|The clouds are either coming in or dispersing. Which way do you see it?|
Not long ago I added a motto to a few of my social network profiles: We can make the world a better place by being better people. It's not a very eloquent way to put it, but it's the best way I could think to articulate what I see as the core purpose of human life. It's my creed.
I've now put it in the banner of the blog.
In the end, it's all up to us, win, lose, or draw. In any situation, you have a choice: do something that improves the circumstances, or do something that does not improve the circumstances. My challenge to myself - and, if I'm lucky, my readers - is to start living life that way. We really can make the world a better place by being better people.
What do I mean when I say "better?" The first question any pessimist chimes in with is "Oh yeah? Better by whose standards? Who gets to say what's better and worse?" From there, the typical outcome is a slow descent into the maelstrom of moral nihilism. It's not that those asking the question are themselves moral nihilists, it's just that their whole point in asking the question is to defeat any attempt at becoming a better person.
It's a psychological defense mechanism, and it's totally transparent. Rather than taking the time to personally assess their own potential for growth and improvement - real growth and real improvement - they quickly defeat the whole notion of improvement using that tired old canard: "It's all subjective!" Okay, then improve yourself subjectively - but improve yourself.
Please, I beg you, rather than wringing your hands over the impossibility of arriving at a unanimous standard for being a better person, use your common sense.
If you see someone who needs help, be it someone stranded on the roadside with a flat tire or someone with their arms full trying to open the front door, you already know that you can either be helpful or not. By any reasonable standard of "being a better person," which course of action do you think makes you a better person - the helpful option, or the unhelpful option? When someone asks a favor of you, you already know that you can either grant them that favor or turn them down. Which do you think makes you a better person? When someone says or does something to you that you find offensive, you already know that you can move on with things, hold your head high, and be the kind of person who doesn't get invited into anger, or you can be the kind of person who - always and everywhere - gives as good as she gets. Which do you think makes you a better person?
You can take it easy at work and slide by, or you can accomplish something. You can get some exercise in today, or you can slack off. You can eat a healthy meal, or you can subsist on french fries. You can find something to donate to charity, or you can just forget about it. You can pay someone a kind word, or you can keep it to yourself. You can call your mother or you can play Candy Crush Saga. You can stash the empty shopping cart next to the adjacent car, or you can take the thirty seconds required to push it into the holding area. You can play an extra game of peek-a-boo with your daughter, or you can brush her aside and tell her to play by herself.
What will you do?
You know? This doesn't take a stroke of genius. Everyone knows what it means to be a better person. Everyone knows it's easier to just not bother.
But maybe you've noticed that the world isn't getting any more pleasant these days. You don't have any control over what other people do, and you have hardly any control at all over the world's political climate and systems. What you can control is your own actions, your own ability and propensity to be a better person.
I'd like you to join me in taking up the challenge. Will you do it?
We can make the world a better place by being better people.