Our whole nation seems to be about the business of butting heads. It is tempting, and easier, to focus on what we are against rather than what we are for. Not only does this waste energy, but it also leads to feelings of limitation and agitation. The way out is to know our own minds, and most don't.
Finding out what we really want takes time, and we are in a hurry. The New Oxford American Dictionary chose "unfriend" as its 2009 Word of the Year. For people living their lives on the Internet, it means to drop someone as a "friend" on a social Web site. In cyberspace the push of a button deletes what we don't want.
Another new word just "outed" us. Shady Lady Ranch in Nevada won the legal right to hire the state's first male prostitute, crowning "Markus," college dropout and porn actor, the "prostidude." The Brothel Owners Association predicts failure. Even they know this is not what women really want, but the women who pay the prostidude do not know what they want either. Meanwhile, there is money to be made.
Some things demand our time and focus. When illness strikes, we want healing. Medical science backs the placebo effect, summed up as, "I believe." One-third of the patients, who believe they are getting better, improve, even when they have been given a dummy pill. Physicians know that without the placebo effect their success rate drops.
For too many people, "I believe" represents nothing substantial. They are like the Edgar Allen Poe worshippers, huddling together all night in freezing temperatures on Jan. 19 (Poe's birthday) near his grave in Baltimore. For more than 60 years a mystery person has left roses and cognac there on that date. When he, she, or they did not appear in 2010, the disappointed crowd stood hours more, speculating on what had happened. And all of this is based on the life of a man who, though a good writer, was a miserable person.
Do most of us want a healthier economy, better healthcare for all, and a healthier environment? We could take one small step toward all three: stop insurance companies from denying coverage and/or charging prohibitive fees based on pre-existing conditions. Those people would get help, and we would all benefit. Time will pass whether we do nothing or something. The bigger matters involving the whole budget, the whole debt, the whole healthcare system, the whole issue of global warming or not, will still be there. We could take small steps forward while continuing to forge out our individual, "I believe."
Gandhi said: "There is more to life than increasing its speed." He was ahead of us; we are still arguing about what is too fast or too slow. We are proving biblical wisdom: "For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work" (James 3:16).
An Associated Press article was titled: "Lonely Life of Last Afghan Jew." It profiled Zebulon Simentov who "lives, eats, and prays alone," his family now in Israel. Perhaps he believes he is taking a stand for freedom. Perhaps he believes solitary does not mean lonely. Perhaps it is time to stop butting heads over everything, but we will have to zero in on what we really believe to separate wheat from chaff.
Finding truth requires the right starting point. That is the quest of this column. If you are a seeker of simple truth, we can find it together - side-by-side.