The biggest question I have is, why?
If one subscribes to a belief in evolution, be it Darwin’s model, old-earth creationism or a form of theistic evolution, it doesn’t sit well to try and bring back a humanoid life-form that is no longer represented. In my reading I have yet to come across any reason to do so apart from “because we can.” It seems quite irresponsible of us to want to bring back a living and breeding prehistoric life-form. Would we keep them in a zoo? Train them as slaves? Keep them as pets? Study them in a laboratory?
We have arrived at an unparalleled point in human existence, where nothing seems to be the limit, especially not the sky. One part magnificent and one part horrifying, we can do things now and in the near future that could be used for great good or great evil. Do we know what we’re doing? What Pandora’s Box are we opening? We’d best think twice–or more–before we rush into the new realms opening before us. We seem dreadfully close to manipulating the building blocks of creation itself.
I am amazed when I ponder the capacity of human beings for expressive communication, be it through emotion, spirit, passion, intensity, or style. These things distinguish us from all other biological life. All forms of artistry, the wide range of mankind’s creativity, is truly spectacular. And beautiful. Those who have skills in construction and design build magnificent edifices out of raw materials. Feats of engineering boggle the mind. And advances in science and technology constantly amaze us. Mankind’s ability to collaborate and collectively solve problems gives me hope for the future. Yet we still have not solved the problem of evil inherent in the human species. We are crippled by it, yet have the opportunity to embrace the redemption and forgiveness offered freely through God’s Son, who offers us a way out of our predicament through a changed life, a life with hope and meaning, peace and a reason to live.
We stand on the precipice of our own brave new world as we charge through the twenty-first century. We have a responsibility to handle new discoveries with intelligence, responsibility and restraint. And my hope is, that when mankind as a whole gets “too big for his britches,” that God will intervene.
Does any of this trouble you? Or are you excited about what the future holds? Chime in and share your thoughts.
I love nature. Truly I do. But nature is not my friend. There is little about it that one could call friendly. Permit me to explain.
As soon as spring has sprung, nature comes alive with marvels. The songbirds return. The bees hum in the flowering trees. Flowers pop out of the ground and bloom The energy is palpable. I want to be out in it, feeling myself a part of the new life sprouting from the earth. So I go for a walk, and I take the dogs.
Soon I notice that my legs itch. The tall grass has scratched them. I feel something crawling on my neck. I reach to feel what it is and come away with a pinhead sized tick. I walk past the beehives and forget that I put a red t-shirt on that morning. The bees seem to be maddened by the color and give chase. The dog tries to catch one in her mouth and gets a sting on her nose. Further on as the poor mutt sniffs in a pile of brush, she flushes out a skunk who turns and sprays her in the face. Off she runs for the pond, yelping as it burns her eyes. To say nothing of chiggers, flies, spiders, wasps, or snakes.
Marvelous things, these. Awesome creations. But they are not tame. They hold both a beauty and a danger. In reality, they are protecting themselves. They engender my respect.
Four years ago I began a new hobby, beekeeping. I may not have known what I was getting into, but after the initial start-up expenses, I enjoyed that first year of learning about the habits and lifestyles of the sweet and industrious. Bees are indispensable for their pollination role as well as the tasty golden product of their busyness. Most people have heard of the decline of honeybees. I felt I might contribute in a small way to their continued existence, but when two of my three hives died out or disappeared that first winter, and for the last two years as well, I knew I was up against a formidable foe. To this day I struggle to understand what happens to them. My best guess so far-random acts of nature. The fight for survival against weather, pests and disease.
The other hobby I began some time ago is keeping chickens. i love their silly antics, the way they walk, scratch and chase each other for a worm. The first years were no sweat, but for the last four, coinciding with my beekeeping, I can’t seem to keep them safe. The first two flocks were casualties of a mid-day play date with my very own pet dog. Horrified that she had gone on such a wanton killing spree, I resolved to protect my birds. The second time I was furious, trapping her in and making her find a way out. She did. The third time, in spite of our vigilance, something was after them at night. A critter was digging under the heavy cover and squeezing through a small hole and dragging the half-grown young hens out. Just a few every night, and we did not miss them until we counted one day and had only four left. The nerve of those predators! Raccoon, fox or skunk, we never found out. The next year, a different strategy by the hungry and wild. We fixed the fence and tried again, sure it was the skunk we’d seen skulking around just after dark. This year as I went out at dusk to close up the chickens, I discovered the previous night’s violent storm had flung the chain off the eye hook and blown the gate open, leaving a clear invitation to the coyotes that circle our homestead every night. All but one sole survivor were gone. Sally is traumatized and won’t lay any eggs. Not to be outfoxed again, I brought home twelve new baby chicks tonight.
As biological creatures we not only fight to survive against nature, but sadly, sometimes against our own fellowman. Forces of evil which are present in humankind and often within ourselves cause us no end of grief and suffering. We do the things we do not want to do, and see others doing the same.
I believe in hope. And I believe there is a way to prevail against the forces arrayed against us. That hope is in the redeeming work of a God who wants us to choose him and let him change us by his powerful spirit of goodness and love. I believe he desires us to forsake our own way, fraught with mistakes and failures, and allow him to change us into his image. The long journey which is our lives, striving against ourselves and outside forces, has a purpose. There is a victory over sin and death. Praise God that he has not left us as helpless prey in a formidable world. He has left us his Spirit, and He has left us each other.
Not only is nature a well-armed adversary, it is beautiful beyond belief.
What ways do you find yourself up against nature? Does it make you want to give up or stand and fight?
Life is tough. Years ago I read a book, given to me by my mother, that began with that sentiment. Early in my adult years I needed to hear that others besides me struggled with life, doubted themselves, wondered if anyone really cared. Somehow it helps to know you are not alone. The gist of the book, as I recall, claimed that if we can accept this state of affairs, that life stinks a lot of the time, we will be better able to handle the dramas and traumas as they rattle the doors and windows of our peaceful abodes, seeking their way in to destroy our peace. Over the years, I’ve read many self-help books, both secular and Christian. Both have had a hand in helping me accept and handle life’s miserable moments. Zig Ziglar has had a huge impact on me. This one was a lightbulb moment.
Winston Churchill’s ‘Never, never, never give up,’ and Eleanor Roosevelt’s ‘It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness’ are good, as well as a host of other inspirational quotes. But recently the question has plagued me, Why?
Why do I want to keep on striving, living, breathing, hoping, when death after a string of misery is my lot? We have been given life. Now what is it for? This is an existential question which my Christian belief system answers for me on a spiritual level, eternity having a huge bearing on the issue. I get it and I believe it. But somewhere in the day-to-day, when I feel ineffective and of no value to anyone, even God, the “why” nags at me.
I would be aggrieved to know that any one of my acquaintances felt like giving up on life. It would drag me down. I would grieve for and with them. I, too, would feel the futility, the worthlessness of life and myself as a part of it. The truth is, no man is an island. Each of us is connected to someone, as though we each hold two hands (at a minimum) with whom we have some kind of contact. Even the most casual of contacts is important. Envision this hand-holding to form a huge net of human beings. When one drags, it pulls on the others, who begin to go down with them. When one is elevated, so are those around them. Where could we go collectively if we were all to make it our goal in life, our daily focus, to be an encourager, cheerleader, or friend? To build one another up? To know, deep within ourselves, that what we say and do, every moment, makes a difference?
The upside is that life is not just a string of miserable events. Life encompasses birth, regeneration, humor, beauty, love and kindness, a list which could grow to lengths too long for this blog post. I posit that we need to focus on these things in order to keep our perspective and be a part of all that is good about the world. What if our connectivity to others is what it’s really about?
A dose of humor doesn’t hurt either.
Please comment and share your uplifting thoughts.What makes life more livable for you? What are some good things in life that encourage you?
Is it just me, or do others encounter “someone who knows someone they know” more often than seems believable?
Often I have remarked at what a small world this is. One of the most uncanny incidents occurred between my mother-in-law and another woman with whom she was previously unacquainted. Mother-in-law visits woman’s home for a quilting group meeting. She remarks on a picture on the refrigerator of the other woman’s daughter and asks where she lives. “Oh you’ve never heard of it,” she said. “It’s eight states away, outside of a small town in Kansas.” “Really?” MIL says. “My son lives outside of a small town in Kansas. Have you ever heard of it?” The other woman’s jaw drops. “That’s where my daughter lives. What street does your son live on?” she asked. MIL replies. “You’re kidding, right? That’s less than a half mile from my daughter!” A year later MIL moves to be close to her son, and the other woman and her husband move to be near their daughter. They’ve been good friends ever since.
This phenomenon was originally put forth in 1929 by a Hungarian author who wrote a short story entitled “Chains” or “Chain-links”. He believed that the modern world was shrinking due to the ever-increasing connectedness of human beings. Mathematicians and others would study this and call it “network theory.” Social, friendship networks were studied and games played to illustrate the actual number of degrees. The concept was popularized by an article in Psychology Today magazine around the year 1980. Some studies said there were as few as three degrees of separation in the United States, and anywhere up to ten overall, six being the most agreed upon number.
Popular culture has used the idea in a number of plays, movies and films, as well as exploring the idea in a Facebook game and in the professional network LinkedIn. With all of this attention it should come as no surprise when it happens, yet it does. It seems like an incredible, unbelievable thing when you consider the staggering number of humans on the planet.
In the light of this phenomenon, a case could be made that the things we do and say have a far-reaching effect. Not only on those close to us, but on the entire social network of connected individuals over the entire planet. We would do well to take this into consideration every time we speak or act, realizing that our lives can have great influence for good.
Have you ever known anyone to say that gray is their favorite color? I haven’t. Personally I have a love/hate relationship with the color. I can tolerate it if it is combined with some other appealing color such as teal, orange, green, or-well-even black. But alone, it turns my stomach a bit.
Gray is what our eyes see in the dark. We lose our ability to see colors due to the limitations of our visual system, specifically our rods and cones. We shift from a cone-based system to a rod-based system in low light and lose the ability to see detail. Everything becomes fuzzy. Animals have different visual systems and many can see in the dark much better than we can. Some can even see ultraviolet light which is impossible for humans. This enables their survival.
Perhaps our inability to see well in the dark enables our survival as well. Scientists say that even the smallest amount of light at night, particularly blue light, disrupts the release of melatonin which is so important for our bodies to get the rest they need. Lack of rest leads to many health problems, even cancer. So we would do well to work with our bodies and submit to the darkness at night.
These are all physiological effects of grayness. But what about so-called gray areas? Why have we used the color gray to describe the lack of clarity of lifestyle issues? From politics to religion to relationship, we live in a gray zone. We don’t see clearly or sharply when it comes to evaluating life issues. This bothers me no end. I long to be able to see in black and white. I crave well-delineated arguments for or against. But they are elusive. Just when I think I’ve finally got a handle on something, a circumstance drops down upon me and snatches away my well-ordered thinking. Everything goes gray. I want to see that sharp light in the darkness shining its comforting glow on my circumstances.
I do believe sharp black and white exists. It has to, or we wouldn’t crave it so desperately and strive to order our lives around it. Black and white, right and wrong. Dichotomies. And in between is this vast ocean of grayness. Although I’m not okay with the grayness, I’ve accepted it as a part of life on this earth. But what I think is magnificent is that when the light shines, everything we see bursts with color. It’s not black, white or gray, it’s glorious color.
The Bible says that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. Do you hear that? There is no grayness with God. I think that when I crave the sharp distinction, what I’m really craving is the light of God. I want to see the colors. I want to see what happens when God’s light shines into darkness, and that darkness cannot comprehend it.