L.B. White the famed reporter for the New Yorker once wrote: “I awake torn between saving the world and savoring the world. This makes it difficult to plan the day”. It’s an old struggle: We want to enjoy life but so often we find it difficult to not feel guilty about not doing enough good.
There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think about this tension. Have that cup of Starbucks and then wonder if I just supported a system that exploits child labor. Sign up to spend the day building for Habitat for Humanity even though I could be taking my grandson to the beach. Even in our effort to stand up to the large corporate interests by standing on the corner of Torrance and Hawthorne with the Occupy movement, I was conscious of the fact that most of us were pretty well fed and cared for; people who had savored the world most of their lives.
But perhaps all this middle class angst is a false dichotomy. Is it just a remnant of puritan guilt that makes us worry about enjoying life or saving lives? After all wasn’t it H. L. Mencken's observation that Puritanism is “a terrible, pervasive fear that someone, somewhere, is having fun.”?
And it is there that I want to begin. Because I contend that to save anyone, we have to first start by saving ourselves. This Valentine’s day, I am asking you to first occupy your own heart before galloping off to save the world.
With Grace and Grit, John