This morning I awoke to thoughts of a radio talk show I heard yesterday as I drove home from the airport. I was driving after long travels and in need of much sleep (as a prelude to sleeping a fair bit of the afternoon), and these two fellows, a host and a guest, were talking about the delights of pets. A caller to the radio show sought to interrupt the reverie-tone of the call-in show by pointing out the sad fact that if Americans truly loved their pets, they would not let millions of them be euthanized in shelters each year. The people on the radio program addressed the caller's valid point in a way that was both deferential and positive. This morning I awoke at dawn thinking of six million shelter pets.
Today I somehow stumbled on a Fox News story about a man who may have been a "human bomb". As the commentators seemed more interested in saying "strange!" than in communicating much information, I am not sure exactly what the story proved to be. But it seems that lately, every time I turn on the news, the story is about some new grotesquerie in human affairs. I know from my reading that this is a common feeling--perhaps a very human feeling. If one reads about any generation, one will find writers who feel that they live in "end days", and that these times are markedly worse than any times that came before. But I do think lately about how much there is troubled in this world, and how little I do and can do.
I remember the story an acquaintance told years ago about a junior high kid who said that he just couldn't focus on grades, because the world has so many problems. My acquaintance asked the kid a telling question--would he more capable of focusing in military school? The kid allowed as how, troubled world and all, he imagined he could find his focus without a stint in military school. I sympathize with the kid, though, who recognized it's all a bit overwhelming.
This week I intend to get a few things done that are "helpful" things, and yet I think this morning of how little I do and can do to really help anyone or anything. It's a feeling of powerlessness, only rather more diffuse--powerlessness, after all, is some really palpable sensation. I feel more vaguely indefinite--I'm less powerless than diffuse. Power, or its lack, does not really enter into the equation.
I think that this sense of "so many problems, what can I do?" is potent, and yet ultimately a cop-out. But what matters is not that I think it's a cop-out to feel this way; what matters, it seems to me, is what I actually do. I'm not going to go adopt six million shelter pets. I'm not going to get anything done just imagining that I do some great thing that I in fact never undertake. Rather, the only way to overcome the relative lack of power I have to change the circumstances around me is to do what little I can, and recognize that it's what I can do.
Sometimes here on LiveJournal I read journals of people who seem to me to be facing real challenges. I wish, when I read a journal by a friend going through a hard time,that I had a special power. I'd like the power to be able to say a simple phrase, and make all the difference. But this is really a sort of delusion of grandeur. Instead, all I can (and try to) do is to just be another person who reads a journal, and says what I can to relate, as a person. Like most "powers" one literally does have, this does not move mountains or change reality overnight. But the key thing to remember is that doing what one can matters. On LiveJournal, that sometimes only means being an ordinary person, with no answers--but an ordinary person who is "there".
I become attracted lately to the idea that living life with a patient acceptance that one does what small things one can do may work more changes than dreaming any number of big dreams about how cool I would be if I were somebody who helped force important changes. In this way, sometimes, I wonder about the adulation of great men and women who worked major change. For every "I have a dream" speech, as impressive as it was, there are millions of people in the trenches each day in the battle to treat people with dignity. Perhaps people need heroes and visionaries as rallying points. I know that I have taken great inspiration from the lives of people whom I considered "good people". Yet I wonder if I would not benefit from focusing more on what I can do, and less on the lives of the saints.
Maybe that's the issue--the lack of Some Great Purpose. I don't have a credo to pronounce, or a revolution to lead, or a vast change in human affairs to usher in. I have a simple set of things I am able to do to help, and must figure out ways to do them without getting bogged down. I'm vaguely indefinite on what it is I will have done when I am done, but I'm powerfully certain that what I think I can do, I should probably do.