Does what you believe affect the way you live each day?

We all believe something. Even if we say we believe in nothing, and that life is a random meaningless experience, we proclaim, in fact, that this is our belief system and it is this philosophy that canopies our days on this earth. One of the most promoted and successful religions of our day is – the religion of Self. It’s always been popular and potently influential, but today an entire generation is continually barraged by its propaganda and saturated by its tenets.Self discovery is the journey we are being encouraged to take and many times it is to the profound cost of others. We all hear the cliched phrase,’I have to find myself ‘ – and it may sound trite because it has become this generation’s catch cry, but actually it begs a deeply significant question – how lost am I? And how do I find this self that is lost? And if, and when, I find it, what do I do then?

Every minute of every day, we all witness the outworking of this religion of self. Through rabid consumerism and the pursuit of material satisfaction through things and objects, and through our own and other people’s attitudes. Perhaps the attitude which most highlights this self preoccupation, is ‘It’s not my problem’. And this attitude is not merely confined to the ‘western stereotype’ we naturally and understandably gravitate to. The self sufficient who live on the outskirts of slums in Bangladesh may utter these words; the safe and affluent in one part of a country divided, may say about their northern neighbours, ‘It’s not my problem’; those who have somehow escaped harassment and persecution in their strife torn countries may say about those imprisoned, ‘It’s not my problem’.

When does it become my problem? As an Australian who has never suffered the lack of anything materially, and who has never known the restrictions of personal freedom, none of the above mentioned issues have ever been, or are, ‘my problem’. But I recall some years ago, when I was newly married and living in one of the choicer suburbs in Sydney- walking distance to a beautiful beach, inviting cafes and exotic restaurants, a comfortable apartment which provided every need, and wonderful extras like an ocean breeze in the afternoons and beautiful friends next door.

One day, without any particular warning, there was a water contamination scare in Sydney. Suddenly the most valuable commodity in the supermarket was bottled water. Within hours, there were no bottles left on the shelves and a slow panic seemed to be engulfing the cosmopolitan and all – sufficient city of Sydney. And yes, water – and the lack of it – suddenly became everyone’s problem. I remember a relative worriedly stating that he couldn’t buy as much bottled water as he wanted to because it had all gone – in this case one could be a millionaire and it did one no good.

During this water ‘crisis’, Jim and I reflected on the realization that civilised society is a veneer totally reliant on everything being ok. And during this crisis, it was again evident that the religion of self swung into full operation when one’s perceived security is threatened. The problem of clean water which faces most human beings on our planet every day, became ‘our problem’, and how did we as a society react? Well, most of us undoubtedly bought up as much water as we could, and perhaps some may even have allowed the thought – ‘well, if you miss out, too bad, you should have been watching the news that day!!’

Does what you believe affect the way you live each day? Yes it does. And no matter now nice most of us can be when our fridge is full and the water’s good, just underneath our skin (irrespective of the degree of melanin) is the all prevailing worldview – it really is all about me.’

I believe charity begins at home! And home for me is planet earth. It is not just the suburb, the community, the country I happen to live in at a given time in my life. I WANT to know about what is going on in my home and I WANT to play a viable part in contributing to how my home looks and is. I want to continue to be shocked and grieved by injustice, famine, ethnic cleansing, child soldiers, human trafficking….and I want my children to be.

I totally believe one person can begin to make an eternal difference in the life and destiny of someone else. More than that, I know it to be absolutely true, because I witness this on an almost daily basis living where I do, involved with the work I am.

The worship of self is a tragically one – dimensional way to live.  As one of my favourite authors has commented, we have been sold a package that seems to promise everything and leaves us, in the end, empty handed. In moments of personal or national crisis, the self instinctively rushes into intense preservation gear, but when it’s over and things get ‘back to normal’, the intensity simply reverts to the daily taking care of all our needs and wants – and we can again say,’It’s not my problem’.

What do you believe? And how is it affecting – and determining- your life?

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