Wish we could turn back time
to the good old days
when the mamas sang us to sleep,
but now we’re stressed out…
Stressed Out, Twenty One Pilots
In these days, we can use our power in every quarter. We readily have information on every subject under the sun. We can make our judgments known to people on the other side of the world more quickly than we can take a breath. We can buy practically anything we want and have great certainty that it will arrive within the predicted amount of time.
Each of us carries more knowledge and prudence and power in his pocket—in one touch of our smallest finger—than even the most powerful king of two hundred years ago had access to in all his years combined. What is our responsibility to use that knowledge? Shouldn’t we try to exert our influence into every sphere it touches? Shouldn’t we wield that power as well as we can?
If you think of it like that, our part in this life is exhilarating. And daunting.
The Ring of Power
In The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkein dealt with the theme that not all power should be wielded. (Also see: My iPhone, My Precious.) Having good intentions and the power to wield them does not mean you do good.
The amazing thing is, Tolkein didn’t blame modern man with this inordinate desire. His story is set in a fantasy land of medieval technology and understanding. He believes this inordinate desire to do good is built into rational creatures. And the desire to do it under their own power is nearly inseparable.
Such knowledge, such wisdom, such power as the ring seemed to give is for no mortal to wield. It is more than we know how to use well. Most can empathize with Bilbo when he says, “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”
To be simple
That is not to say we must completely turn from the power, the entertainment, the knowledge. Rather, we must look to simplify our lives. This starts by prioritizing. We must ask ourselves, “What in my life truly makes me happy?” and turn from all that distracts us from that happiness.
This simplification may take concrete steps. Unsubscribe from the emails that you always delete. De-clutter your closets, drawers, and fridge. Rediscover the things you love and toss the things you don’t. Commit to making eye contact and saying, “Good morning,” to everyone you walk by on your way to work.
More general changes may also be needed. Prioritize your hobbies, which may mean dropping a few. Work time into your evening for appreciating the good things in your day. Learn to be content with not knowing, not pronouncing judgment, and not exercising your power over every single thing. Don’t feel personally offended at every news item you hear about.
Not everything is for you to know. Not everything is for you to judge. Not everything is for you to do. Begin with just being. This is simplicity, and you will be amazed how fast it improves your life.