Growing up I had the opportunity to experience traveling the world. Through these experiences I was able to learn valuable life lessons. One topic I took so much interest in was community.
For the sum of five years I have contemplated the question on community. What makes a community? Why do communities rise and fall? I sat down to think about what really makes up a good community and how that community is nurtured to thrive.
Experiencing Community through Travel
I had the opportunity to be in Italy and journey through those rich historical lands that was developed by the great Roman empires. I was also able to go to Athens, Greece where I witnessed first hand the magnificent structures that the Greek brought to life. Another trip took me to Istanbul, Turkey. Istanbul was very unique because that is a land that has seen many different communities. The Trojans who conquered the shores of Turkey and Christendom, which was once Constantinople until it was taken over and became what it is today Istanbul, where the Ottoman empire use to reside. Lastly, I went to Germany, the birth place of Hitler’s Nazi reign and the home of what once was the Berlin Wall.
The more I traveled and the more I witnessed, the greater my curiosity grew. I started thinking about all of these places and the communities that make them up. Why did some of them rise and fall? I believe if I could analyze this, I could maybe find a common thread weaved into western civilizations’ power struggle. What I saw was that communities and civilizations are dependent on two variables, visions and values. The conflict of visions and values is what ultimately dooms a community.
For a youth organization like Loveworks, this is a pretty dark topic to speak on for a blog post, wouldn’t you agree? I believe bringing this topic of visions and values to the coming generation is crucial, our future is dependent on what vision they will cast and what values will we work too.
The Rise of Negativity
Steven Pinker, one of my favorite psychologists, wrote a book called The Better Angels of Our Nature, where he speaks on the progression we have made over the course of human history. He identifies how violence in the world has declined and what he thinks the cause of this decline is.
So, with the thoughts and writings of Pinker in mind, why is it that everyday I see, read or hear something negative either on the news, social media or a friend? Why, as a society, have we started to give our attention to the ugly and disparaging things that life throws our way? Why do we not seek to celebrate the good? Could it be that we have forgotten how to applaud good things? Or maybe we don’t show enough gratitude to the good people and things that we have in our lives?
Our mentality has shifted to a more nihilistic one. We have become a species that has set its vision on dividing and sets its values of truth to human perfection. We have been so focused on labeling everything in life, hating and ridiculing those who make mistakes, and condemning them to the graveyard of cancel culture. We have forgotten what the meaning and example of love is, and we have forgotten the principle that all people are created equal. We have created categories, tribes and ideologies that are destroying us. We select others only so they can solve our problems and we listen to the lies of those who say, “I will speak for you because you are voiceless, and I will represent you through my efforts.” When was it that we have agreed that others are above us due to the idea that they check more societal boxes then ourselves? When has our differences and our unique qualities that we have no choice over become a reason why we are less? When was it that we forgot the one truth that makes us all so unique: that we are all human?
I speak of these things because the visions and values that our tribes have accepted as truth are the very same reasons why our culture breeds hate, oppression, and division. In this time of history that I have been able to witness, I found that all civilizations through human history fell due to a difference of visions and values that led tribes to destruction from within.
Hope in the Darkness
Now, as dark as this sounds, there is still a light at the end of the road. Our truth is rooted within us, that we are the subjects of a love capable of giving love and receiving it. Life is crazy and unexpected but the truth is you are not unexpected.
But what keeps darkness at bay? Is it greater powers? I believe there is a much simpler truth; it is the small ordinary things we do every day, the small gratitude we show one another and how we take care of our home. The greatest test of our human greatness comes not from what we do but how we treat every human being we encounter. This truth here presents us, humanity, with a much greater responsibility for a freedom which is love.
Freedom is not understood as a license to do absolutely anything: it means a gift of self. Even more, it means interior discipline of the gift. If a person is enslaved by vices of lust, egoism, vanity and narcissism, they are not free to love. Therefore, one’s freedom is best measured by his or her capacity to love and love truly.
We have been deceived by our false idols that we have no power with our lives, that we should remain in chains of comfort and that life itself can only be solved by their hand and not yours. The truth is that you were not made for comfort, you were not made to be shackled in chains and falsely deceived that you cannot do anything unless you choose to give your power to those false idols. You were never made for these lies but you were made with the truth of greatness.
Viktor Frankl, a neurologist and philosopher who was a Holocaust survivor, said:
Look around you, you are not shackled by these lies, these false cages and by your identity. The truth of life is it will always be hard, it may sometimes be unfair and it will put you down but your truth is in you that you were made for a greatness far greater than life itself. This truth will fight all lies. Take up your responsibility of freedom and love; love with all your might, love with all of your soul and love with all of your will and to fully commit yourself to your greatness, and this greatness will be what destroys the lies of those who want to oppress you and hold you back.
My vision is this: I believe we are deeply loved and made beautiful due to a God that is greater than any sense of hate, deception or lies. I challenge you to consider your life and the value that it possesses and consider how much more you are loved and cared for. Because of our mistakes and faults, there is a God who has already taken them on His cross for us, and we are called to do the same for each other.
My Dreamers and Doers, I challenge you to look at our current vision and values and present to us the way to go. Show us that we are made for greatness and this truth that no one can take away from us.
About the author
Baruc Lara is a Junior at The University of Oklahoma, studying philosophy and a minor in international studies. Outside of school, he is the executive director and founder of The Lara Lopez Foundation, which fills the gap of opportunities and skills for children in low income households. He is also the author of The Incredible True Story, a book he wrote about his experiences traveling all around the world.
Baruc has been involved in Loveworks for three years now, two as a volunteer and this year as our Thursday coordinator. Baruc’s future plans consists of starting a few businesses, continuing his work in philanthropy and also continuing writing. He one day, if called upon, will run for political office, but his aspirations are big and doesn’t mind the nice White House in D.C.
Baruc’s believes that true change begins with a person before it begins with a community and the we as people need to take responsibility for our two most prominent gifts freedom and love.