It's a New Year, and it's natural for our minds to take inventory of the year past and, looking forward, what could be "better", especially after a year like 2020.
But what exactly constitutes 'better'? What does "better" even mean?
'Better' is a bold, relatively dangerous, and fairly complex declaration; it suggests something is wrong, off, worse-than, or even trash, which may be accurate, however it can prematurely stir emotions of dissatisfaction, discontentment, and subsequent searching for something completely different without really even yet knowing what it is we're dissatisfied with.
As I write to you, I'm half-way through a refreshing "recentering week" deep in the woods along stunning Glacier National Park in northwest Montana(something I'd highly recommend everyone to do periodically to disconnect, detox, and recenter your mind).
Earlier today while driving, we passed by a big building near the Glacier Park entrance and my eldest son naturally asks "Dad, what's in that building?" I numbly responded; "That's where people that help manage the park work to make it better."
The last part of my response mashed the brakes in my brain... "What exactly is in the park that those people have the power to make better?" I thought... Not devaluing their talents and work, my mind wandered into the depths of that question and, to keep this more concise so you can still have time to do something else today, here's where I've ended up: To speak in the field I know best, the most significant & impactful decision we can make in 'making things better' in nature is to simply get out of it's way. But there's a complex in that for us human beings... We see things how they are and naively jump to; "This is great but we can make it better!"
While I see nothing wrong with a desire to always improve things(that's me to the core), we've got to be wise in our unleashing of that desire. If we're not careful, that desire can come from a place of ignorant pride, thinking 'we can do better'(which we see fail over and over again in agriculture). Patience & humility to understand why something is the way it is forces us to step back to observe, reflect, notate, and question everything. As we do this, we often find "blind spots" in our understanding and a realization that the web of influence & impact is far bigger and more interconnected than we'd first given credit for. Our role, as humans, in the natural world is to help prosper nature's design, not reinvent it. To this point in my mental deconstruction, I might be boring you... but as it is with most of my simplistic epiphanies, I see metaphors in nature that help me "see" what goes on around me in society, and my goodness has 2020 been a banner year for social challenge. As a broad statement, the societal issues we're experiencing are not as simplistic as they may at first seem; they're a massive web of tangled cause and effect over the course of human history.
We all want 'better'. But what does 'better' look like? What does 'better' mean? How does 'better' actually become tangible reality? One thing we often see done is an attempt to wrestle mother nature to the ground, simplify and subdue her, and then force our desired change. A lot of the same happens every day in societies both here and around the world; a dumbing down to simplify the problem and then a forced change toward some noble ideal, but we undermine our valiant & noteworthy efforts toward that noble goal by our process. The problem with simplifying or dumbing down the problem is you eliminate the power and strength of complexity and diversity to work together toward a far more beneficial and resilient outcome. It feels extremely risky and anticlimactic to, instead of dictating the outcome, provide options and education with the faith that people, when 'seen', will choose to link arms and fight for the greater good of humanity. Our deep longing for purpose is not found in knowing all, ruling all, or being all, it's found in seeing all, connecting with, and loving all.
So, what does 'better' look like in '21? I believe it starts small, on a grass-roots level,because any organization (or civilization) is the sum of it's individuals. If our hearts are true, our perception is appropriate, and our desires are honorable, then our society will be beautiful. 'Better' won't require heavy-handed, radical, forced solutions. And 'Better' isn't as far away as we think.
It's no coincidence that grace and forgiveness is a requirement for optimal mental health. Grace requires us to find it in our hearts to forgive and,not forget, but rather, remember where we came from. Jesus Christ hanging on a cross to take the punishment of the very people who hung him there is the ultimate example of love(undeserved grace and forgiveness) in the history of mankind.
Are you prepared for the rather painful, unending journey of 'better'? I know I am. If we chose to humbly better ourselves, better just naturally seems to happen around us.