We start living when we realize that one person can make a difference.
Realize. Not believe.
Because to realize is an act of rediscovery. Of stumbling over something which has always been there, just waiting to be uncovered. Something which is true, something which is a given.
To believe, on the other hand, requires a certain amount of faith. We hope it is true but every now and then we are not so sure if it really is.
One person can
make a difference. That's what I realized.
A realization that frees me to truly begin to make a life
. As opposed to merely making a living.But what sort of life would that be?
In brief, it begins with being conscious of the role i play in society. I can make a difference if i play my chosen role well. Thus making a life means focusing my attention and effort on activities that best fit my chosen role.
Now, for the longer explanation, let's first talk a bit about institutions.
I think of institutions as occupying distinct niches in society. Each of them plays some kind of role in society, affecting it in some way. Metaphors
are excellent tools for describing the roles of various institutions in society. For example, newspapers act like spotlights, they direct our attention to various happenings all around us. Without news, many of us will remain ignorant of the things going on around us. The conclusions we draw from the news are all ours but it is newspapers (and similar institutions) that direct our attention to them. Thus newspapers serves the role of directing the consciousness of their readers.
[Most newspapers tend to be "national" papers, focusing their light on a particular corner of the world. In this day and age, should there not be a global newspaper, focusing on the global geoculture, highlighting our similarities and the oneness of the world we are in rather than being nationalistic and partisan?]
I am about to start work in a consulting firm based in Singapore and serving clients in Thailand. The question i ask myself is: What role does the firm play in the Thai society? In the world? And it's important that i ask this because whether i like it or not, the firm will play some kind of role in society. Newspapers direct our collective attention and thus informs our collective consciousness. What does a consulting firm do? There is a role to be played. There's a whole spectrum of possibilities to choose from. I can choose the higher ground, as Clifford often advises Harry S. Truman. One individual can make a difference. Surely, we are not just about making money. I have to contemplate on this and determine what role is best for the consulting firm. If we operate without a clear understanding of the possibilities and the role we can play in society, we will be aimless and we will flounder.
A role in society. Each of us has one. We can be a spotlight or we can be a gardener. Being conscious of our roles or better still, being deliberate in choosing our roles makes us so much more effecting in making a difference.What about making a living?
Making a life by playing a role in society does not mean that we cannot make a living. Spotlights (newspapers) can and are profitable ventures in a capitalist world-system. Gardeners are too. Whatever role we choose for ourselves, we can find a way to make a living out of it. But first, we must understand what is our role in society. One day, should the capitalist system fail and we have to find some other ways to make a living, our roles and the need for our products remain. I do not for one moment believe that our need for news diminishes just because the marketing department decides to stop advertising in the papers. Understand that making a life comes before
making a living.
Taking lunch, or dinner. Washing laundry, and drying them. Sleeping and washing up. All these are tasks we do as part of living. This is not making a life. Making a life is about taking part in activities that fit the role we have chosen in society.
The role of newspapers is to direct attention. However, it is NOT their job to fix anything. Another institution is in charge of fixing things. Yet another has the responsibility to grow things. If we extend the metaphor, I'd like to have an institution which is like a gardener.
Going back to making a life and making a difference. It is about choosing a role to play in society, realizing that we can make a difference if we play our chosen role well. And living well means focusing our attention and effort on activities that best fit our chosen role.