Skip to main content

If a crisis as global as a pandemic and a challenge as global as the climate cannot shift us out of today’s foolish introspection, nothing will. Martin Wolf, FT 13Oct21

Anyone observing the world from ‘beyond’ is bound to ask what on earth we are doing. Nearly three years ago Martin Wolf made the solemn observation above. Nearly three years later we are in a significantly worse position – climatically, politically, cooperatively, aggressively, socially, rationally, economically, philosophically. We don’t have a pandemic right now unless our loss of values is one. And there are those who say the world economy is recovering – but much of that is driven by the increase in demand for weapons of destruction.

Individually, technological progress is forcing us to spend more time catching up. When we rest, it is not to be refreshed but to obscure the threats we see but dare not discuss. We are doing to our minds what we did for many years to our bodies – overloading them with junk and dangerous input that must exceed excess to triumph. Thus we are losing two things that are critically important to the survival of the species and our enjoyment of life.

First we are losing our values. Not the values handed down from ancient theses, though many of those are compellingly useful. Not the values we were taught as a child by our parents in an attempt to prevent us being expelled from school. Nor yet the values stentoriously advanced by learned and lucid organisations lulling themselves into a state of self-importance. The values we lose are about us – what we think of ourselves, how we match up to what we conceive to be a decent person, worthy of the right to life, valuable beyond money.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values.

Second, we lose our appreciation of what we have, including our awareness of what others lack. Not just an understanding of what is good but a sense of the impact it has on our behaviour. To appreciate something we must spend time on it, contemplate it, learn about it, savour it as we would a tasty dish, love it, cherish it. Appreciation is not a shot of drugs but an engagement with a challenge to grow. It is a full-on awareness, not a reach for oblivion.  Elbert Hubbard, author, editor, printer (1856-1915) said “I would rather be able to appreciate things I cannot have than to have things I am not able to appreciate”.

We appreciate when we mean “God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world”.

How can we retrieve our values? What must we do to appreciate again?

We delegate – many, including me, say ‘abdicate’ – our responsibility for personal and collective growth to transient institutions of governance, to bodies of group interests and to devotees of self-aggrandisement. We claim success for ourselves as celebs and blame others for our failures. Our worth is diminished by pretending that we have no influence on the future. We prostitute language to spin appearance. We have an obligation to think, a modest ability to forecast and a right to express. We should not have the freedom to lie.

We also have the ability to endow our enjoyment with reward by sharing it, by teaching it and by caring for it. Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around,” said Leo Buscaglia, author.

Take care of small things” said Xun Zi of the Warring States Period.

None of us, not even the Presidents of the great powers, can run the world. Each of us can change the way the world is run by accepting our responsibility for doing so. Our brains are not infinite, our strengths not limitless, our influence not universal.

And yet we have unbelievable power just being human.

I tried to sum up our opportunities in this short quote: People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Perhaps our daily aim could be simply: May I do more for others, today.

That’s how the planet will survive.

Good morning

John Bittleston

When the power of love overcomes  the love of power the world will know peace.

Jimi Hendrix, musician, singer, and songwriter (27 Nov 1942-1970)

23 June 2024