I spent a lot of my childhood feeling indignant, even upset and angry, about things I didn’t like “going on in the world.” I was told about “big problems” of the world, the injustices done to different people across the ages, etc. I worried about these things way too much for a young kid. By the time I was in college, I had spent eighteen years soaking in the notion that the American culture–of which I was a part–was single-handedly destroying the world.
There was some benefit I received from this: I realized how much I cared about people, how much I wanted to leave a good impact on the world. I realized what I “didn’t want to be.” The problem was, as I was railing against the injustices of the world, I usually found myself really upset, depressed, and disempowered. Sure, there were plenty of people whom I could talk to and share my misgivings. There was a certain degree of bonding that occurred from that. Yet, at the end of the day, I found it more discouraging and depressing than satisfying.
I don’t think I was really cut out to be an activist or someone “fighting for justice.” I quickly got burnt out trying to somehow play that part. I wasn’t very good at it, anyway, because it really wasn’t me. I was (and still am) an immensely creative, sensitive soul who enjoys appreciating life and art. Trying to solve the world’s problems became very heavy, and very unsatisfying very quickly. Eventually I realized this, and also I realized that I just wasn’t likely to ever accomplish that goal.
Did you ever notice that no matter how much you rail against the “world’s problems,” they just seem to get bigger and bigger? Well, what I think this is is not that there’s actually a problem, but that by our focus on the problem, we make the problem bigger in our own minds. I learned in my teens that worrying about the world’s problems was (at least for me) a deep, and dark sewer leading no where but worry, disempowerment, and overwhelm. It just made me want to bury my head in the sand.
These days, I’m much more interested in finding thoughts that are satisfying. So, for instance, believing that there are a lot of wonderful people out there doing wonderful things… that feels good! Believing that most people are helpful and good-natured… that feels good! Believing that I have a place in this world, and I can have a lot of fun in this lifetime… that feels good!
These days I’m much more interested in feeling good. It’s like that question, “Would you rather be right or happy?” I know where I stand on this subject.
Tonight I watched a movie from my childhood that reminded me of some of my childhood attitudes about the world’s problems. I was genuinely inspired by the movie as an artistic statement that resonated with me deeply. Yet I also recognized the part of me that got upset, indignant, even despairing. This is a familiar thought pattern that went like this: “Those people out in the world are so awful, and I don’t want to deal with it… so I’m just going to keep to myself.”
The problem with this attitude is that it totally sucks. Throughout my childhood, I chose withdrawal as a coping mechanism. I experienced the world as strange, overwhelming, and scary. I sometimes had thoughts like the one above, and I unconsciously chose to remove myself from the world in different ways, rather than fully engaging in it.
Now I see the problem with this: it is inherently unsatisfying. Living in a cave can really suck. Keeping your gifts to yourself can really suck. Being stingy with the world can really suck. Not giving the world a chance, instead pre-judging it… can really suck.
I don’t want to be that way! Instead, I choose joy. I choose to make the best of this world, and my time in it. I choose to radiate satisfaction. After all, I think that is part of being the solution. I think there are already enough messages out there of how “wrong” things are.
I’d rather look for what’s right.