How to help people? There's the popular wide-angle approach: convert "the masses" (or at least a large chunk thereof), preferably via quick and dramatic action. This has to be a long-shot gamble; if many people could do it, we all would constantly be blown hither and yon by forces beyond our control. (Sometimes it feels like that's happening! ... now imagine it a million times worse.) Every argument would be won by the person who spoke last, or the one with the biggest advertising budget. Ugh!
Then there's the focused method: "each one reach one", individual action. This is slower, but more plausible --- particularly when working toward a complex goal, something that requires free choice and deep thought to accept. It demands great patience, humor, and the ability to communicate on a personal level with those who disagree with one's ideas. And there's always the risk of counter-conversion, of being persuaded to give up and join the other side. (The missionary visits the pagan's house for a feast, and likes it too much to come home again.)
But there's an even better way: reflect --- look in the mirror. Discard shotgun and rifle; both will break the glass. Whom can one directly influence? Only oneself. What good does it do to work on oneself? Well, assuming that there's room for improvement (no nirvana yet) it would seem to be a good example for others (but don't think of them!) to see someone try to do rather than just admonish, advise, and critique. No proseletyzing; when asked, however, it's ok to explain. And even if absolutely no one else notices, there are the hidden rewards of making the right choices, of striving against impossible odds, and of taking at least baby steps toward the goal.
Yes, it's frustrating beyond belief --- but working on oneself is paradoxically the only way to make any progress toward the hardest and most important ends in life ... to glimpse answers that can't be found in the back of any book ... and to really help other people.
(So I had better shut up now and get to work, eh?!)
Saturday, November 06, 1999 at 05:52:19 (EST) = Datetag19991106