Deserts of Souls

AMERICANS ARE GOOD AT MAKING MONEY, and terrible at enjoying life. We are great at working devotedly, and terrible at loving intimately. We are terrific at gaining an education, and terrible at practicing wisdom. Why is that?

Some obvious truths: no one needs an AR-17 or AK-47. Children ought not fear for their lives in school. Humans can limit guns safely and everyone can still have one. We do it with cars. But for an unfathomable reason: we've lost our devotion to saving life.

Why do some cherish new cell phones for themselves over food and shelter for everyone? Why do luxuries for me precede food and shelter for you? Because I work harder and got a better education? Because I had better parents and my psychology turned out to motivate me more? Why should that deprive my neighbor of subsistence?

The key fact here, that unites all of these, is that Americans have lost, or abandoned, or no longer see the value of the life of a stranger, a fellow citizen, another human being.

We use ownership of property to prove to ourselves our superiority to others -- nicer homes and cars prove to us that we are worthier than the next guy. We love our physical comforts more than the stranger who is human.

And simultaneously, there is a loneliness within, a desperation, an aloneness and fear of dying and abandonment that drives so many to despair. It is our self isolation, our aloneness in a crowded room, our lack of true and abiding and deep friendships that isolates us, fools us into thinking that the hollowness can be filled with things rather than the self-worth of being truly appreciated for who we are despite our faults by people who truly know us and accept us anyway.

Do yourself a favor. Everyday: give something of value away to someone else without being asked. Not family. An acquaintance; a not so close friend; a perfect stranger. Improve someone's day gratuitously, just because you can. Create a human and humane connection to a living being, sharing something essential of yourself with him/her, and letting that person share something with you. Then cherish it someplace deep within. Not for the morality. Do it for the self-worth and meaning you will create.

Our gun culture, our casual sex, our tossed away children, our homelessness, our drug issues, our teenage angst and adult loneliness, our murders and constant anger that fuels violence, our acceptance of lying and cheating as if they were nothing new, all these and more ills result when we idolize ourselves and see our physical being, possessions and accumulation as of ultimate worth. We're killing ourselves, and the solution is so simple: simple human connection, giving gratuitously, bolstering another life, sharing deeply of self: all free, all liberating, are salvific: all give the deepest meaning and enjoyment to our lives.

We have lost ourselves wandering in meaningless forests of things, creating deserts of desiccated souls seeking the sustenance of true relationship and the meaning of the most vital connection: life itself.

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© 2016 by Rabbi Mark H. Levin.