“Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.”
I think about this a lot. Maybe too much.
Sometimes, even though we all know there is immense suffering in the world, we ignore it. In some ways it’s a defense mechanism – how much suffering can we bear to know about in a world where we feel helpless about ending any of it? We’re all guilty at times of just being busy managing our own lives: going to work or school, paying bills, spending time with friends and family, or dealing with our own struggles. It’s not easy to open up your eyes and see all of the terrible things that happen around us.
I know this. I know it well.
I tend to think there are two types of people in the world: those who float through life, and those who really live life and really, really think about the world in which they live. Being a floater is easy–you concern yourself with your immediate circumstances and that’s about it. The latter, however, is really difficult. It means dealing not just with your immediate circumstances, but also with the circumstances across the world – poverty, hunger, child abuse, disease. Man, I got a little depressed just writing all those words. Kind of overwhelming, isn’t it?
Here’s the thing, though: Can you imagine, just for a minute, what our world would look like if everyone who was able chose to be a Thinker instead of a Floater? What if we all just picked a cause that we care about and put as much as we could in to making a difference for that cause? THAT would be overwhelming too, but in the best possible way. Think about how much we could accomplish.
For some reason, the animal rights movement is what called out to me. That doesn’t mean that I don’t care about starving children in Africa, or racism, or AIDS . . . it just means that for me, this is what I needed to do. I spared myself the sight of the suffering of farmed animals for a long, long time. When I finally opened my eyes to it, it was heartbreaking. It took me a while to figure this out, but I finally realized that the only way I could not be heartbroken was to try to make a difference. I may have felt helpless, but I wasn’t actually helpless, and neither are you. I may never live to see the day when humans stop treating animals so cruelly, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to my grave without being able to say “At least I tried”.
So, I ask you to do this: Look around you. See the suffering, and then go do something about it.