We should all be working together to make everything better. We can’t do everything all by ourselves. None of us can live and act entirely alone in this world. No one is an island. We rely upon each other far more than we realize. However great we think ourselves to be, we can never be completely self-sufficient. Even those who are rich and powerful rely upon the system to sustain them, for if the system changed, their wealth could become meaningless. And it has always been that way for us ever since we were born. When we were young, we relied upon our parents or guardians to give us food, shelter, clothing; we relied upon the accumulated wisdom and knowledge of the ages to establish our basic understanding of the world. We don’t have to remake the wheel, but we can build upon it and improve it for the next generation. Indeed, that is what we should be doing. We should be looking to make the world better so that those who come after us can and will start with a better foundation than the one we had. Then, hopefully, they will take what was given to them and make something even better.
Our reliance upon each other is something we try to forget. Modern society encourages us to think we can and should try to get to a stage in life when we can do all things for ourselves. And when we are deluded, and think we have achieved such a state, we tend to forget how we got there; then we act like others, who did not have the opportunities and means we have had, should be able to get there just like us. If they don’t, we think there is something wrong with them. We do this to justify ourselves and how we act in the world. We are led to believe that only if we become a jack-of-all-trades, capable of doing everyone so that we need no one else in our lives, can we prove our greatness. But the reality is far from that. We can never be that. We are always interdependent with everyone else. What makes us special is our personal character, something, to be sure, we can and do develop for ourselves, but we do so based upon various gifts and talents which we were personally given either in our birth or by the unique circumstances of our lives. Everyone is different, everyone has their own particular gifts, and everyone can and should use them to make their own special contributions to the world. Everyone can and should enjoy the gifts and talents of everyone else, realizing that everyone has something which can and should provide a positive contribution to creation.
If we want to live our lives well, we will use what we have been given to enrich the world, to leave it better than when we came into it. This is true in regards our natural relationship with each other and the world, but it is also true in regards the order of grace. Grace perfects nature. What is improved in nature, in the world at large, can be and should be further enhanced by grace. Thus, our contribution, when we combine it with grace, can become even greater. Or, following St. Paul and his understanding of his role in the world, we can understand ourselves as being co-workers with God. We are to share the grace we have been given to perfect nature, and in that perfection, unite humanity (and the world together) as one, that is build up the church. But, to do that correctly, we must exercise great care:
For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and another man is building upon it. Let each man take care how he builds upon it (1 Cor. 3:9-10 RSV).
Not everything we do will be perfect or acceptable. Even when we take time to consider what we should do, we can and will get things wrong. We don’t know everything. We don’t see everything. We must make prudential decisions. Our ignorance can lead us astray. We should try to do the best we can. That means, we should consider the greater good in all that we do. We must make it our guiding principle. We should also encourage and accept all that is good, making sure all such good will continue not only to have its place in the world, but that it can be enriched by grace. But if and when we act unwisely, or even with an ill will, there will still be some good in the midst of what we have done, some good which grace can attach itself to and use for our enrichment. That is, grace will do what it can to reveal that good, to refine it, to purify it, so that all the defilement around is vanishes and what is left is that good which then can and will be appropriated by the greater good:
Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw — each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire (1 Cor. 3:12-15 RSV).
What is good is important. What remains after any and all such purification has come upon us and cleansed us of our impurities, that is, after any and all engagement with grace, will reveal the good which we have done and the contribution we have made to the world. There will be no one who has not done some good in their lives, even if they have done such a great amount of evil that the good which they have accomplished is extremely limited and difficult to reveal. Thus, everyone will contribute something good to the world, something good to history. There is no pure evil. Our lives will always have something of lasting value, and it is this which grace can and will take upon itself, elevate, and multiply. But, as such purification can be difficult to experience, it is best to engage the greater good in all we do, for the more we are aimed towards the greater good, the less evil we will do and so the less purification we will need to go through. But we need to remember, this is true, not only as unique persons, but as a community, as a society, indeed, as humanity. We are not mere individuals cut off from each other. We are interdependent. We are in this together, and so we can and will often undergo purification, not just for our own private actions, but also in relation to our collective whole. This is why those who seek the greater good always do so, not just for themselves, but for everyone. Indeed, they will do so, not only for selfish reasons, that is, not wanting to experience the trials and tribulations which go with such purification, but because of their embrace of the good, they will be filled with love and compassion, and so in and through that love, they will seek to make their community the best it can be, even if it means, they must go through personal trials and tribulations to make it so.
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N.B.: While I read comments to moderate them, I rarely respond to them. If I don’t respond to your comment directly, don’t assume I am unthankful for it. I appreciate it. But I want readers to feel free to ask questions, and hopefully, dialogue with each other. I have shared what I wanted to say, though some responses will get a brief reply by me, or, if I find it interesting and something I can engage fully, as the foundation for another post. I have had many posts inspired or improved upon thanks to my readers.