If you get, give, if you learn, teach ~ Maya Angelou
The first thing that we all have to remember is that it’s all just dust in the wind. Everything we build, all we buy, make and create will in the end become nothing. Somebody was the originator of the idea to build Stonehenge and yes, here we are thousands of years later, still amazed about this magnificent creation. But the originator’s name is long forgotten, the builders of Stonehenge forgotten. Like everything, there are occasional exceptions, we know a little bit about the builders of the pyramids.
So does that mean there is no point to what we do in life, that we should just live a nihilistic existence? My perspective is no, that’s not the answer. Our institutions, our buildings, our countries and our cultures will all someday fade away or change to the point as to be unrecognizable to us.
So the answer is in the relationships that we have. While we will never know the name of the human that first gathered other humans to live together, hundreds of thousands of years later we still benefit from the creation of community and society. Throughout human history people have passed the best ideas and values to their children and other people. In our current society, in many ways, we have formalized this type of sharing. We have schools and organizations that collect this information and pass it on to others. Our society and by our, I mean human society, continues, survives and at times thrives because of the ease in getting this foundational information to build off of and make things even better. But it’s not the information that matters, but the values and drives of the people using this information to make life better for all of us.
Yes, there is a small flaw in this way of thinking. Because just as easily, bad ideas can be moved forward as well. We’ve seen this through history and one of the worst happened less than 100 years ago. The old myths and slanders about Jews were used by the Nazis to justify what they called the Final Solution, which most of us refer to as the Holocaust. This ideology, philosophy and political manipulation led to the murder of six million human beings. I’m not typically an optimist but in this one case I am. I believe that overall the good ideas win out over the bad, and by the good, I mean the ideas that allow humanity to survive and move forward, even to be happy.
What are those ideas? Things like kindness, supporting those less fortunate, fostering a love of curiosity, innovation and knowledge. Protecting those who can’t protect themselves. Most of us do this through instilling these values and ideals in our children. But these aren’t the only people we impact. You can help build these ideals in nieces and nephews, friends and both blood or chosen family. I am also fortunate enough to do this in my work, as an educator I get to help students discover these ideas for themselves. Most importantly I help students find their way to careers, often careers that change the fortunes of not just them, but their children and their families going forward.
Since all of the material things will someday turn to dust, what’s most important is that we help the people we have relationships with, to be better humans. It’s the positive creation and continuation of helpful ideas and values that last far beyond the material items. So it’s the people the matter, and the better job we do of carrying these things forward, the happier we all can be now and in the future. ~ Rev Kane