How Should We Then Live?

If Praxis is about nothing else, it is about How Do We Live Our Lives and support those things that create the world we believe in, and do not support those things that create the world we do NOT believe in.

The past few weeks have been a challenge for all of us.  In the last 30 days alone we’ve had the Orlando shooting, confirmation of the Democratic and Republican presumptive nominees, international terrorism in France, Black men shot by Police in Baton Rouge and St. Paul, Police shot in Dallas and Baton Rouge, an attempted government coup in Turkey – not to mention countless other incidents – positive and negative – that affect each of our lives personally, our communities of interest, and the world beyond.

It is easy to retreat into despair, or strike out in anger, or even attempt to ignore what’s going on, and be oblivious to the changing and uncertain atmosphere that affects so many of us.

Given the many changes going on in our world today, Our Question to You is:

How should we then live?

  • To improve the situation around us – including our peace of mind, attitude, outlook, interactions with others, and thereby be part of the solution to creating that world consistent with our values?
  • To be more aware of those around us who are hurting, or angry, or unloved or ignored?  Even a smile rather than a retort, a nod rather than a scowl, a helping hand rather than turning away, or a quiet listening ear when someone expresses frustration, despair, or even joy, lets people know and feel that they are connected — to people, even to a community of people, rather than marginalized, forgotten or ignored.
  • To recognize that even our modest actions may have impacts on others – positive or negative.  One of the lessons we learned in Civics Class (do they even teach Civics anymore?) was that my right to do something ends where it impinges on someone else’s right to do something.  It is one of the essences of the Golden Rule (“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”)

Today’s public discourse is more about doing unto others before, or to prevent them doing unto us.  And if thwarted in this, to do something outrageous because we are outraged.

Perhaps we could take a step back, a ‘chill pill’, and ask ourselves, “If I was in the other’s situation, or being denied something I thought I should have, how would I feel, act, respond?  Is what they are seeking or acting out about actually affecting me and my loved ones?  If so, how?  Can I understand why they are acting as they are?

Is there something I can do that may get me what I need, without adversely impacting another?  Or something I can do that may even improve the other’s situation?

Could it be a smile?  A nod?  A helping hand?  A listening ear?

  • Can I be more aware of how my actions may affect others?

We have manners, and laws, and customs in order to lubricate personal interactions – very important in an increasingly diverse population, and in a world that is becoming smaller.  If we become irked when there is confusion or misunderstanding about the custom or practice, perhaps it would be useful to be curious rather than furious.  Rather than “Why would you do such a thing?” maybe “I’m not familiar with doing it that way.”  Or perhaps letting the other know what you need, e.g. “Are you able to step aside?  I need to get through.”  At least it provides an opportunity for the other person to say, “My stiff legs don’t quite move as they used to.  Just give me a moment.”

Patience is a virtue.

St. Francis is often credited with the saying, “seek first to understand then to be understood.”  If just a couple of our daily interactions were moderated by this saying, the world would become much easier to navigate.

What can I do?

This summer as we are hyped up on fast-moving events, on the political conventions, on the rights and wrongs going on around us and around the world:

  • Could we perhaps acknowledge each other’s humanity?
  • Could we smile at each other, just once more each day?
  • Could we nod in recognition just once?
  • Maybe hold a door open, or assist someone with their packages?
  • Or even spend a minute — or a few — listening to someone who needs to vent, or is sad, or even wants to share their happiness?

Your one act of humanity may be the thing that calms one person who is at the end of their rope; or makes one over-wrought mother hug rather than hit her child; or one person step back from the abyss of a bad action.

Because you’ve shown them a kindness, and with that they see that there is a bit more to hope for than they thought.

Will this solve the ills of the world?  No, not alone, but it will make a difference.  And we have to see and affirm each other’s humanity.

Many of us use the expression, “be the change you want to see in the world.”

The actual quote is below:

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.  As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. . . .  We need not wait to see what others do.”   Mahatma Gandhi

With that one smile, nod, action or ear you are being the change you want to see in the world.