Meliorism – (noun): the doctrine that the world tends to become better or may be made better by human effort.
I remember a day when I met a Dear friend of mine for lunch in the Waltham area of Massachusetts. They have several wonderful eateries there. We were a bit short of time and it was smack in the middle of the day so I anticipated that parking would be difficult. I mentioned that to Leslie and she said ” Oh, don’t worry Jim. I have just the thing for us to get a parking spot! When we get close to the restaurant say out loud with me ‘ Parking Karma’ three times and it will help us get a space.” So there we are, driving up into the neighborhood where the restaurant is located and Leslie said “OK repeat with me” and we chanted “Parking Karma! Parking Karma! Parking Karma! ” and suddenly we see a person come out of one of the nearby establishments, getting into her car and driving away! There it was ! Our parking spot !! I said ” Leslie that was so cool !” and she responded ” See Jim ?…. Intention matters ! “. Certainly Intention does matter and that will be the primary topic here but recent news items I’ve selected make me want to flip the words around and also discuss Matters of Intention. I think you’ll understand better as I write on.
What I’d like to share today is something I usually don’t enjoy talking about at all; the topics of racism and discrimination. I don’t like talking about it because it makes me feel uncomfortable. I was brought up in a household that didn’t allow for it, did not condone it , and it was very clear that we would be punished for acting in a manner that expressed or supported racism (and every other form of discrimination for that matter). When I read and hear about it in the media, or I hear someone condoning it, it distresses me. Unfortunately, over the past month we have seen quite a bit of racism discussed in the media. Almost everyone is aware of the matter with present day NBA team-owner Mr Sterling and his not so private discussion. We’ve seen the police chief of Wolfeboro, NH resign after making a derogatory remark in reference to the President of the United States. We’ve read of Hank Aaron’s distress during and after his baseball career regarding discrimination; “…that we are not that far removed from when I was chasing the record. If you think that, (then) you are fooling yourself. A lot of things have happened in this country, but we have so far to go. There’s not a whole lot that has changed.” Even recently , he received hate mail surrounding the anniversary of his record setting home run career. We also saw the taunting of soccer player Dani Alves during a Villareal v Barcelona game when a fan tossed a banana on the field as he was preparing to execute a corner kick.
This last instance is especially noteworthy for what Mr Alves did next; he picked up the banana, took a bite out of it, and then went about the business of playing the game. He did not let the matter interfere with the game or give it any acknowledgement for what many interpreted as a taunt toward him about his race. Happily, a short while later one of his teammates, Neymar Júnior, tweeted a picture of his son and himself holding bananas under the hashtag #SomosTodosMacacos or “We are all Monkeys”.
Alves’ and Júnior’s action were both a reminder and call to action for many of us. First, Dani reminds us that we can rise above negativity (not limited to just racism) that surrounds us and not let peer pressure or outside influences dictate our actions. Secondly, Neymar shows us that Actions speak louder than Words and his actions went a long way heralding to the forefront his support for his friend Dani. Another example of such courage is Pope Francis’ visit to the Middle East with his Jewish friend, Rabbi Abraham Skorka. Among other things together they will pray at the Western Wall and visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial. All together, these are premier examples of taking action and improving the world around us. Rising above a collective dogma, responding professionally and peacefully to negative outbursts, and coming together enjoined in a demonstrated measure of intention. Fortunately, any improvement we seek to make on our own doesn’t have to be so profound or magnanimous to result in a positive and effective change. We can ALL be Meliorists !
So along that line I throw this out for thought: Since we’re all human , without question, we all do something repeatedly that we are not happy about and honestly admit to (at least) ourselves that we’d feel better if we modified or totally eliminated it. Can you call to mind something now? Something about the way you think or act which you would like to change?. Most of the things which come to our minds likely fall under a category I’ll call Matters of Intention i.e. something not part of our genetic make-up but rather something we’ve acquired, learned or otherwise adopted over the years. It is the way we choose to behave, proselytize, judge, etc.
Assuming one want’s to change, the question is what action do we take to make that change? Woody Allen said ” 80 % of life is showing up” so I’ll offer that if you’ve said once that you’d like to change something about yourself then you’ve already “showed up” so to speak.
Okay, what next? Well, if you want to go about changing what you are DOING then you first have to want to change the way you are THINKING. While there is disagreement about exactly how long it takes to create this new habit (some say as little as 21 days), it will definitely require an ACTION on your part. Many people rely on prayer. Some find motivational speakers helpful. I remember listening to Brian Tracey coach listeners on how to change the way you think so as to get through tough times and feel better about your future. And when you feel better about yourself it will positively impact those around you. It was great to get his perspective and some mental exercises to push me forward.
If those methods don’t appeal to you I’m sure you can find something that will. Fortunately, there are tons of resources out there. And with the right amount of time and effort you WILL be successful! As Leslie puts it so eloquently “Intention Matters!”.
I hope this has been thought provoking and motivational. I believe our world can become better through our individual efforts. I hope you believe that too.
” I think the world is going to be saved by a million small things. ” – Pete Seeger