A LIFE WORTH LIVING, step 3: Common Grounding - thrive UMC Official Blog

A LIFE WORTH LIVING, step 3: Common Grounding

Do you ever find yourself wondering: what are we all about? What is our communal common grounding?


Yesterday I sat down for coffee with a former student of mine, and ended up going off on this long diatribe about causes on social media.  My Facebook newsfeed had been filled with unsettling photos of kids with terrible diseases asking for money, sandwiched between a barrage of adorable pics posted by proud parents; and tips on how to get yoga-pants fit in six weeks, and warnings against ‘fat-shaming’; and whole slew of different articles about social and political ‘justice’ issues, each paradoxically arrayed among all of the other posts, followed by advertisements on how to grow your business and increase your profit margin –and it just goes on, and on, and on, and… on.

Yet, precisely in light of all of this stuff I’m apparently supposed to care about, I find myself almost completely shutting down, hoping a hilarious cat video will pop up somewhere.

[Whew:  49 facts I didn’t know about “Game of Thrones!”  <CLICK>]

I mean, on a personal level, I’m discovering how little I’m actually capable of caring about; and I was telling her I realized this is a problem, but I have no idea what to do about it.

It was at that moment, when I paused to take a breath, when my very insightful ex-pupil pipes in: ‘It’s as if we’re so preoccupied with advocating awareness that we mistake our advocacy for actually helping.  Like, “Oh, I posted it on Facebook, so I’ve done my part to make a difference.” ’[1]

Her words were like a missing puzzle piece for me because she identified what keeps so many of us stuck in our daily search for subsistence: our default-setting is to seek and exchange words and ideas (media), when we need to share a context, and overlap our experiences, with living, breathing people.  We need to create a common grounding into which we can drive our temporary stakes and hash out what really matters.  We need some guidelines for setting priorities[2], and a bigger picture for the future to help generate and sustain some collective excitement. 

And one last thing: so much of this ‘advocacy’ stuff is to be against something –can we try being for something for a change?  We’re all people, in this great-big, beautiful world; can we take some time this week to become a bit more deeply invested in it?  Can we orient our time in a way to actually make it better?

If you had to choose to be about just one thing, what would it be?

[1] There was a cool and humbling sensation where I stopped, looked at her, and thought: “So, the student has become the master?” –but it seemed too nerdy to say out loud in that particular coffee shop, especially since I had forgotten to sport a beard and flannel that day.

[2] We all have these, whether we’re conscious of them or not; we just haven’t successfully found a venue where we can collaborate them.