Bernie Sanders, Inequality, and Poverty.

Is it more noble to assist the victims of injustice — or to fight the root causes of injustice? Similarly, it is more beneficial to help the impoverished — or to fight the systems that perpetuate poverty?

As I’ve spent the last several months engaging in conversations about Bernie Sanders, inequality, and poverty — these questions seem to bubble just below the service.  The answer serves as a Rorschach test of our values — and is likely best answered by some combination of “both” versus one or the other.

It reminds me of the quote from Hélder Câmara, “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist.”

There is no doubt that a focus on “changing the system” can become a replacement for charitable giving — but it’s also true that charity can assuage our conscience when we neglect to “ask why they are poor” — or are uncomfortable criticizing a system from which we benefit.

One of the most recurrent myths about those troubled by inequality and poverty is that they are simply seeking to redistribute other’s money — but this fundamentally misunderstands the critique that is being leveled.

May we all be charitable, but never let us think it’s a replacement for fighting against systems of power and those that leverage their advantage to the disadvantage of others.


A Refusal.

After nearly four decades of life, I’m ready to share my wisdom with the generations that follow.  I’ve studied widely, encountered various religions, wrestled with divergent views, and have attempted to think deeply.  

To be clear, all of this has only produced one piece of advice, though it has the potential to change the world.  We often think global change demands a sophisticated plan or an approach born out of millennia of aggregated wisdom. It doesn’t.  While not original to me, the following is the distilled knowledge of a myriad of experiences, thoughtful introspection, and listening to the wisdom of others.  

Refuse to rush.  

We bemoan lost years and the passage of time — yet the speed at which we live makes us culpable.  We’re constantly chasing an illusion and the promise of tomorrow — while neglecting to slow down enough to see what it’s front of us — right now.

What would it mean if we refused to rush through our meals, mindlessly over consuming food we hardly taste? What would it mean to our waistlines and the earth’s resources?

How much could we reduce our carbon footprint if we refused to drive aggressively — thereby saving countless gallons of gasoline and reducing our dependence on oil?  How many accidents could be avoided — and fewer lives lost?

How many years could we add to our lives if we slowed down, took a breath — and stopped the flood of cortisol into our bloodstreams?  How many health benefits would we realize?  How much would our medical costs be reduced?

Rushing is the great distorter.  I vividly remember playing basketball at night inside an abandoned high school in Michigan.  When the basketball bounced sideways and went downstairs into the darkness of the old cafeteria — the faster I ran back up the stairs, the more terrifying the dark unknown felt.  We can’t see clearly or have emotional clarity when we are constantly in overdrive.  Even when done in the service of others, rushing can be self-centered and blind us from the needs of those around us.  

I’ve lost hours of conversations with my children because I wasn’t listening and focusing on a list of tasks I was hurrying through.  My tone with them often suffers because they are impeding My Schedule.  I’ve lost countless moments with my wife because I was feverishly chasing down an illusion of what it meant to have A Clean House.  

There is something remarkably inefficient about stress inducing efficiency.  There is something tangibly misguided when the cost of progress is stumbling backwards.

When the world feels like it’s spinning hopelessly out of control — perhaps it’s because we are running in circles. If our schedule demands an unsustainable pace — we need to change it.   

Life isn’t memorable because of how many activities we pack into each day, but how many we slow down enough to enjoy — and embrace.  Make dinnertime more intentional.  Take a leisurely walk through the woods.  Schedule pauses into your day.   Refuse to let social pressure dictate the speed of your life.  

Refuse to rush.

Smith Rock