The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it.
I have to say that I totally agree with David Orr’s quote. Sometimes the world appears to be too populated by people who are trying to achieve the HBS (Harvard Business School) model of success. Now my initial impulse is to go virally negative at this point about how crappy the world is and how crappy people are and how everything is just downright crappy. (And I guess I just did it – but only in a very generalized sense and not in the sense that I was originally thinking. . . and that would be the finger-pointing sense)
But then, in the back of my mind I hear the quiet voice of Gandhi saying, “Be the change you wish to see in the world…” And of course, the skeptic in me immediately has to verify – did Gandhi actually ever say this?
And in the modern miracle age we live in, I can find an answer (of course, skeptical that it is the right answer) within a matter of minutes via a quick Google search (a woefully inadequate search tool, our school librarian would admonish) –
To wit (or is that whit?)
…Gandhi’s words have been tweaked a little too much in recent years. Perhaps you’ve noticed a bumper sticker that purports to quote him: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” When you first come across it, this does sound like something Gandhi would have said. But when you think about it a little, it starts to sound more like … a bumper sticker. Displayed brightly on the back of a Prius, it suggests that your responsibilities begin and end with your own behavior. It’s apolitical, and a little smug.
Sure enough, it turns out there is no reliable documentary evidence for the quotation. The closest verifiable remark we have from Gandhi is this:
“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.”
And so, perhaps, we have unearthed a kernel of truth here. This is not as concise and canned as the “Be the change…” quote but it does support the same theme of changing the world by changing ourselves.
Honestly, I think it comes down to the question of, “how do you measure success?” And I think there are two ways of answering that question – you can answer it as society & culture tell you to answer it (chasing fame, fortune and er…flatulence?) Hey, I needed a third “f” word…
Or, you can measure success by what your heart tells you it is.
So then, what does my heart tell me of success.
I am successful when I am happy and content. Money does not, and cannot, buy either feeling. Whatever emotional feelings “money” generates are more correlated to that feeling that a drug induces in an addict – it is artificial and of short duration. Eventually the effect wears off. I should add that Power also does not create these emotional states. And yet, here we are, living in a culture that deifies both money and power.
Ah, but then a thought crosses my mind – there are many forms of power. There is superficial power and then there is true power and true power grows from within and is focused on self in the sense of being so grounded and self-aware while at the same time having a kind of larger perspective of the entire scope of our existence – well then, whatever superficial power someone may try to exert over you, it is completely irrelevant and minimized to a no-power state of non-being.
(thank you for this jumbled regurgitation of the mid-Western philosophies of Yoda Kahn do – a mid-Western dojo of mythical Jedi Knight proportions…)
And clearly, this is where all rational thought processes are breaking down.
So, what I was trying to say here is that basically humanity has one of two choices – we can either follow the path of the devil-worshipping NRA (after all, guns don’t kill people. People kill people. And people with guns can kill more people more efficiently – but if we are all armed then we’ll be too afraid to kill each other – no we won’t, yes we will, no we won’t…. ad nauseum)
Or, we can begin to redefine what success really means (and in the meantime, turn off Fox News and every other news channel that glorifies death and mayhem over stories that might actually make us feel good and positive…)
Er…did I get that right?