The conversation continued between Survival Sam, Duane and I in Duane’s basement.
“Is it me,” Duane asked, “or has the media started talking about highlights of this past year earlier than usual?”
“I noticed it before Christmas,” I said.
“It gets depressing,” said Duane. “Who wants to relive the year? You know, been there, done that. Have you ever stopped to think of how many things you can’t do anything about? And all these guys do is rub it in our faces.”
“Your TV has an off button, doesn’t it?” asked Sam.
“Well, yeah,” Duane said, “but just think about it. What can I do about government corruption or the war in
“Be careful,” Sam said, “or you’ll get angry as well as depressed.”
“What do you think you can do, Duane?” I asked. “Or what do you think you should do?”
“That’s just it,” Duane said. “I don’t know. Writing my Congressman doesn’t do any good. All I ever get back is a form letter. Besides, it seems like those guys are all bought and paid for. It just seems the little guy can’t do anything. Diane and I are busting our buns trying to raise a family, but sometimes a guy just feels like he’s spinning his wheels.”
“What if you truly can do nothing about the state of the world?” asked Sam.
“Oh, you’re a big help!” blurted Duane.
“I mean it,” Sam said. “There are indeed many things you and I can’t do anything about. Oh, sure, you could get involved in local politics if you wanted. Or you could support Ron Paul’s candidacy for president if you think that will do any good, but when push comes to shove, as you’ve noticed already, there are a lot of day to day things you need to do something about in the here and now.”
“Aren’t you contradicting yourself, Sam?” asked Duane. “I thought you said there wasn’t anything I could do.”
“Let’s turn this all around and make it into something positive,” Sam said, “because there are things you can do.. However, they might not be what you think.”
“So, lay it on me, Sam,” challenged Duane.”
“You’ve taken the first step already,” began Sam. “Monitor the news, but get beyond the TV talking heads or the radio talk show self-appointed gurus. The idea is to get a broader perspective.”
“Are you trying to get me even more discouraged?” asked Duane.
“Staying informed helps you understand the “big picture” and your relationship to the world we live in. I consider it part of survival preparation.”
“Then what?” Duane asked.
“Accept what’s going on,” said Sam. “See things as they are, not what you think they ought to be.”
“That’s no small step, Duane,” said Sam. “let me try to put the significance of this into perspective. Imagine you have a favorite aunt who’s on her deathbed. As long as she’s alive, your focus is on her. You may still have hope she’ll come around and get well again. And though this may sound awful to say, when she’s dead, you realize there’s nothing more you can do for her, so you change your focus. You can move on to other things.”
“Yeah, I think I understand,” said Duane.
“To apply that to current events, it’s exactly as you’ve already noticed,” Sam said. “There’s nothing we can do about many, many things. Forget the ‘Take America back.’ Mentality. Stop trying to make the world outside a better place and focus on making Duane’s little world a better place. As an old Christian hymn puts it, ‘Brighten the corner where you are.’”
Duane was mulling this over.
“So what comes next?” I asked.
“The next step is to begin your preparations to cope with the world as it is,” Sam said. “If you still feel you must be an activist, the best kind of activism is being proactive about your own situation. Look inward. The things you can do are right at home. Ever heard the old saying, ‘Charity begins at home’? You’re no good to anybody unless your own life and homefront are in order.”
“I think I see your point,” said Duane, “but how do I get started?”
“Start with a little self examination,” Sam said. “For example, do you need to change priorities regarding such things as personal finances? How about any marital problems? What about your children’s education?”
“That’s a lot to think about,” Duane said.
“Isn’t it rather selfish, too?” I asked.
“I certainly hope so,” said Sam.