If by any chance you grew up like me with the goal of becoming a member of the Great and the Good, you might recognize my current thoughts not as an admission of failure but as a worthwhile achievement. Given my Catholic background, I was planning on becoming a saint, preferably one like Mother Teresa who was recognized before she died. I will confess I also wanted to be physically attractive and smart but thought that wanting to be rich would demean my high moral standards.
What I’ve grown beyond is the desire for public recognition. Celebrity, whether it’s packaged as friends on Facebook, canonization by Rome, or ranking for the Big Prize in sports, politics, or entertainment aren’t worth the paper they are written on.
What has taken its place in my mind is an appreciation of the nature of human consciousness and so of our first and more important responsibility: to care for those nearest to us. For all of us around the world, the closer something is to us, the more emotional energy it stimulates. And indeed, almost always, that is where the greater the possibility is that we might be able to respond in some meaningful way. Like most people reading this post, I feel deep sympathy and care about the seven million people, several million of whom are children, who are on the edge of starvation caused by war and drought.
But you know, the child next door who is being abused by his parents can use up more of my time and energy and attempts to help than the entire Syrian, Yemen, and African crisis. When I have to choose between those closest to me and those further way, I think my first responsibility is to those closest to me. If I have to choose between my family and yours, I think my first — though not only — responsibility is my family.
Which is a very long convoluted way of trying to explain the conundrum I am currently facing when I sit at my computer to write a post. There are the immensely complex and critically important things happening in the world. But there are also life-changing events going on in my immediate family. A brother has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, a sister walked into her bedroom two weeks ago and found her partner lying dead on the floor. The double tragedy is that 40 years ago something similar happened with the death of her first husband. I won’t write any further about these things because I do not want to invade their privacy by posting about their experiences here.
But being there with them is focusing my energy. I’m not able to spend as much time staying abreast of current affairs, and am making do with reading headlines. When I distract myself with trivia I feel shallow and self-absorbed.
But that’s a mistake. Putting food on the table for my loved ones, keeping the house half-way clean, getting enough exercise and sleep to maintain my own energy and health, watching entertainment television or reading escapist novels might feel trivial. But they are part of what I can do to support those nearest to me. And to receive in turn the love which sustains me.
So from now on when I write a post, whether it’s silly or serious, I’m not going to feel guilty and self-absorbed.
Okay, I got that off my chest. Thank you for listening.