We live in angry times. Our President here in the U.S. sets the tone by tweeting intemperately day and night. Trolling on social media has reached epidemic proportions. Our friends in the U.K. got so mad at Europe that they’re divorcing them. Here in the Boston area, the good citizens of Cambridge regularly get worked up about some national issue and threaten to secede from the Union – the very one that their ancestors died defending.
Angry times. And of course, one of the reasons that we are so angry is that we’re constantly reminded of how angry we are on social media by bloggers, by Facebook posts, by tweets – it’s going on twenty-four seven like some furious echo chamber of ire.
Facebook envy is now a real thing, something that actually depresses people. A recent study found that people who spend more time on social media are more depressed, more envious, and less forgiving, than people who don’t.
This sorry state of affairs afflicts both the political right and the left. Friends of mine on Facebook who used to post pictures of smiling family members and friends now post regular rants on politics. Some right-wingers recently attacked NPR for posting the Declaration of Independence, because they thought it was belittling Trump.
On and on it goes. Our angry era is deep into its middle years, with no end in sight.
But it’s really symptomatic of a deeper problem, one that puzzles me daily: more and more people are seeming to look at life as a zero-sum game. In spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, more and more people seem to think that my happiness is your misery, your gain is my loss, and there is only a certain amount of fulfillment, success, and joy to go around in the world. You have to grab as much as you can for yourself and keep others from getting any.
What a sad place to come to. In an era which is demonstrably safer, healthier, richer, more creative, more advanced, and more blessed than any other – for more people — we have a sense that we have to fight in a dangerous world for every scrap we can wrest from our neighbors.
Quick question – which decade was more dangerous for terrorist attacks – now or the 1970s? The answer may surprise you, as those headlines say on the Internet. It’s the 1970s. Check it out. Google it.
And while you’re at it, Google “Joy.” It’s a sense of great pleasure and happiness. Nothing about it being limited, or rationed among people. We’re all entitled to it. And as much as we need or want.
Otherwise our world will become a hell of our own making. I’m always reminded of the paired visions of heaven and hell from a story long ago. Hell is an endless banquet, a table piled high with delicious things to eat, people sitting on either side. And yet, because the spoons they’re holding have long handles, too long to get them in their mouths, they’re starving in the midst of plenty.
Heaven, on the other hand, in this version, has the same endless table piled high with delicious things to eat, people sitting on either side, holding exactly the same spoons, with the same long handles. But they’re feeding each other.
What can we do to move humanity from the angry hell too many of us seem to inhabit today, to a happier world?
Realize that the pie is infinitely expandable. It’s human creativity that solves problems – the answers lie in all of us.
Let’s not shut each other out. Embrace the other tribe. Embrace your competition. Include, don’t exclude. Accept, don’t deny. Hold tight with love, don’t spurn, your fellow humans.
We’re all in this together.
And join us for our one-day Powerful Public Speaking workshop in Boston on October 24. We’ll set the world to rights, solve for world hunger, and put the New York Yankees in their place. Promise!