Why Are We Not Better Than We Are?

Dear Pogue,

Tell me, why are we not better than we are?

Why are we not better people? Why are so many lives marked by pain, worry and depression. Why do we sit on the edge of an ecological disaster which we have no overwhelming collective desire to avert? Why do we wake each morning to the news of soaring prices, economic gloom, industrial action and worse still, crime in all tiers of society, all of these going on, unabated.

Yet every so often I come across a person who is better than all of this. Who is markedly different and comes by like a breath of freshness. These people are few and far between but they are out there.

Why are we not these people?

There’s a question.

Do we even want to be these people? Because, if we do, there is a whole different world to embrace, thought patterns to address, actions and reactions to consider, habits and maybe whole lifestyles to address. So, and this is the million dollar question, do we want to be these people?

I recently prepared an address for a wedding. It’s was a special day so I pondered what to say and wanted to get it right. My concluding thought was that marriage should be an act of striving to create the best possible life for the other. “You make me a better person” should be the realisation of each of the partners at all stages of married life. It’s an act of giving to the other and in making their life better we invariably make ours better. But, unfortunately, so many marriages work around what each of the participants can extract from the relationship.

We are, for the most part raised to get what we can from life, from the world, from our relationships, from our environment. What would the world be like if the overriding lesson of life to this point had been how we can make things better. And had we all been raised with that as our primary motivation would we be seeing a different world?

So, again, why are we not better than we are?

Because self interest is king and the motto, the subconscious motto, for so many is “what’s in it for me”. Yes we need to care for ourselves, love and respect ourselves because it is from that strong base of our own sureness in who we are that we reach out. It is from here we do our best work, from our strong foundation. And that strong foundation will be based not on our possessions, our achievements or position in the world which are all transient things (oh that we would see this!), but in what is left when all these are stripped away. Who am I before the world when all else falls away? Am I a giant or am I lost?

In caring for ourselves we reach a medium point where we have enough, enough self knowledge and awareness, enough possessions, enough experience and learning, and then any more is a burden or distraction. We don’t need it and it’ll serve only as a source of concern and worry as we find ourselves fearing tarnishing it should we put it to use or worst still, actually losing it. And the paradox is, it only has the value we personally give it. Even diamonds have no value if you do not attribute it to them.

Why take on more than you need?

Here’s the challenge. Choose to run in the face of the societal pressure to accumulate stuff, whatever that stuff is represented by (and as you should now realise not all stuff is material possessions). You’ll end up trading life and time for an accumulation of meaningless things, experiences and knowledge.

Less really is more and gives the possibility of that sure ground from which we can act for the best of others, from which we can make others feel better people. Less, and a satisfaction with less, creates space allowing for action and a freedom of both thought and movement. Then in that freedom we have possibilities and many of those possibilities offer the chance of acting in better ways than we may have done so to date.

It’s not easy to change your habits, your learned responses, but maybe leading with the question; “How can I improve this situation?” will start things rolling.

There’s a thought to take hold of and own going forward. It’s said that the Universe responds to giving by itself giving in response. The rule is that we give and then get, which empowers us to give again. We become the means by which a generous Universe reaches into the world and as such our resources become limitless. Then without trying or focusing on yourself you will become that “better person”.

Yours, trying to live with limitless possibilities,


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