The following is an excellent article on a subject I've written on before. It is worth taking the time to read if you are among those concerned we are on the wrong path.
Here is the thing-- when we buy into a myth instead of reality, we make our decisions on something either no longer true or that never was. Myths have a reason behind them, a purpose and that has value probably forever; but to take it literally without understanding that purpose enables us to be manipulated by those who want power. It is as dangerous in our personal lives as in our culture.
I liked a lot of the ideas in the piece, but the following is a powerful concept to get through our heads when we think about our nation and what is going on here today. It begins by explaining the difference between power and strength. (boy I wish our political parties, media and a lot of the wealthiest of our citizens understood this).
"The twentieth century thus became the century of power because Americans, as I have already suggested, became ever more reliant upon power alone as its years and decades went by. When power functions by itself, means and ends are inevitably confused; and means, eventually, are taken to be their own end: Power is manifest, that is to say, with no intent other than to manifest itself. The Spanish war was therefore a good introduction to the century we would name for ourselves. Americans claimed to feel deeply for the victims of Spanish oppression, but their own, notably in the Philippines, turned out to be other than an improvement. The true purpose of the Spanish campaign, as the histories make plain, was display—a demonstration of power." Patrick Smith
So what do we do and if we have, as a nation, enabled power instead of real strength, how do we change it now? Can we get strength? How many Americans prefer power because it's easier to see. They don't understand strength is how power is used wisely and lack of it how it is not.
"In all of these matters Americans grew deficient during the last century. One must have a strong sense of self to encounter others and accept difference, and Americans came to lack this." Patrick SmithObviously there is not one simple answer. We are a people today who can know too much and at the same time have no idea how much of what we know is true. We hear of one tragedy and violent event after another and feel the world is falling apart. Empathy becomes so stretched that it loses meaning.
"The core issue is one of control—control over what we are able to do. Closer to our time, the French thinker Paul Virilio suggests that we have to add to our technological revolutions a revolution of consciousness, of ideas, such that our thinking and our purposes are elevated to a value equivalent to our capabilities." Patrick Smith
I have some ideas:
One: Grow our own, personal strength by having a set of values with which we live. Don't let those shift with the wind and allow every recent news broadcast to change our minds without investigation. When we realize we blew it, we don't rewrite our values unless we realize we were offbase. When we are firm in our ideas but open to truth and willing to reevaluate what we thought was truth even when it's not comfortable, that is true strength. Live by truth and have a personal code of behavior.
Two: It's important we not personally confuse power especially over others as strength that we don't confuse admiring someone who wields power instead of someone with genuine strength and this means we then vote accordingly. This is not a simple concept and I think it's much confused by our entertainment and media. People, who are personally strong, will wield whatever power they have wisely and to the benefit of not only themselves but others.
Three: This might seem like a small one, but I don't think it is. I am big on being friendly to people wherever we come across them. That doesn't mean talking or chatting them up. It means a wave, a smile or how's your day going? We do not know what someone else is experiencing or how they may feel the world is against them. When we greet them with a smile, it is strengthening to us and them. Being generous with our thanks is good in this area also.
Four: I believe time in nature appreciating the natural world is a powerful way to grow stronger. Nature is not power crazy. It is what it is. Modern man has this idea he is superior to anything and it's all about subduing nature. If we instead respected it, learned from it, now and again immersed ourselves in it, we would be stronger.
Five: Be educated and that means about what's going on in the world around us as well as in the past. I read a lot of stories about crimes that have been committed (two girls decide to knife to death their girlfriend) and some might think why read that? It's upsetting. It is, but it also is what is out there. Be educated about reality. Don't be paranoid but be aware. Naïveté, especially in a world like ours can be fatal.
Six: As much as possible, learn facts not opinions. We are bombarded by opinions on a myriad of subjects. Facts are open to interpretations but at least know them.
Seven: It's hard to know things and not take them to heart but it is what we have to do. We have to separate out what we can change from what we cannot. Know what's out there. Evaluate what we can do about it but let go of what we can't change. It's an old saw but it's also true. I do not think we are strengthened when we take on burdens that are not our own. It has us ranting and not fixing. Years ago I read a book I took to heart by Steven Covey, 7 Effective Habits of Highly Successful People. He broke down the choices we make into categories deciding what is within our control and what was not, what was urgent from what was important. This is still a book worth reading if you haven't.
There are probably a lot more that I use and haven't thought to mention here but the key idea is-- be personally strong as much as possible-- physically, mentally and emotionally; then we have more to give, will vote more wisely, and won't be blown here and there by every new idea or fear that comes along.
Photos are all our creek in June. The top one is illustrative of how reflections can be confused with reality. Enlarge to see better.