Many years ago, when I had a short-lived (and doomed!) job as an administrative assistant for a PR firm, a coworker had a radio on all day playing pop music. Why do I remember that so well? Because of one song in particular: the infamous Disney theme from EPCOT, "It's A Small World, After All."
For some reason, 70s pop music stations thought they should bombard us with that song at least once a day. If not more often. Don't ask me why; I could barely tolerate it. But my coworker had a different, and much more dramatic, reaction to the thing. Every time it'd come on the radio, she'd call someone--I have no idea whom--and tell them their song was on.
Every. Single. Time.
I couldn't help but wonder whom she was calling (I never asked) or why. Clearly, that song meant something to someone in her world, and so every time she heard it, she'd share it. And since this station played it regularly, that gave her an excuse to make a personal phone call every single morning. In between lighting cigarettes and chain-smoking. Which she did, in the office. Because those were the days when you still could do such things in an office!
This song came to mind (briefly only, thank heaven) when I read a FB entry by a fellow author about getting to know an online consultant in Ukraine, and sharing a few thoughts with that man. And our author friend concluded with the obvious: that, in the end, a lot of the social and political issues we're obsessing about in this country really aren't all that important, and we should remember the suffering fellow human beings closer to us than we might think--hence, the "small world."
All of which is true. And worth understanding.
But, in my perspective, is an attitude that can also be hazardous as a steady diet.
In our everyday existences, our own worlds are very small, indeed. We deal with minutiae: kids and parents and neighbors and carpools and appliance breakdowns and Internet access and work issues and laundry and dinner and mowing the lawn and what our pets are getting into...
It can all seem so insignificant and selfish, compared to the "problems of the world."
But the little-known (and even less-believed) secret?
Contrary to what media and culture seem bent on "guilting" us with--this small, limited, "unimportant" life most of us live is not only whole, and real, and legitimate...but a healthy, sane means by which we effect long-term betterment for an entire world.
Something that, by contrast, is not accomplished--and can never be--by constantly looking outward instead, and agonizing about all the things beyond our scope to fix.
This concept may be horrifying to some of you, in that it comes across as self-absorbed to the max. It concentrates on who, and what, is right in front of you, what your day brings in terms of challenges and opportunities. And leaves the rest to fate. Or God. Or whatever higher power you recognize (and we all recognize one, whether we admit it or not).
What does a life look like that's lived this way?
Rather peaceful, truth be told.
And I can say that because it's a life I've lived for years.
My life is, quite deliberately, not hemmed by news reporting, argument, or gossip.
It is a life not governed by worry, stress, frustration, or rage.
It is a life in which I can go for days without knowing that a natural disaster occurred thousands of miles away, on the other side of the world...and, consequently, without feeling awful about it.
It is a life in which I am "behind the curve" in terms of contemporary mores, tragedies, or social idiocies...and consequently, don't expend energy or emotional investment on them.
It is a life in which, as much as possible, I try to stay focused on things I can do.
Things I can control.
Lives I can impact.
Direct actions I can take to influence policy, personalities, or public opinion.
The rest, I ignore.
Yes. You heard that right.
I can hear the indignant reactions now.
"What do you mean, you ignore what's happening all over the world? You have to be informed! You need to know what's going on!"
To which I always respond, "Why?"
And, to this day, I haven't gotten a good answer to that question.
In fact, the people I know who make it their business to be "informed," and who do always "know what's going on"? By and large? Are psychological messes.
They're so balled up in anxiety, in anger, in fear, in worry, and in suspicion and/or cynicism that, ironically enough, their lives are "smaller" than mine is. They don't "dare" do things I'll do in a heartbeat, because it's "not safe" to do those things. Even when, as I do them, I'm perfectly safe the entire time...and enjoy myself in the bargain. And speaking of enjoyment? Some of these "informed" people can barely laugh, really laugh, at anything anymore. Or make a joke, even a perfectly innocent one, without looking over their shoulders.
Surely, that's not the way human beings are supposed to live.
Because, during His time on earth, even God laughed.
Yes, He did.
And yes, He cried, too.
But He lived in balance. And when the world was too much with Him, or His disciples, He urged them to get away. To separate themselves from the melee, take some time for peace and quiet, and recollect.
Some of us take "retreats" in which we do these things. But I firmly believe we need to go way beyond intermittent "escape"...and start practicing some judicious, everyday ignorance.
Because a life lived with one's finger endlessly on the pulse of the world at large, endlessly vigilant, and endlessly concerned about things that, most of the time, we have no control over...
Has no room for refreshment, recollection, reconnection, or renewal.
And eventually, then, it has no room for humor.
Or...faith. Or hope. Or real charity.
I have all of these elements still at my disposal. And I use them, when I can, and when I need to, to make things better. I don't have to go looking for opportunities, either. What needs me to tend to it, as I've often said, shows up--without fail--at the doorstep.
Which is plenty soon enough to deal with it.
Remember, Jesus worked miracles one person at a time. He was divine--but He still understood, and respected, sane human limits.
No amount of "information" will give you superhuman powers to go beyond that.
So stop expecting it to--or expecting yourself to be superhuman as a result.
"Small things with great love" can apply to far, far more than what we do with or for others. IMHO, it's not a bad maxim to apply to our own lives, and spheres, and worlds as well.
I do my best with the small world I've been given to live and move in.
And in the end, I believe, that will turn out to be more than enough.