There’s the tragedy that happened halfway around the world. There’s the huge wildfire elsewhere that threatens the population. There’s a hurricane about to touch land. There are deadly illnesses and crazy politics and scheming madmen. There are personal calamities and wars and famine and people we just don’t like. But most of all, there’s a lot of rage, a lot of frustration, and a lot of sorrow. If only the world could work the way we say it should. But it doesn’t and it never will.
So we find ourselves in a state of perpetual confusion, a fog in which we walk day and night, unable to see more than a few yards beyond our own noses. A fog so thick that it is utterly impenetrable, yet still we attempt to pierce it now and then because we remember a different world and we know things should be better. But to no avail. We are in the fog. We are lost.
If this has ever happened to you or is happening now, take hope and be of good cheer. There is a way to brighter days—not perfect days, mind you, but brighter. The only way to find the sun that burns off that thick fog is through personal responsibility. Through achievement we find self-esteem, self-reliance, and personal effectiveness. Armed with this, we might not be able to stop what’s happening on the other side of the Earth, but we can certainly put our own lives in order—and THAT is what brings clarity.
It’s very simple, indeed. When you are at rock bottom, at your wits’ end, the only thing you can do is to reach for what is directly in front of you. (The real secret, of course, is that all you can EVER do is reach for what is directly in front of you, but that has to be learned and is not something you grasp simply by being told.) So we begin at the beginning.
Tonight or tomorrow, grab your dirty dishes that are littering the sink and countertops and wash them by hand and set them in a drying rack. It doesn’t matter if you have a dishwasher and “could be doing something better,” do them by hand anyway. Or maybe you have a piece of prefab furniture that needs to be put together. Do it with a hand screwdriver, the old-fashioned kind. It doesn’t matter if you have a cordless electric screwdriver and “could do it in one-quarter of the time,” do it by hand anyway.
Set aside a week to do as many things as possible the “old” way. Maybe you will make a homemade loaf of bread from start to finish. Maybe you will go fishing and catch your own dinner and fry it yourself. Maybe you will wash a few pieces of laundry in the sink by hand, even though you have a washing machine. Maybe you will trim the hedges with hand shears. Maybe you will wash the dishes every night by hand, etc.
What will this do, you ask? Surely we have “better” things to occupy our time? At first this will simply give you something to do, and as much as we all like to lounge around now and then, humans are happier when they are industrious. Then it will give you a “reconnect” to everyday life around you. It will put you INTO life instead of watching it from the sidelines and just pressing a button. Then it will give you a sense of accomplishment and personal achievement. It doesn’t matter if the tasks you are doing seem small and insignificant. No job is menial or below any other. Every job is important. Everything we do to make our lives run efficiently gives us a sense of personal responsibility and control—but the key is we have to do it ourselves, not press a button or have someone else do it for us.
In essence, we make ourselves more “effective.” We find our ability to order and fix and beautify our own lives. And that is a wonderful thing, so simple but so perfect! Because we’re not just sitting on the sidelines anymore, we’ve got both hands elbow-deep into life. What happens then? Eventually, we begin to look around ourselves to find more and more things we can “fix,” more things we can do, more things we can bring under our own personal control and protection.
This is how you build a “home,” regardless of whether you live in a house, an apartment, or a tent. This is how you begin to structure your life. This is how you—slowly but surely—build potency and effectiveness. Bit by tiny bit, you handle what is in front of you—always what is in front of you, not 1,000 miles away. Bit by tiny bit, you rebuild yourself, your home, and then your community. And yes, eventually you save the world.