What are you living in dedication to?
This past summer, the film “Won’t You Be My Neighbor”, documenting the life of Mister Fred Rogers, was a huge success, becoming one of the top grossing non-fiction films of all time. It was a wonderful film, but its success was due to the nerve it seemed to touch. It stirred a hunger in people’s hearts - that now, more than ever, we need to hear a voice like Fred Rogers’ - a voice of kindness, compassion and acceptance.
Rogers was devoutly Christian, and saw his purpose on TV to be to reach the masses as an evangelical. Yet he never mentioned his beliefs per-say. Instead he demonstrated his values. He advocated for vulnerability, for the rightness of emotional experience, for meeting our world with openness and wonder, and for the joy and connection possible when we love our neighbors as ourselves. In essence, Fred Rogers was dedicated to Love, and he lived his life in accordance.
We are drawn to figures like this…whether it’s someone glorified like the Dalai Lama or simply appreciated, like Bob Ross, people who are heart centered and extend kindness to others remind us of our own capacity to do the same…and we like that. We are reminded of our own basic goodness, and are suddenly able to see it in others. The world becomes a little softer, a little friendlier, our own failings or troubles less burdensome. We also find that our internal compass is navigated by something greater than our sense of the small, separate self. Call it god/goddess, love or higher-self, a sense of dedication to a bigger purpose becomes the writing on the wall for how we live our life.
With the disillusionment that seems to currently pervade our world, especially in regards to politics, we also seem to have moved in the opposite direction from this greater purpose. With perceived threat from others who don’t agree with us, we contract and become protective of “me” and “mine”. As we all know, this plays out the worst on social media, where seeming anonymity and lack of real time contact encourages freedom to be callous and spiteful. A divisive leader and social upheaval have rocked reality for many since the 2016 election. Anger, intolerance of bigotry, racism, misogyny, and homo/trans-phobia and demanding that one’s voice is heard are appropriate and necessary reactions to the times. AND…we are losing sight of what can carry us through to a better world. Dedication to what is important to us, and for that dedication to be based in love. Even if our actions are intended to create a different world, they change drastically when they emerge from a place of love, as compared to when they emerge from a place of hatred.
This can be as specific and secular as you want (dedication to civil rights in your community) to the general and spiritual (seeing God in everyone). The key is to also offer love and empathy to yourself in conjunction with your dedication - this becomes your guiding light for navigating potentially unhealthy situations. Want to act from a place of love with a toxic person but realize that they are being abusive towards you? The loving thing to do is to walk away.
Today there is a lot of hype about the 2018 mid-term elections. What is usually a sleepy affair, these midterms are garnering hope that some of the damage of the last two years can be mitigated. Yet when these elections are over, your vote is still necessary. Every day that you are in dedication to that greater good, you are voting for what matters.
As Morgan Neville (the filmmaker of “Won’t you be my neighbor”) says, “We the people need to stand up and say, ‘That’s not OK. We need to look out for each other. United we stand, divided we fall.’ These are very basic ideals that I feel like nobody is advocating for anymore,” he said. “That’s why we need Fred Rogers.”
And my friend, my neighbor, that’s why we also need YOU.