Friday, April 24, 2009
This Postcard from Israel was originally written on 30 January 2006.
I once read somewhere that the expression "May you live in interesting times" is actually a subtle kind of curse. I can see why that would be. Sometimes life in Israel is just a little more interesting than I would like. I suppose the same can be said of anywhere on the planet. Anyone who is not happy with the way things are going in his/her country might feel that there's just a little too much going on; too much crime, too much apathy, too much suffering. If there was no war, no hunger, no disease, life would be quiet and peaceful. Soothing, rather than interesting.
That's not to say we don't have periods of calm and normalcy. Much of the time I feel my life is pretty much like what it would be if I lived in, say, Iowa. Of course, no life is completely free from worry. Like ripples in a pond, they spiral outward, from the personal to the global. My normal concerns center around things like the everyday health and well-being of my family, and whether we'll be able to establish an Internet network in our house. From there, my thoughts may turn to neighborhood issues such as lack of parking, and whether the sixth graders who serve as crossing guards at the intersection near the school really know what they're doing. The behavior and priorities of our city's mayor cause me a great deal of anxiety, as well.
Then come national issues. Politically, our country is in a tenuous situation. Our prime minister is in a coma, and the politicians are behaving like characters in a soap opera. The overwhelming success of terrorists in the recent Palestinian elections is a clear message with grave security ramifications for Israel. Our education system, while badly in need of an overhaul, may be headed in the wrong direction with the Dovrat reforms. Budget cuts have left the elderly and ill vulnerable.
Finally there are issues that affect us all. Globally, the environment, health issues, and terrorism are the chief causes for concern. At times I wonder how much longer human beings will be able to inhabit this planet.
Of course, you can easily insert your own fears and worries in place of mine. These days, even children know enough about what is going on around them to lose early on that carefree innocence many of us seem to remember having had. Life is no longer the simple experience it once was.
The question is, how do we handle the interesting times in which we live? The ever-popular "head in the sand" posture is one of my favorites, but I can only maintain that stance for so long. Some people take refuge in egoism, devoting their energies exclusively to their own comfort and welfare. Others look outward, and wonder, "What can I do to make the world a better place?" Through the Internet, I have come to discover just how many people there are who adopt the latter as their platform. I have been amazed and humbled by the sheer numbers of people who are willing to use their time, in a multitude of ways, to bring comfort and cheer to others. The cynics among us may feel that such actions, though well-intended, actually accomplish very little. I beg to differ.
It is easy enough today, through the marvels of cyberspace, to discover just what people think and feel. On-line newspaper articles, interviews and blogs enable us to get inside the minds of others. To those in need, on the receiving end of the help and good wishes of others, each small act of kindness makes an enormous difference. And those who know the story of the Starfish know that by taking action, the givers are also helping themselves.
Interesting, isn't it?