Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Slouching Past Suffering

I'm probably playing the part of Captain Obvious here, but I've come to the conclusion that my to-do list is never going to be completely finished.

This used to (and often still does) really bother me. I'd like to think that's not just because I'm anal, detail-oriented, and a control freak. It's not really that I have to have my house spotless, yard properly groomed, files organized, and so on.

It's more the feeling of futility when there are so many things to attend to and so few hours in the day. Like when I race around the house to find every stray piece of dirty laundry to wash, so I can celebrate the few seconds in which I claim I HAVE NO LAUNDRY TO DO!, and then realize there was a whole pile of stuff in Anna's room that I overlooked.

Does anyone else feel this way? Especially you more laid back, Type B personalities? Sometimes there are too many things to get to, too many messes to clean, too many rooms that need to be tackled, and the prospect of it all just seems so overwhelming and daunting and impossible that you end up doing nothing at all? Only that exacerbates the problem, which leads to more procrastination, which leads to stress at things not dealt with, and the cycle goes on and on?

I was talking with someone not long ago who straight out told me to stop playing the victim whining about disorganization and at least do something. Just to say I did it. And after thinking, "ouch," I realized she was right. How in the world was ignoring everything going to solve anything?

We live in a world of excess. We have more than enough stuff, more than enough ways to communicate, more than enough information. I heard somewhere once that the more choices you have, the less happy you actually are. I'm starting to think maybe that's true.

I go online, and I am bombarded with information about the sorry state of the world. There are news stories on earthquakes and tornadoes, war-torn countries, horrific terrorist acts. There are six different blogs about mothers dying of cancer or a children fighting for their lives. Their are fierce injustices. Missing people. Familes torn apart.

And ironically, the more I read and hear, the less I feel. Or maybe that's not right. Maybe it's, the more I feel powerless.

Over time the images swirl into a giant cloud of "this world is a hopeless, overwhelming mess." I'm staggered by the sheer need and my inability to meet it. Numbed, I scroll and do nothing, because really, how could it matter?

This is tragedy in a social media world, in the time of the 24-hour news cycle.

But what can we do?

You know that cliché story about the starfish? Yeah, people may be tired of hearing it. You know, the one about the little girl throwing back the starfish that had washed ashore, and when the man asks her why she's bothering because there are thousands of starfish and miles of beach, how can she possibly make a difference, she replies, "It made a difference for that one." There's something to that.

Or the story in the Gospel of John, when Jesus walks past legions of sick and crippled people to reach one man who'd been lame for 37 years. "I only do what I see my Father doing," he says. That day, even when there were so many others, that doubting, whining man was the one destined to be touched.

I think one thing at least I have to do is not become so engrossed in the internet versions of tragedy and heartache. This is not because I'm heartless but rather the opposite - because I don't want to become calloused. I don't want to become so calloused by stories about people I don't know and will never meet that I fail to pay attention to real life, to the real needs and hurt and loss going on around me. Maybe next my my church.

I need to unplug sometimes and engage myself in my world, in the things I can influence, with the people I see day in and day out. I need to wait for that still, small voice and ask, "What can I do? Where? Who?" rather than endlessly scrolling the screen.

I want to pay attention and to start doing something, even if it's one thing. I want to help that one starfish rather than slouching past suffering, too burdened by the weight of it to do absolutely anything at all.

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