Conditional Compassion

Charity is not dependent upon policy. I think it could even be argued that charity that is dependent upon policy isn’t really charity at all. When we give out of obligation, or “serve” out of obligation, is that charity? I think, too many times, we fight for policy based on compassion. Compassion should not be an obligation. This does not mean that we should give up fighting for things we believe in. There are obviously some policy changes that can help us operate better within our charity and compassion. This does mean that we need to stop waiting for someone “more powerful” or “more influential” to do something and realize that we have the power to do something ourselves. 

There is a lot that is wrong with this world. Everything that is wrong with this world is not America’s fault, contrary to popular belief. Everything that is wrong with this world exists because everyone in this world has the capacity to do wrong. You are not excluded from this. You have the capacity to make life so much worse for somebody. You also have the capacity to make life so much better for somebody. The truth that everyone has the capacity to do something wrong does not negate the fact that everyone also has the capacity to do something right. The capacity of right that exists within everyone is often overshadowed by our capacity for cynicism. We only see the bad, even if it is surrounded by the good. We focus all of our energy on the bad that we are too exhausted to contribute any good.

We can all contribute good. This good doesn’t stop at our borders. It seems as if we no longer want to meet people where they are, but we want to work hard so that they can meet us where we are. I understand that there are a lot of hoops to jump through for people to legally enter our country. A country that people are risking so much to get into. A country that is full of freedom and opportunity. A country that is full of stories of people overcoming obstacles and succeeding. There is a greatness here that people all around the globe want to be a part of. There is a greatness here that people all around the globe can’t be a part of, and the laws and obstacles that are in place have been in place for a VERY long time. Most everyone agrees that some changes need to be made in order to ensure safety for those that are citizens and those that desire to be here. There needs to be changes to the process and policies. While we fight for whatever changes we feel are necessary in order for us to be individually and collectively compassionate to those in need, we must not forget that our compassion should not be contained by our borders. Quit waiting for people to meet you where you are, and go meet them where they are. 

You and I have so much to offer this world because you and I have the capacity for good. We sometimes tend to waste our time and spin our wheels fighting over policies that we forget that there are people out there that we could go to and meet their immediate needs. It’s important to question our motivations. When we fight for or against policies, practices or any other of the many things on the list of reasons we fight, are we doing so in the name of compassion or are we doing so in the name of allegiance? Do we fight because we care about the fight or do we fight because we love fighting? Too often we fight against each other when there is a whole world that is asking us to join together and fight for them. 

We have communities in our own backyards that are begging for help. We have families who are going hungry, or who don’t have access to proper education or healthcare. We have kids who are unable to participate in extracurricular activities that will keep them out of trouble because of reasons that we could so easily fix. We have homeless men and women on the streets fighting for their next meal. We have veterans who served our country so well that often go ignored and treated as if they are an afterthought. We have men, women and children who have suffered or who are suffering through the atrocities of human trafficking. We have people suffering in our country every day and our only response is “they should really do something ‘bout all that”. What are we doing about all that? Are we digging into the federal budget and looking for ways the government could’ve allocated money to these people, or are we digging into our own budget and looking for ways that we can allocate money to these people? We can, collectively, provide food for hungry families. We can work with local communities to help improve their educational facilities. We can work with non-profit health centers in order to ensure that people are getting the proper access to their healthcare needs. We can invest in after school programs to ensure that kids have a place to go after that bell rings. We can provide meals for the homeless. We can respect the veterans that we are indebted to and look for ways to serve them well. We can give to or participate in organizations that exist to fight human trafficking. We have the power and the potential. Why don’t we use it?

It doesn’t stop here. Compassion should not be stationary. Compassion should not be passive. Compassions capacity for mobility is what changes the world. Never stop fighting for the people you believe in, at home, but never forget that you can fight for those same people in their homes. Charitable dependence upon the federal government shouldn’t be enough. Often times, charitable dependence upon the federal government yields nothing more than an inefficient use of funds. Never stop fighting for the policies you’re passionate about, but also never forget to use some of your energy to fight for the people you’re passionate about. 

Please, continue to fight for safe and rational ways to accept those fleeing from dangers such as violence and persecution, but also be willing to open up the doors of your homes to those same people. Please, continue to pursue what you’re compassionate about, but question your motivations. Please, speak out against the policies you view as unjust, but remember that those policies have been around for years. 

Isn’t it interesting that we disagree on compassion? Something that seems so inherently good has been turned into something so divisive. It just goes to show the power that we have as human beings. We’ll use all of our energy to ensure that our power is used to continue to contribute to the divisiveness of compassion. Charity and compassion have turned into another political talking point in order to advance agendas or improve an image. We can blame current or past administrations, but at some point, we have to take responsibility ourselves. We have a sort of conditional compassion. Our conditional compassion is dependent upon headlines. We’re often more focused on making statements than enacting change. 

Just because our elected officials don’t do what we want them to do doesn’t mean we can’t make a difference. Let’s participate in active compassion. Let’s participate in collective charity. Let’s change the world, together!

Rational Rhythms Pt 1 - Screen Screams

It’s easy to hear and it’s hard to listen. Information spreads like wild fire, and right when we get indoctrinated with one idea, we are getting information about the next thing that should overtake all of our thoughts and emotions. Every day we talk about different things that conjure up strong reactions. We do so by talking intentionally in ways that conjure up the opposite strong reactions in others. We use to be able to ask the question “What are you passionate about?” and expect a few well informed answers. Now the question is no longer “What are you passionate about?” it’s “Why aren’t you passionate about what I’m passionate about?” The truth is, I think many of us lose sight of what we’re passionate about. It gets buried so deep within the mountain of information we are forced to process each day that we have a hard time digging into it to really dissect our passions. We are also taught why we should be passionate about things at this time while we should not have been passionate about those same things another time. We are overloaded with information. That information keeps coming in and makes it impossible for us to think for ourselves, it makes it impossible for us to have conversations with other people, and it makes it impossible for us to think rationally. This is nobodies fault except for our own. 

Our irrational rhythms have bread erratic behavior. 

Rational rhythms of life can help cultivate a culture of sensibility, sensitivity, and civility. 

There are so many different ways to look at this idea of rational rhythms. I want to look at them all, but I’m only going to look at one right now. More may come later, but for our purposes, I don’t want to just shove more and more information down your throat. I feel like that would be counterproductive. 

We look at screens for hours in a day. We probably look at screens more than we look at people. I’m going to guess that you’re looking at a screen right now! Our accessibility to these screens at any point in a day can be seen as a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because we literally have all the information we could ever want at our fingertips. It is a curse because we literally have all the information we could ever want at our fingertips. These screens can be an incredible way to connect us with each other and with the world. They are also our main source for instantaneous news and entertainment. We are flooded with information every second of every minute of every hour of every day. This information is shared with us in a way that is intended to evoke a response. As we are responding we get flooded with more information in a way that is intended to evoke a response. We are then coerced into responding certain ways depending on who we listen to or align with. The interesting part about it is that it is done in a way that is seemingly unnoticeable. We no longer think for ourselves. We let our screens think for us. We open our phones, tablets, computers and televisions only to see the headlines for the day. The next day we do the same thing, but this time we are told how to feel about the headlines from the previous day. The day after that we do the same thing, except for this time we are told how to respond to those feelings that we were told to feel the previous day. 

I believe the amount of time we look at our screens is unhealthy. I know a lot of you have probably heard all the arguments about screen time and you might have personal rules or household rules set up to regulate the amount of time you or your family look at screens. I want to add to that conversation, hopefully with a different approach. 

We are in an age where we are more connected than ever, yet I don’t think we have ever been this disconnected. We are disconnected from reality, from our environments, from our families and from our friends. We are even disconnected from ourselves. We find ways to live vicariously through those who seem to be doing amazing things, not realizing that we have the potential to do those same amazing things if we quit spending all of our time living vicariously through others. We no longer think for ourselves because we never give ourselves enough time to think. We absorb more and more information but never let it settle and materialize so that we can wrestle through it ourselves. Has it not become overwhelming to you yet? When is it going to get to the point where everyone finally says enough is enough? 

I’m so thankful that we are able to hear about injustices, but I am so tired of those injustices being exploited. So many of the headlines can quickly become exploitations. When we hear about injustices, we no longer hear about how we can help, but about who’s fault it was. Every time we open up our news sources everyones pointing fingers and we, naturally, do the same thing, because we have a hard time establishing the rhythms that help us think for ourselves. We have a hard time establishing the rhythms that cultivate rational responses. 

Rational rhythms are not fast. Rational rhythms are not confusing. Rational rhythms do not conform to the world around us, rational rhythms conform to us. They are determined by us, individually. If you need to slow down, slow down. If you need to speed up, speed up. Quit feeling like you have to be in the center of all the noise of this world. Quit feeling like you have to shout the loudest. When we slow down and when we quiet down, we are able to make sense of the things that matter. 

I pray that The Rational Anthem isn’t just another tool to add to the noise. I pray that this is a tool to help us make sense of the noise. It’s such a loud world, and when we get lost in it we actually lose each other. We don’t talk to ourselves enough. Figuring out things on our own is a thing of the past. Can you think on your own? Will you think on your own? Oh how beautiful it would be if news was no longer sensationalized. Oh how beautiful it would be if we began to turn off our screens enough to process information ourselves. Oh how beautiful it would be if we no longer longed for the noise, but found ways to exist in the quiet spaces of this world, figuring out how we can contribute our best to those around us.

 

What is The Rational Anthem

Isn’t it that book written by that dude? Yes. Isn’t it explained in the book? Yes. Then why would I need to ask that question? I could think of several reasons, but the main two are the facts that there are some people that haven’t read the book (and might not ever read the book), and also the book was just the beginning of what I envision to be so much more. I want to take time to explain the deeper aspects of this. I don’t want the book to just mark a moment in time when Jacob Bagley wrote a book, I want it to mark a moment in time that a movement began. This movement doesn’t necessarily take to the streets with poster boards and megaphones, but it seeks to change the language on those poster boards and change the words being amplified through those megaphones. It’s not out to start a fight, but to encourage a change. 

In a generation of irrationality, we need a voice of reason. A voice that seeks unity in the midst of the division. A voice that seeks hope in the midst of the turmoil. A voice that rests deep within all of us. That voice is the voice of rationality. The words within the pages of The Rational Anthem (book) and within the posts of The Rational Anthem (Blog) do not exist to be the end division, but to be the beginning of our journey towards unity. Not one of us can change the world on our own, but together we can cause the world to change. Let us do so by radical rationality.

This can be a difficult task, cant it? We all come from different backgrounds. We’re different races and religions. We ascribe to different political parties. We all hope for different things. We all pursue different passions. We are all different. How in the world is it possible to unite in the midst of our differences? We should not let our differences be our downfall. We should not let our differences be the decisiveness for our divisiveness. Our differences may determine who we are but we should not let our differences predetermine the value we place on others. It’s easy to compare and contrast in order to puff up our own chests. Differences should not influence personal decisions about social, cultural, political or human inferiority. Hate can unnecessarily take root in differences. It is my hope that on this journey we can all come to the understanding that differences are necessary. If we were all the same we would never learn or grow as human beings. We would all be doing the same jobs, reading the same books, eating the same food. If we were all the same, we wouldn’t be able to experience some of the most amazing aspects of humanity. Diversity is beautiful. 

I could expound on so many different things within this blog post, but I have more content to produce, so I’ll save that for another day. Rationality is difficult because it seems so irrational. It is irrational to love others that are completely different than us. It is irrational to take our own time to be generous to someone. It is irrational to not think with an unharnessed and out of control amount of passion. It is irrational to befriend the “enemy”. Rationality is irrational, but is it really? 

Division is at it’s deepest and tensions are at their peak. This is not because of the differences that we face as human beings, but it is because of how we think about those differences. The Rational Anthem doesn’t exist to encourage uniformity, but it exists to bring awareness to the fact that even in our differences, we can still live in peace. This is just the beginning. I hope to continue to address the things that rip us apart in a way that gives us the ability to find common ground.

The book The Rational Anthem exists to start the conversation. This blog, and whatever comes next, exists and will exist to continue those conversations. There are so many more topics that could have been addressed in the book. There are so many more issues that I could have talked through, and so many more conversations I could have started, but the book would have never ended. That’s where this comes into play. Whatever exists outside of the book exists to continue the conversation. Those conversations may be tough, at times. Those conversations may be practical, at times. Those conversations may just be fun, at times. 

I don’t want this to be strictly political. I feel like we are so overwhelmed with politics every day and it gets exhausting. I will address those political topics that cause deep division amongst us all, but I’ll also address other things. I could address food, or music, or technology, or any number of things. I think the main thing to remember for you, and the main thing I need to hold myself to is not the fact that I’m not just addressing division, but I’m proposing unity. With that in mind, there may be things that we can all do in order to be better citizens of this planet that aren’t necessarily causing obvious division, but it does get in the way of our unity. 

This is just all a big experiment. Is it possible to put aside differences or put aside our selfishness in order to have meaningful relationships? Is it possible that, even though we are adamantly opposed to the other side, we can have a genuine friendship with them? Is it possible to pursue peace instead of animosity? I don’t know. I don’t know how all of this is going to work out. I don’t know if this experiment is going to be a success or a failure. Here’s what I do know; There are conversations I want to have with people but I can’t. I am labeled a certain way, that label associates me with certain people, those certain people do bad things that reflect onto me, therefore my label now defines me in ways that bring about hostility and resistance. These conversations go deeper than a label. These conversations, I believe, could mean life or death. I want to be able to have these conversations without having to fight against unnecessary hostility. I understand that there are outside forces contributing to this hostility, but wouldn’t it be great if we could fight against those outside forces in order to be able to effectively live and share in the spaces that we occupy?

Things may get messy. Things may get boring. Things may get weird. I hope these things contribute some good to this world, and I hope you tag along with me as we try, together, to navigate some of these tough waters. Thanks so much for coming along as far as you have! Let’s push forward as we try rational reconciliation! Let’s push forward as we sing the words to The Rational Anthem.