Friday, July 13, 2007

My Sphere of Influence

"We, however, will not boast beyond measure, but within the limits of the sphere which God appointed us-- a sphere which especially includes you."
~2 Corinthians 10:13

I've recently been engaged with the idea of my sphere of influence. My nearest and dearest dwell within the center of that sphere, and in the outlying concentric circles lie those with whom I am acquainted, but to a lesser degree. The people in the uttermost parts of the world are at the periphery of the circle; in truth, most lie beyond the border of my sphere.

The technology of our times has brought our generation unprecedented knowledge of those at the periphery and beyond via the evening news, internet news blogs, etc. Neil Postman's book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, has given me much food for thought on this issue. He descries the shallowness of relationship that results from our steady diet of forty-five second news clips. His contention is that "It is simply not possible to convey a sense of seriousness about any event if its implications are exhausted in less than one minute's time. "

He goes on the say:
"What is happening here is that television is altering the meaning of 'being informed' by creating a species of information that might properly be called disinformation. (snip) Disinformation does not mean false information. It means misleading information--misplaced, irrelevant, fragmented or superficial information --information that creates the illusion of knowing something but which in fact leads one away from knowing. (snip) I am saying we are losing our sense of what it means to be well informed. Ignorance is always correctable. But what shall we do if we take ignorance to be knowledge?"

That last question is profound. What shall we do?

If you are like me, you feel a nagging sense of guilt when confronted with another world crisis. It seems almost wicked to go ahead and eat your toast and drink your coffee when you know that people halfway around the world are suffering. But the question remains: what shall I do?

Postman is better at asking the question than he is at providing the remedy. He feels that the last chance for stemming the decay of culture is through education.

But enter a woman's perspective. It happens that my reading of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea has been juxtaposed with the Postman book. She ruminates on the same subject, but from a different angle:

"We are asked today to feel compassionately for everyone in the world. (snip) The inter-relatedness of the world links us constantly with more problems than the human frame can carry. (snip) Our grandmothers, and even--with some scrambling--our mothers, lived in a circle small enough to let them implement in action most of the impulses of their hearts and minds. We were brought up in a tradition that has now become impossible, for we have extended our circle throughout space and time. (snip)

But can one really feel deeply for an abstraction called the mass?

If we stop to think about it, are not the real casualties in modern life just these centers I have been discussing: the here, the now, the individual and his relationships. (snip)

The here, the now and the individual, have always been the special concern of the saint, the artist, the poet, and --from time immemorial--the woman. In the small circle of the home she has never quite forgotten the particular uniqueness of each member of the family; the spontaneity of now; the vividness of here. These are the individual elements that form the bigger entities like mass; future, world. "

YES!! Lindbergh's answer resonates within me. It is the individual that makes up the masses, and as I tend to the individuals that are within my sphere of influence, I am contributing health and vitality to the masses. Culture truly does begin at home, maybe even in the kitchen! My little home circle is not insignificant and does not have to be sacrificed on the altar of global causes.

Carol brought this lesson home in another, very practical way. Her love for a woman in Zimbabwe brought a personal connection with someone on the periphery of the circle. A distant place suddenly wears a human face, and loving prayer and support can be lavished upon a unique individual for the ultimate benefit of the masses.

I love the connections that are gleaned from reading a variety of books. Who would ever dream that Neil Postman and Anne Morrow Lindbergh had something in common? Neil gave me much food for the intellect; Anne gave me affirmation of the soul. We need to know the problems in our world, but we also need to know that our small contributions matter.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Exactly. I certainly appreciate this persepctive. The answer to what seems hopelessly and exasperatingly out of our reach, has been provided from the beginning of time in the design and purpose of the family. Such an obvious one, yet seemingly impossibly for those who chase after the ever-evolving open-ended philosophies and entertainments of men.