The amount of bad news is overwhelming. Is it okay to admit sometimes I’m a little disturbed that it is possible access the terrible, no good, very bad things happening in every country as they are happening? It’s too much. If you’re a doer or have a big, empathetic heart the scope of the world’s problems being at your fingertips is the wooooorst. Every day there is something horrible occurring as the result of large-scale, corrupt, systemic issues. Every day there is a justifiable reason to numb yourself, grow bitter and cynical, or become paralyzed and hopeless. I think this has probably always been the case… only now we live in a viral and far-reaching world of reporting that puts fear and hate on loudspeakers and then allows anyone who wants to comment to do so on a hundred different media platforms. It feels inescapable. It demands our undivided, or very divided, attention.
Although I have a guilt-inducing amount of things to be thankful for, this year I found it difficult to posture my heart in gratitude. Its all so heavy. There is always a new issue. Or an old issue with new steam. The list of things to be heart broken about grows and grows. Every time I read a headline that makes my stomach churn, I find myself sitting and wondering…
Okay, so what should my response be? What the hell am I supposed to do with this information?
This is what seems certain: due to scope and copious amounts of complexities, most problems are not going to just end/go away/get solved. Injustices will continue to exist or increase, even. There will always be stomach-churning headlines.
I’ve obviously heard this in various contexts, but especially during college, I was consistently encouraged to “step back and look at the big picture”. As an artist, it was necessary to regularly back up and look at my work from across the room. From a distance I could see more easily what needed manipulated.
When it comes to the atrocities happening all over the globe, it is hard for me to believe that looking at or trying to do something about the big picture is helpful. I personally cannot elicit a response that changes something at a macro level and I struggle to see governments or other agencies implementing change effectively or compassionately. While I never want to disengage or isolate from the big picture, I cannot do anything from across the room.
You change the big picture on a detail level.
My response to the micro matters.
Colyn, my dear friend/air drumming extrodinare/part-time house mate/hero delivered an eloquent and thought-provoking message on Sunday that spoke to how we see this perfectly modeled in Christ. Christ never looked to a system, hierarchy, religion, or political party. He essentially was the big picture and the way he lived was one of small actions with big love. He took on a method and perspective of personalism. I am always stuck by how consistent Christ was in the action of tailoring his interactions. How as God, he worked on a detail level- ministering and calling individuals personally and intimately. This is the example he asked his followers to emulate. This free, creative, unrequited love is intented to lead us into solidarity with others. I believe the divine is experienced in community where we learn to empathize, bear one another’s burdens, and seek the best for the other.
What a different world we would live in if everyone actually sought what was best for…the refugee, the transgender, the drugged up, the prostitute, the delinquent, or the undocumented. If we cast aside our own presumptions and prerogatives. Perhaps this is the best way to fight against the ovewhelming amount of terrible, no good, very bad news. I would bet one of the main reasons this does not happen is because we read the papers, watch a bunch of news, and then feel entitled to speak about “them”. We’re convicing ourselves that we know and understand. That there’s nothing we can do about it except write about it on Facebook. But we must start from a place of admitting we do not know or understand anything.
If you want to talk about ____ I want to hear you say their names, show me their faces, tell me their stories, and what your relationship with them is like. As someone who wants a life of big love…if do not live this out myself, I miss the whole point. I think issues become impossible to generalize when we personalize and humanize them. I personally cannot stand see what is happening all over the world and respond by donating some clothes and dropping change in a styrofoam cup. There is a whole lot of pain and lonliness out there. Jesus’ response was to alleviate these sufferings through touching, tasting, and seeing. He invited everyone to the table to break bread. He showed that when we love and serve from a place of relationship, moving from unknowing to knowing, we see it all so very differently. We are convicted to seek the will of the other.
You will never understand or be satisfied with the big picture if you do not intimately study the detail work.