December 2, 2009

Oh yeah? Prove it.

I could tell you a lot about myself that you probably didn't know. But the problem is that some of the stuff I tell myself is not always true, so when I'm telling others about it, it's probably not true either. I like to think that I'm pretty socially conscious: conscious about the environment, human rights, civil liberties, poverty. However, one thing I have learned in life is that just because you think something, doesn't mean its true. So even though I like to convince myself that "I care," my actions usually expose a greater truth. (As Maya Angelou once said, "You don't tell people who you are, you show them.")

The other night, for example, right after I made a snide comment to one of my friends who doesn't recycle, I indulged in a bubble bath. And as I lay fully immersed in the lavender scented oil, I came to a shocking and humiliating realization.....I don't really care that much about the environment. And as I came to this epiphany, my bubble of self-righteousness burst and I found myself drowning in a bath hypocripsy.

Now, WAIT, before you judge me, let me clarify. I am EXTREMELY CONCERNED about the environment and climate change. The thought of natural disasters, soiled water supplies, and deforestation makes me anxious, angry, and overwhelmed. But as far as actually caring, as much as I have convinced myself that I do, evidence proves otherwise. (As a lawyer, evidence is a necessary component of determining the legitimacy of the argument).

Evidence that I DON'T CARE: I sometimes buy bottle water, I rarely carpool (when I was in law school, I often drove separately to campus even though half of all Pepperdine students drive through Santa Monica each week), I eat meat (often the non-free range, non-organic kind), I buy fruit that was grown half way around the world, I use way too much water, I leave lights on, I haven't changed all of my light bulbs to florescent bulbs, I take planes when I could take trains, I take cars when I could take bikes, I take buses when I could walk, and so on.

Evidence that I CARE: I have a Sigg, I unplug my toaster when I'm done, and I recycle (but who I am kidding...recycling simply isn't enough these days).

Conclusion: I don't really least enough to change my ways. Why does this happen? I think my main problem is that I have confused having "an opinion" or "a belief in something" as translating into "caring." And so, somewhere in there, I have convinced myself that if, mentally and emotionally, "I care" I can justify (or ignore) my non-caring actions. Having a belief is easy. Acting on that belief is not. And actually caring about acting on that belief is a whole another issue.

I've struggled with reconciling belief and action for a while now. One of the most profound epiphanies of my life (and humiliating realizations) was in my senior year of college. I had just shared my life story (my "bio") with 15 newly met people whose only duty that night was to listen to my story and ask me questions. And after I finished my life story, cried tears of pain, and shared my proudest moments, I sat vulnerably as I awaited questions. My new friend Chatan raised his hand and simply asked, "ok yeah, we heard your story, but what do you CARE about?" Dumbfounded, mind-reeling, and annoyed that someone would even ask such a question, I defensively thought to myself "I care about a lot of things." Chatan continued, "I mean, are you the type of person who reads the newspaper, thinks 'that's sad,' puts it down, and moves on? Or do you ever care about something enough to DO something?"


And as I sat in silence, defensive, vulnerable, and ashamed, I realized that up until that point in my life, I had never asked myself, "what do I truly care about?" And I certainly never took the time to ask: "do I believe that I care...or do I care enough to DO?"

While this entry does not explore how it is that people, in general, come to care enough to act (this will be saved for a later date), I know that in order to hold myself accountable, I constantly have to bully myself, demanding, "oh yeah, Ker? Prove it." I care about the homeless? Then don't walk by them, head down on the street. I care about world hunger? Feed the hungry as opposed to talking about it over large entrees and wine. I care about how the government allocates its resources? Assess how I choose to spend my own resources. I care about the voiceless? Speak on their behalf. I care about the lonely? Sit with them and be in their presence. I care about God? Listen to Him. I care about peace? Stop judging those with different priorities.

And so, though I don't always care enough to act, I do care enough to want to act. And hopefully the bully inside of me motivates me to do good, aggressively taunting "oh yeah? prove it."

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