Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Why We Are Still Lucky - Freedom.

In the past few months, I've floundered in trying to come up with a suitable blog to close out the three part series "The Good, the Bad and the Lucky". First we talked about all the cool things that will begin to occur in 2009. Then we talked about the controversial changes that we will need to endure. Quite frankly, every time I re-read those blogs, I still could not come up with enough convincing reasons that would cause all of us - including myself - to believe once again that the good outweighs the bad, and we are still fortunate as ever to live in this great Country. I mean, with all the terrible happenings in the world, the difficulties we face on a daily basis, as well as the general negativity of our environments at this integral moment in time, how can we consider ourselves lucky?

I'd like to tell you a story.

A man named J____ was very prosperous in life. J had all the wealth one could possibly desire, as well as a beautiful wife, many sons and daughters, and a rich collection of family and friends with whom he could share his hopes and dreams. The man was also a very successful businessperson, and was well known for the quality of his products and services.

One day, two very powerful associates of J who held sway and influence in much of his life, had a private conversation, and debated who was more favored by this man. They then plotted to destroy his empire, and find out which one of them he ultimately sought for help. One of them volunteered to do the dirty work, the other just kind of kicked back and observed - hoping that J would be able to survive the treachery. First, the "bad dude" (yeah I know...you like my metaphors) set out to destroy his reputation as a good businessperson. Next he spread rumors that he was an unfaithful husband. When those tactics did not work, he finally resorted to assasination of family and friends. In the end, J had nothing left. His business went bankrupt, his wife left him, and his family and friends were gone. He was ruined.

That's when the bad dude started visiting, and tried to convince J to rely on him to help re-build his empire. He tried everything...documentation, spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, threats, bribery and extortion, to make this man see that the very powerful indivdual that stood before him ultimately held the keys to his rebound in life.

In the end, it all backfired. J wouldn't listen to the bad dude's reasoning, and threw the man out of his shack. He then chose to seek out the dude that stayed away from involvement in the destruction of his empire, and was secretly rooting for him all throughout his trials and tribulations.

The gentleman altruistically helped J get back on his feet. He lobbied the press to reinstate J's good will with business associates, introduced him to new potential family members and friends. He remarried - this time to a woman that completely trusted him and believed in him. He developed new and stronger relationships with friends. He started a family again. Over time, reestablished his kingdom, which was now stronger than ever.

One day some years later, the Good Dude came to see J. As they reminisced about the good and bad times, J recalled that his friend did not appear during his toughest moments in life. When asked why he did not come to help during his trials, the dude said "I was always available to help you...but you needed to come to me of your own free will."

The story above is actually Biblical in nature. It is the story of Job (with some Footprints in the Sand thrown in for good measure), which in my personal opinion is the mid-point between the Old and New Testaments. Much like World War II vets often say when you speak to them about post-war America, I believe "Something changed after that point".

I don't claim to be a prognosticator, nor do I have any answers to life's complex questions. But I do know that the story above is likely something that we can all relate to at some point in our lives. Whether we are businesspersons, politicians, family people, or even just trying to keep our heads above water, we have all gone through tough times. I think it's safe to say we're all in such a time right now. On a National level, we can look through the last 200 years of our History and say that we have seen many integral moments come and go (American Revolution, Civil War, Great Depression, World Wars, Civil Rights Movement), each with the conclusion of a hopefully better future.

If you look at the litany of positives and negatives that I listed in my blog during this three part series, you'll see at least a few things to latch onto - perhaps creating a greener society for our children's children, or to figure out ways to protect our National integrity without damaging that of others, or to protect the innocent from harm.

The bottom line is this: The reason why we are still lucky is that we still have the freedom to align ourselves with those who want to make the world a better place. Much like Job did, he could see through all of the trickery, deceit and malice; he chose to seek out one who would genuinely help to rebuild his life, and empower him to continue to do good deeds during his existence. We need to be constantly on guard to ensure that we continually seek out such good people, genuinely inspired to help.

Who knows what the world will be like in 20 years? Will a Utopian, interconnected society with less poverty crime and war emerge? Or will it be a post-apocolyptic war zone? Scary stuff...the most troubling part of this is that we might not have a say-so in the outcome. But we do what we can; we still have the freedom to choose what is right for ourselves, our family and friends, our city, our country and even our international friends...we can make that small difference. But we have to care enough to work toward making that difference. The moment you give up on making such a difference is the moment that you'll be visited by that one dude who promises you the world, and ultimately has nothing to show for it.

And during those moments of indecision, remember that if you actively seek out good friends, family and associates...like-minded individuals who can aid you in your journey to creating that Utopian society we all seek, well then you're still ahead of the game.

Voltaire said it quite well in his book Candide: We must tend to our gardens. In other words, don't worry so much about what's going on out there in the world; concern yourself with the things that you have the ability to change.

I don't really know how to end this blog except to encourage you to never stop trying to make the world a better place, not just for yourself, but for others. If you do that, I can assure you that your are truly a lucky person. :-)