Reflections on life and the world around us

Copyright 2018 (all rights reserved)

By Rudy Apodaca

(published on this website on March 28, 2018
and written as a guest column/op-ed piece)

     Despite the constant troubles in our complex world, we have many blessings. It’s easy to lose sight of that in the midst of our political, environmental, economic, and social woes.

     Nonetheless, even considering our abilities to create for ourselves an inner peace, there’s much on the outside that can pull us down. We must try hard not to let those outer influences negatively impact what each of us can do on our own to make life better for all.

     It’s not that we shouldn’t be concerned about the craziness in our country and in the world. Yet, in spite of these seemingly chaotic times—possibly because of them—we can go about living our own lives to the fullest. If we can manage to do that, we might find some sense of tranquility in our lives.

     In his book, Living a Life That Matters, Harold Kushner addresses an issue that should haunt every one of us at one time or another: Do we consider ourselves insignificant? Do we matter to the world? Each of us, Kushner claims, needs to know that our lives mean something. We need to reassure ourselves that we can indeed make a difference in the world.

     As a rabbi, Kushner helped persons in the last moments of their lives. Most of them, he claims, weren’t afraid of dying. But the ones who had the most difficulty with death “were those who felt they had never done anything worthwhile in their lives.” It wasn’t death alone that frightened them, he says, “It was insignificance, the fear that they would die and leave no mark on the world.”

     But we shouldn’t equate significance in that context with power or wealth. I don’t believe that’s what Kushner meant. For him, it was part of a spiritual journey.

     Even so, for most of us, leaving that mark is difficult. No matter our form of government, none of us, individually or collectively, is in control of the daily happenings in the world.

     In the United States, the only control we have is on election day, when we cast our ballots. Even then, our control is indirect and limited. We should therefore find it consoling to make up for that by focusing on our day-to-day activities in our individual lives to search for some sense of normalcy, peace of mind, and fulfillment.

     So, as Congress and our state political leaders go about their business of running our governments, as difficult as it may be, we should focus on our own lives to negate the helplessness we might feel for not having control.

     We must put the existing political order aside and instead concentrate on how we can each make a difference in our own way. There have been times when I’ve kiddingly suggested to my wife: Let’s move to an isolated island somewhere to live in peace.

     Would that fantasy really satisfy us? I doubt it.

     The human race, by nature, is most at peace, I believe, when we’re among each other. And, to that end, all of us have something to offer—our talents, creativity, knowledge, wisdom, laboring skills, even time alone. Our skills and time should be shared. Serving others would give us a sense of accomplishment.

     A few years ago, I came upon an inspiring quote:

     Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, but sometimes to divine a purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know, that we are here for the sake of others—above all for those upon whose smile and well-being our own happiness depends, but also for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are attached by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day I realize how much my own outer and inner life is built upon the efforts of my fellow men, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received.

     The author of that humble quote? Albert Einstein.

     His words should motivate us to appreciate not only life but our fellow human beings who have at one time or another planted the seed to make this a better world. Working together to that end, we can succeed in continuing to improve our lives, no matter life’s tribulations and the overwhelming world problems that surround us daily.

     We can find ways that’ll allow us to provide some measure of satisfaction and benefit to others, as teachers, accountants, public servants, medical or legal professionals, architects, or manual laborers. For many of us, the vocation we chose for ourselves, by its nature, will provide that contribution.

     Even as parents, we can try our best to raise children who will grow up to be responsible and productive citizens and, in turn, provide service to others in their future.

     There are countless ways to make a difference, no matter how small.

     Dan Brown’s new novel, Origin, tells the story of a brilliant man who believes he has uncovered the answers to two questions humans have asked themselves for thousands of years: Where do we come from? Where are we going?

     Brown’s book raises complex issues, and we should continue to explore those profound questions, both spiritually and scientifically. Regardless of the answers, though, we find ourselves in the here and now, among our fellow human beings. We live, no matter how that came to be.

     How best to live that life? I suggest we continue to put our minds and our bodies to work and do all we possibly can, working together or individually, to lend a hand to better the world. And that should be a continuing effort, no matter the state of affairs in the world.

     I have faith that we’ll survive whatever may ail our world in time. In the past, our country and the world have shown the ability to self-correct. We’ve succeeded doing that many times. And I believe we’ll continue to overcome whatever obstacles may surface.

     In these times of turbulent winds that blow—politically, economically, environmentally, and socially—by working together, we must strengthen our resolve to continue our paths to a good, peaceful, and meaningful life, despite the ills of the world.

     That should be our goal. That is our purpose.