Thursday, January 13, 2011

Doing good

First, a quick note of happiness, literally. We got an e-mail from one of our sons' teachers today saying our son is one of his top five students overall and stands out in a class of 32, and is a joy to teach, and so on. What a delightful note! I just love this teacher so much for sending it. (Now you know the way to my heart.) Floresville has some really amazing teachers.

More importantly ... most importantly ... Austin is a caring, generous soul. He takes care of his brother, even when it's a major pain in the ass (though I do sometimes have to ask him to, and he does sometimes rant and rave before doing it). He and his brother are very close and love each other, well, like brothers. Like the Norman Rockwell stereotype! They are never mean to each other, though they do poke at each other verbally.

I recently was catching up listening to "Being," one of my podcasts dealing with spirituality, and the podcast narrator (not sure that is the right word), Krista Tippett, interviewed Nicholas Kristof. He is the New York Times op-ed writer who has relentlessly worked for years to bring more visibility to the most vulnerable people in the world, especially in African countries like Sudan and Congo.

I was greatly impressed by his enthusiasm and optimism for the human race, despite our many apparent defects. It's odd because he knows he often elicits the automatic, knee-jerk "guilt" reaction from people, and that's not what he is about. He is genuinely trying to make the world a better place!

Some other journalists were following him around to do a sort of documentary on his unique approach to ethical journalism, and one of them complained that Kristof would go to great lengths to find the most dire situation, the most pitiful example of a person affected by the particular events in the area, and that would be the story he would cover. For most of us mere mortals, the prospect of facing suffering head-on like this is so grim that we have to turn away. I turn away. If I don't, it is inevitable that I will be drawn strongly into the suffering of these people, and I might not be able to escape intact, with my perfect little insulated life unaffected.

Yet, somehow, Kristof transforms these dire situations through the energy of his writing, and he makes us look and see things we would not otherwise. Somehow, we recognize the common humanity of all these people and have a real encounter with them, even half a globe away. Somehow, he communicates without anger about genocide, war, violence and poverty.

Kristof has met and interacted with the victims, and the perpetrators, of horrific violence, brutality, rapes, murder, and so on. His revelation about the perpetrators? Who are these terrible people? Human beings are capable of incredible self-delusion, he concludes. None of these people views himself as evil, or doing wrong. They all can rationalize why they, sadly, must do these horrific things.  They are kind to their immediate circle of friends and family. Some of the warlords in Africa pray and participate in other religious traditions, because they are Catholic. I wonder if they pray before or while they are butchering children and raping women?

This information, I take to heart. Human beings are capable of incredible self-delusion. I'm not talking about the "bad guys" any more. There are many of these delusions in my life, and I am dimly aware of some and completely oblivious to many others. I accept the truth of this statement.

Because if we weren't all suffering from many delusions, we would be taking care of each other right now, and the horrible misery inflicted by one person on another would be no more.

Writing this has been painful for me ... I hope it helps someone out there. Was this another blog entry where I was busy self-flagellating? Sorry, will be more upbeat next time.

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