Sometimes we think too small. Sometimes we get stuck in the details. We lose sight of the big picture. Our bodies are composed of matter as is everything around us. Sometimes we forget that just like our body has many parts, we are part of a larger body. Many days I feel we are focused on our separateness rather than the whole we are a part of.
Author and pastor, Rob Bell suggests that in the modern age, we have become fixated on the individual. Our culture idolizes the “rugged individualist.” The TV show “Survivor” celebrates the winning individual. The Miss America pageant searches for the ideal individual female to represent American beauty. “American Idol” pits talented individuals against each other in an effort to determine the most talented.
Many in America have been frustrated with the inability of Congress to work together to function in a way that best serves our country. Unfortunately, our political system is based on competition rather than cooperation. Competition does not encourage unity. Our forefathers wisely noted that unified power can often be destructive so when they designed our government, they built in checks and balances to prevent consolidated power from running amok.
We have become focused on our differences, and instead of respecting those differences, we have built walls around ourselves to protect ourselves from the other. We have become contemptuous of those who think and act differently than we do. We have allowed partisan politics to divide and separate us into groups focused solely on survival of the group. We have ceased to see others as members of the whole body, and instead, we view them as threats to our well being.
Imagine if our body systems began to fight against each other? How long would we survive if our nervous system was at war against our circulatory system or our digestive system was at war with our immune system? Those suffering from auto immune disorders are painfully aware of what the war between systems does to their body. We have bodies composed of systems, and we are a part of a larger body. We are members of a family, a neighborhood, a city, a state, a country, a world. If we stay stuck at an individual or group level we may make the mistake that we can and should survive apart from the whole instead of as part of the whole.
I think we have forgotten our membership in a body much bigger than political parties. We have forgotten we are American citizens with rights and responsibilities to the whole system. Our country also operates as part of a world body. Some leaders think that we should adopt a policy of isolation and focus solely on the needs and wants of Americans. I can see where there might be times when that strategy is wise and makes sense. When you get sick, your body has a way of slowing you down and forcing you to pay attention to the system which is out of order and needs healing. But staying at home in bed permanently would be a path to death, not life. Sometimes we need to focus solely on our own families to ensure that the individuals in it are healthy and thriving. Sometimes we need to band together to solve community issues. When this happens, we are more concerned with our own community than the one down the road. I think America has a well deserved reputation for helping out countries in need. And sometimes we help to the detriment of our own citizens.
What I am suggesting is that for systems to work well, there needs to be balance. Instead of focusing on the destruction and elimination of a system within a body, we need a thorough examination of what is working and what is not working within our systems. We cannot afford to isolate ourselves and focus solely on how we are affected. We must recognize the whole. We must not insist on our own way. We must realize that different members of our system require different things in order to function properly. If our country is to move forward, we must change our focus and shift our viewpoint to adjust for a much wider range than the needs of only ourselves, only our neighborhood, only our community, only our state, only our country. We are members of a much larger body. We need to think bigger, not smaller.
Now let’s refocus a little closer to home. Change begins with us. We cannot expect our country’s leaders to cooperate and get along when we cannot get along with our family members or our neighbors. We have to stop pointing our fingers at each other insisting that the other is what is wrong with America. We are a country of others. We have to begin working with individuals before we can work with groups. And we must work with other groups before we can fix systems. Ignoring each other or bashing each other keeps our focus small and leads nowhere. We can choose to be gracious toward one another or we can choose self-righteousness. But the choice is ours. We have to stop assigning blame and start working together. Or we can keep doing what we’re doing and we’ll keep getting the same result wondering what’s wrong with people. If we want true change, we must be willing to change ourselves.