Self improvement has become somewhat fashionable these days. This is fine, for the most
part. There are the physical fitness programs to enhance our personal health. We have spiritual and contemplative practices to uplift us. Motivational speakers and seminars to propel us. Do It Yourself instructions to help us accomplish many tasks. We can think of many ways in which to improve ourselves. And we involve ourselves in them.
I sometimes wonder if these activities and programs might often be ways of closing off the world. We might feel like we’re helping the world by chanting our mantras, engaging in our fitness program, or contributing to some sort of mission program. These sorts of things do give us the feelings that we are making a positive difference in the world. At least they help us feel better and improve our self-esteem.
Oftentimes, we express the desire to improve the world. Some of us become involved in some sort of organized effort towards that goal. We might give money to a church mission program or the Red Cross or other humanitarian institution. This is well and good when the funds help purchase food and medical aid for downtrodden people as long as no strings are attached.
We still feel some urge to improve the world. It’s easy to see the greed, selfishness, hunger for power, promotion of warfare, ecological devastation and all the rest of the terribly wrong things that are tearing apart our world. It’s hard to take sometimes. We find it easier to chill out and hope that other people will fix things. Our lives are already hurried and crowded enough to make us feel burned out. We deserve to escape, don’t we?
I’m not so sure of the desire for escape into our own little world of closing out the messy, dirty world. Some of the most satisfied and well-rounded people I’ve ever met are those who have let down their guard and faced the convulsions of this world head-on. They’re just like us, except they decided to climb out of their comfort zones and idealism. They decided to meet the world and accept those who are in it for who they really are.
Often, what we personally believe to be progress, really might not be so. Maybe it’s better to drop our beliefs for awhile so that we can see more clearly. Is real progress a part of the deal? Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t.
The ironic part of life is that to become more real and to find real joy and satisfaction with one’s life, we let go of our own ideas and opinions of how we want to change other people. The point is to simply live life and become aware of the connection with the rest of humanity and the planet.
This is not a passive attitude, at all. Certainly, if we are aware of political, religious, or other oppression of others, we will want to follow the desire to aid the victims and keep them from any further harm. Honestly facing the suffering that is inflicted upon people is one way of igniting the drive and energy needed to live our lives.
It’s when we take chances and find our own work that we become more real. When we realize that our own work contributes to the greater good of all, we feel more fulfilled. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “Well done is better than well said.”
Will we improve the world by fully living in it? Who really knows? But what else is there, really?
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Charlotte Perkins Gilman. “The first duty of a human being is to assume the right relationship to society–more briefly, to find your real job and do it.”