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AnywayThe Paradoxical Commandments: Finding Personal Meaning in a Crazy World
By Kent M. Keith
Thorndike PressCopyright © 2002 Kent M. Keith
All right reserved.
It's a Crazy World
It's best to begin by just admitting that the world is crazy. The world really doesn't make sense.
We are polluting ourselves into a corner. All of our natural systems are in decline. We are growing at a population rate that the earth may not be able to support. We act as though our resources will last forever, instead of replenishing them and building a sustainable future.
While progress has been made in nuclear disarmament, there are still tens of thousands of nuclear warheads on the planet-enough to kill each man, woman, and child three or four times. As few as one hundred nuclear bombs, exploding over cities, could generate enough dark clouds to shut off our sunlight and doom all life on our planet.
There is enough food produced throughout the world to provide sufficient calories for each person on the planet. However, hundreds of thousands of people die each year of starvation, and more than a billion people on our planet are significantly undernourished.
Millions of people are suffering from diseases for which we have cures. An estimated 700 million people are infected with parasites-roundworm, hookworm, and whipworm. Poverty-strickencountries can't afford to buy vaccines to prevent polio, measles, and yellow fever, or to distribute the drugs that fight tuberculosis or leprosy. Only 8 million of the 80 million children in poor countries have been immunized against diphtheria, whooping cough, and tetanus. It is estimated that 25 million people in tropical countries have become blind from diseases that are preventable.
The United States is the wealthiest nation in the world, but more than 11 million children are stuck below the poverty level. From 1980 to 1990, the number of children under age five living below the poverty level increased by 23 percent.
We say the future depends on our children, but we don't spend a lot of time with them. The time that parents spend with their children in meaningful interactions is measured in minutes per day, while the time children spend watching television is measured in hours. We hope that our schools will do the job we aren't doing at home, but we pay schoolteachers a tiny percentage of what we pay professional athletes. We graduate hundreds of thousands of students each year who cannot read their own high school diplomas.
We isolate our teenagers from the world, quarantining them in school buildings. We give them little responsibility, and demand of them even less. By cutting them off from the adult world, where they could develop a sense of competence and belonging, we leave them alienated and open to joining gangs that will give them a sense of belonging. In the 1980s it was estimated that more than 135,000 students in America carried a gun to school. The nation mourns when the alienation and weapons result in a killing spree on campus.
We are a litigious society. We file as many as 100 million lawsuits each year. Some of these are filed by individuals who simply do not think they are responsible for their own actions. Even when they do wrong, they sue others, and sometimes they get rich.
Meanwhile, people who betray their spouses or children, and people who murder, steal, take drugs, or commit outrageous acts become television talk show guests. Some make hundreds of thousands of dollars by writing books or selling their stories to TV, magazines, or the movies.
We want our country to be built on merit, but who you know is often more important than what you know. We say we are for equality, but racial and ethnic minorities have had to fight for an equality that has not yet been attained.
Many people have turned away from the human values that have served all the generations that came before us. Some people have decided that all things are relative and subjective. They attribute no meaning to anything, and then complain that life is empty and has no meaning.
Yes, the world is crazy. If it doesn't make sense to you, you're right. It really doesn't make sense.
The point is not to complain about it. The point is not to give up hope. The point is this: The world doesn't make sense, but you can make sense. You can find personal meaning. That's what this book is about. It's about finding personal meaning in a crazy world.
Because the world is crazy and you're not, you will find personal meaning in paradox. A "paradox" is an idea that is contrary to popular opinion, something that seems to contradict common sense and yet is true. This book is about ten Paradoxical Commandments.
If you can accept the Paradoxical Commandments, then you are free. You are free from the craziness of this world. The Paradoxical Commandments can be your personal declaration of independence. Put them up on your wall as a reminder of your freedom. For the rest of your life, you can do what you believe is right and good and true because it makes sense to you.
The Paradoxical Commandments are not morbid or pessimistic. If you do what is right and good and true, you will often be appreciated for your contributions. But if you can find personal meaning without the world's applause, you are free. You are free to do what makes sense to you, whether or not others appreciate it. You are free to be who you really are. You are free to be who you were meant to be. You are free to find the meaning that others miss. And when you find that meaning, you will find a happiness deeper than any you have ever known.
The Paradoxical Commandments are a call to meaning-a call to finding personal meaning in a crazy world. In this book I will explore the meaning of the Paradoxical Commandments, and then describe how to live the paradoxical life.
Excerpted from Anyway by Kent M. Keith Copyright © 2002 by Kent M. Keith. Excerpted by permission.
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