Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Things that can't be counted.

Albert Einstein said, "Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted."

You count the hours in a day, the days in a month, the months in a year. You can count calories, your money, your chickens, even before they hatch!   But what does all that accounting count for?

We count and manage the things that we can measure, the tangible things of life.  We tally the score and size someone up according to the numbers.  To count anything other than the concrete things we can see and measure, seems a lot like herding chickens.  We can say, "I love you THIS much!" and spread our arms out but what is that?  How much is 'this'?  Intangible things are often immeasurable, fleeting, circumstantial, seemingly small; a moment of joy here, a little bit of love there.  By not measuring the abstract, we remain in a state of survival, just getting by, fitting in to the numbers game.

I recently heard about the country of Bhutan and what I heard piqued my interest.  Bhutan is a tiny country that sits between China and India.  For almost it's entire existence, it has been a monarchy and a country that has barely survived.  The King, in 1972 was a 17 year old boy who inherited his position when his father died.  On a trip to India, shortly after he began his reign, he was asked about his country's Gross Domestic Product.  In response, he asked why people are so caught up in measuring the success of a country by something that misses so much of what is important.  He suggested that a successful country starts with happy people.  He started a movement called the Gross National Happiness which has been slow to catch on, with exception of Bhutan.

Over the next several decades, he took the country of Bhutan from a struggling to survive place, to a country of transformation. He learned to balance the material value of things and the non material value.  Just a few years ago, it became the newest democracy in the world and did so without retaliation, revolts, rejection, coos or bloodshed.  They have done away with the GDP and developed a matrix for measuring the intangible things of the country.

The young King learned to place more value on the people in the country than anything else.  He created the intangible conditions for happiness to occur or in other words...a habitat for happiness.  He developed a "currency of happiness."  He cares about how the people in his country feel about the way they spend their day.  He cares about their well-being.

As parents, we count the scores on the spelling tests and depending on the outcome of that number, a conversation about attentiveness, hard work, importance of studying ensues.   Parents count what they can measure.  They throw themselves into the tangible things of school.  Parents count the stats on a football field, baseball scoreboard, the dance ribbons and whatever else we find that measures the success of our offspring.

As humans, we continually measure one another against a yardstick of ourselves; how others measure up to our standards, as if that counts for something important, a documented success...or failure.

All this counting and accounting to keep things and people accountable has turned us into a distant, fearful, angry, disconnected society; adults and children alike.  There are more lonely people, surrounded by millions than we have ever stopped to consider.   Do you know how I know that?  We face more angry people in this country who lash out for reasons that make no sense; from food preferences to political partiality...Angry, violent people are lonely, scared people who have lost their way and sense of belonging in this world.

Just like a country stuck in trying to survive, a person can not be transformed until the things that count are being accounted for.  A lonely person...or in other words...all of us...are just trying to survive.  Very few of us have need to be concerned with Maslow's suggestion of basics like food, clothing, shelter; no, we struggle to the get more simple, loving things met...Belonging, Safety, Security.  That's where the rubber meets the road or better yet, when bullets intrude in the innocent lives of people passing us by.

So, we wake up one morning, roll over and check our phone, that keeps us so well connected to things we can count, and the color drains from our face when we read that over 500 people have been injured and nearly 60 dead, in a shooting spree by an older gentleman, maybe somebody's grandpa who is addicted to gambling because at some point, you will do anything, engage in any addiction just to numb the real feelings of isolation, sadness, fear, and loneliness.

On second thought, on some basic level, we are all starving.  My neighbor is probably starving for attention in the form of a visit...not a casserole. I actually don't even know her name. Do you have a  friend, the one you traded babysitting with maybe, who really just needed to talk but it was time for Little Miss to get to dance class so you rushed right off?

Welcome to your new world! Where everyone is running scared. Starving for something. Where no one wants to admit we all have an insatiable hunger to be understood.  Where egos fight for elbow room and edge God out.  Where a thumbs up suddenly means something valuable.  Where we send out smiley faces after patronizing posts because Heaven forbid anyone was unkind, yet passive aggressiveness rules the day. Where nothing you can count, counts at all. Count all you want but nothing is going to change.

One person does make a difference.  One person, who loves that one person who seems so angry, bitter, depressed, negative...makes one less lonely person in this world and a culture of happiness and love and belonging begins to evolve.   Why do we have to judge so harshly when we are all just trying to survive? Literally.

How many more violent outbursts, Facebook disputes, egotistical moves to gain one up from your neighbor will we watch and engage in before we can be counted on to change the direction; to begin creating a habitat of Happiness, a society of safety, security, belonging?

We don't need gun control, or pride festivals, or Black history month, or common core or a host of other things that set people above and apart.  We need more love.  We need to help each other see that we all belong to this thing called life.  We all belong here!  We all have a story, a history; something we want witnessed in some small way.  That's all it ever requires...small ways.  Small ways to really show each other we care.

Today!  Make something Count...That can't be Counted!!  Don't count your friends on Instagram or Facebook...go be a friend...in real life, in real time! It shouldn't take a sad massacre or natural disaster before we all pull together, yet here we are...again...waiting until the 11th hour to roll up our sleeves and get to work.  Let's count on each other!  Today.


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