I wonder how we can become healthier people while living in what I believe is an unhealthy culture. There are so many wonderful things about America, its gifts and promises, but there is also deep destruction of the body and soul at work within some of our systems.
To develop good health, we need to become aware of what we want and need. Then, we learn how to get some of what we need and also cater to the needs of others in a fine balance, a dance of giving and receiving.
We are constantly negotiating in life between what we want and what others want. We are in continual flux, and we move with or against that flow. Conflict occurs when we bump up against what someone else wants, and how we handle that conflict is a key to fulfillment or misery in life.
If we are constantly absorbed in ourselves, in our traumas, emotions and needs, it is difficult to look outside of ourselves to see what others may want or need. If we listen mostly to those outside of ourselves, we can get unfocused and twirl around like snowflakes in the wind, in reaction to whatever is happening in our world.
Our spiritual traditions teach us how to live, how to love and serve, and how to be our best selves. The media also tell us about who we are and how people act together. We learn how to be in relationship with others from our families, our schools, our peers, our leaders, and community groups. Our culture, locally, nationally and globally, influences our beliefs about who we are and who we should be.
But, what if our culture hurts us? What if our culture is actually toxic, reflecting and adding to our distresses and those of others instead of assisting us in our quest for good health and well-being? How do we get healthy in a society that acts greedy, starts wars, discriminates harshly between the poor and the wealthy, and divvies out justice in prejudicial ways? How do we live during these times of extreme individualism while caring about others, helping others instead of just looking out for ourselves?
One example portraying our culture’s illness is that many people have been and are still being incarcerated on drug charges, filling our prisons with the poor while white collar and corporate crimes are rarely punished, and are sometimes exalted. Private corporations run our prisons making huge profits with great incentive for the justice system to keep locking away non-violent offenders. Money talks loudly and we listen. And, we also collaborate with that corporate initiative if we don’t speak out and try to change this disastrous business of ruining whole lives because of some mistakes.
We live in a culture that violates bodies and human spirits. We need to improve the health of our American systems in order to promote better lives for all.