I receive notes all the time from people who want to help their friends, or to “fix” something broken they see in the world. Invariably, I offer the same advice: first, fix yourself.
I know people who are horribly depressed about the state of the nation. Or who have terrible, bigoted attitudes about the opposition political party, or racial group, or gender.
Always, invariably, these people are seriously blown out in one of the three major arenas. Their bodies are a mess, their careers are joyless, or their relationships are sterile or non-existent. The very struggle to actually engage with these three arenas will give you all the compassion and understanding you need to look at the world and grasp the magnificence of the human spirit.
It is only when you neglect one or more of these three that you drift into delusion. And this is the source of so much sophomoric writing by grown-up children who feel their philosophical ramblings could cure the world if only anyone would listen. Or who feel that love is a lie, that honor is dead, that hope is lost.
They have lost their own hope. They have buried their own treasure, and forgotten where they put the map. They have hidden their own light under a bushel.
Every story you write, every interaction you have, every act of kindness or commerce in your day is informed and empowered – or disempowered – by your beliefs and values. By your view of the world. And what if those beliefs are wrong? How do you know what you think you know? Because someone told you? If you are a writer, are you just parroting things that you read somewhere else, or are you developing the capacity for independent thought and judgment?
If you will look at the three arenas honestly, a bombshell of awareness should explode.
1) If your relationships are damaged or nonexistent, extrapolate from here to the rest of the world. How does your own lack of connection parallel the conflict between nations? Between political parties?
2) If your finances are imbalanced, what would happen if the nation ran itself the way you ran your bank account? Can you really say you don’t understand our massive deficit if you can’t balance your own checkbook?
3) If the world operated the way you run your body, what would it look like? How would we conserve or expend our resources?
Dig deep. Find truth. THAT is what will inform your work. None of us are perfect. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” It is in recognition of those flaws, and commitment to telling the truth about them, that we find wisdom.