Caring about apathy

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

I had watched the late night news - centered mainly on the elections due to take place in Britain on Thursday. The conclusion was that there was no substantial difference between the parties, the candidates had all been cloned from a puppet, and no one was saying anything honest or succinct. Previous promises had not been delivered, and there was really nothing new under the sun! The significant conclusion, though, was that up to a third of those eligible to vote would not bother to do so, especially young people. The winner would be apathy.

That bothered me. Doing nothing was like voting for apathy. One of the definitions of the word apathy is "indifference." An election, surely, is about making a difference. I started to think about it. I wanted to pray about it and write about it, but I was comfortable, lying in bed, nearly asleep - the cat was asleep on my feet. Why move?

Was this apathy, or what? The cat would no doubt merely snuffle if I moved my feet, and go back to sleep again. This was a question of whether I would go to sleep, indifferent, or whether I would respond to a need that I had been alerted to.

But then again, if I got up and started shuffling around praying and writing, it might disturb my roommate. Huh? This argument for non-action was simply projecting onto another the responsibility for my own indifference.

I decided it was time for a thought-rewind in order to identify the real issue. It wasn't about writing an article, waking a cat, disturbing a roommate. This was really about the assertion that apathy could influence an election result, and my response to that. It was about choosing between doing something about it and not doing anything about it, and therefore counting myself in with the apathy vote.

I realized that apathy is a mental state rather than a physical one, and therefore could - and should - be addressed in my thinking. By prayer.

My prayer brought me to Jesus and his temptation experience in the wilderness (see Matt., chap. 4). As each temptation was presented, he turned his thought back to God, culminating in this command, taken from Scripture: "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve."

I applied this instruction to worship and serve God to each of the temptations I had just endured. How? Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, gives an interesting view of God in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." Part of her definition is, "the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-acting, all-wise, all-loving, and eternal ..." (pg. 587).

I took some of these aspects of the divine nature to see what light they shed on the temptations I was facing:

* I was so comfortable where I was. But I felt an all-knowing God as a prodding in my conscience. I may have been physically comfortable, but would not be mentally so until I had responded to that prod.

* My actions wouldn't be effective. But God is all-acting, so no effort can be fruitless or wasted. It wasn't for me to plan how it would be effective.

* Inaction was disguised as consideration for others. (I wouldn't want to disturb my roommate.) But God is all-loving. If I had been prompted to respond to a need, it could not have an adverse effect on others.

God is not indifferent. God's all-knowing, all-active, all-loving, nature enables each of us, as part of God's creation, to know, act, and love. Indifference is foreign to this. So when apathy appears to win, we can identify ourselves as sons and daughters of the all-knowing, all-active, all-loving (and I would add all-caring), God. This indicates something of our true nature as God's offspring, and reveals that indifference and apathy cannot prevail.

Combatting apathy can sometimes feel like a lot of effort. But I'm finding that it's natural to care, because God made us as caring, thoughtful expressions of Him. And we do make a difference.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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