Today is Blog Action Day, designed to bring attention to the world-wide problem of Poverty.
This is particularly relevant, of course, in today’s troubled economy. (The word “troubled” is a bit of an understatement.) Those of us lucky enough to have food on the table, and a roof overhead–no matter how much of a strain it is on the budget–are still far luckier than millions of starving, homeless people worldwide. The people for whom donating 10-cents a day through the kind of charity you see advertised on Sunday mornings can literally mean the difference between life and death.
All important, vital, you-must-be-aware-of-it kind of stuff. But, I want to mention a different kind of poverty, also.
Poverty of Thought.
It seems to me that this is as troubling a problem as the debilitating lack of money.
It’s so easy to slip into comfortable ways of thinking … ruts, if you will … so that, instead of questioning things and exploring possibilities, we just carry on doing what we’ve always done, thinking what we’ve always thought.
This shows not only in a lack of ideas, but in a disbelief in possibilities. Or worse, a lack of faith in the possibility of possibility. This can be just as deadly as a lack of food.
Maybe not as immediately, of course, but when you shut your mind to the possibilities that are out there, when you lazily decide to just let your thoughts run along the worn-out, comfortable tracks that have been laid since you were a toddler asking, “Why? Why? Why?”, you are denying one of the very things that make us humans so adept at shaping the world to our needs.
There’s a reason that children constantly ask “Why.” They are figuring out how the world works, what makes it tick, how things fit and blend and function together. They have no preconceived notions about what it “should” be, only want to figure out what it IS (and how to make it work for them).
This is something that we adults often lose sight of. We accept the world as we believe it to be. We continue believing in the religion we grew up with … or we repudiate it … but we cannot get away from those early teachings. We believe in political parties, or certain arguments. We believe in our country, our way of life. We believe that our part of the world is more important than other parts. We believe that what WE believe must therefore be what everyone should believe, since clearly we must be right. We begin to believe that people who do NOT believe in the same things as we do are wrong, misguided, or downright evil for having such radically different viewpoints.
See? It’s a quick and nasty cycle, that can go from curiosity and awe to close-minded, narrow beliefs in the blink of an eye. It might not cause death and malnutrition as quickly as abject poverty, but like religion, can cause more deaths that we can possibly imagine.
So, my call to action today is not just to draw your attention to the worldwide problem of poverty, but of the very real poverty of thought that keeps us all from truly working together to SOLVE some of the more pressing, life-and-death matters. We need to stop allowing ourselves the luxury of just talking to people who believe what we believe. We need to talk to the people with whom we disagree–and not to argue, or to convert them from their misguided ways, but because maybe they know something we don’t know.
Maybe if we all talked to each other … and, just as importantly, listened to each other … we’d all be able to solve these pesky, minor little problems like world hunger, war, famine, disease, pestilence, and, oh yeah, the melting world economy. Maybe, instead of cocooning ourselves in our own little worlds of familiar, comfortable thoughts, we could actually tackle some of these problems with new ideas.
Because, that’s what we humans are truly, amazingly good at … new ideas.
There’s a reason that “Why” is one of our very first questions.
(And, oh yes, it’s also Global Handwashing Day–which is more serious than you’d expect!)