That Pesky Problem: Can You Save The World?
Can you save the world? Prolly not…
The problem with saving the world is that it is made up of people, 7 billion people, all in different stages of mental clarity (or not). And they really don’t think they need you to save them.
I was talking with a young woman in her late 20’s who declared (with raised chin and flaring nostrils) that her entire life’s purpose was “To Save the World.” A noble cause, I would suppose, but impractical and unrealistic, not to mention a tad arrogant.
First, it’s hard to save something that doesn’t apparently want to be saved. I was reminded of earlier missionary excursions to the far-flung islands of the Pacific. As the joke in Hawaii goes, “The missionaries came to do good, and they did very well…”
Second, what exactly does it mean to save the world? It means you think you and your ways are better than theirs. Maybe. Maybe not.
I asked her if she had ever traveled to these far flung places she was going to save. Turned out she hadn’t even been out of Arizona except for a brief vacation in Rocky Point, Mexico. I suggested she take a few long trips to the places she wanted to save, and maybe read the CIA Factbook before she left.
Shortly after our conversation, I spent an afternoon at the Musical Instrument Museum. This marvelous collection of world music and history is a reminder how we earthlings are both very much the same, and also very different. I made a mental note to recommend it to her. (Not to be missed if you ever visit Phoenix.)
So what do you think? Can we “Save the world?” What does that mean? IMHO if we can’t even stop ourselves from eating that last Danish, or chowing down on Thanksgiving dinner till we burst, how do we think we are qualified to tell anyone else how to live out those 26,000 days each of us is allotted (give or take…)
Maybe the Life Purpose we should all dedicate ourselves to is saving our own lives. Achieving that is a noble goal and allows us to provide love and support (not be a savior) to those around us.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
We just saw The Bridge this weekend. There were many lessons similar to your comments. A college kid got caught on the wrong side of the Berlin Wall as it was being erected and thought his status as an American would “make it all right.” So many Americans get caught up in things they don’t understand because they have a notion they can save the world. Recommend the movie, by the way.
Thanks JM. Will do, That movie is on my list. We do hear too many times how sheltered Americans go abroad and falsely assume they will be safe or protected because of US law. That points out a sad and compelling truth: our educational system is failing these people. Even a small grasp of History, Sociology and Political Science would inoculate them against that false idea when they travel. Then again, maybe not. Wisdom comes from bad experiences usually. And I’ve always said that people in their 20’s think they are immortal and bulletproof. We seem to wake up around age 28, or at least I did.
This is a good post. Thanks Beth. Here’s a quote that helps me remember what I *can do*:
“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” – Edward Everett
I agree with your blog Beth on all points. Most people don’t want to be saved and saving someone else implies that we somehow have the answers for other people when in most cases we only have the answers that would work for us. The only exception to this I would say would be young children. For most of my professional life, I have dedicated my time and energy to caring for, education and advocating for children. They are our world’s future and many times, they do need us to save them.
I also wanted to share that dealing with people who are addicted to alcohol or drugs, we also cannot “save” them as many people naive to the dynamics of addiction think they can. Just some thoughts to share. Thanks again for keeping me in the loop and on the list. You are doing great work Beth! —Von
You’re so right Beth! I know millenials who think that too. You know, sing Kum by ya and hold hands. They get rude awakenings whe they go overseas and find out they aren’t so smart after all. It isn’t just the US though. Remember during the congolese uprising when thos Italian missionaries flew in with provisions and were cannibalized? That is my first memory of realizing what you are saying here. Some ppl really cannot be saved.