A well-known story goes something like this …
“Walking along a beach, a man catches sight of a young woman who appears to be engaged in a ritual dance. She stoops down, then straightens to her full height, casting her arm in an open arc. Drawing closer he sees that the beach around her is littered with starfish and she is throwing them one by one into the sea.
Incredulous, he says, “There are stranded starfish as far as the eye can see, for miles up the beach. What difference can saving a few of them make?”
Smiling, she bends down and tosses another starfish out over the water saying, “It makes a difference to this one.”
Back when I used to speak in school assemblies, I’d use this story occasionally to illustrate the idea that each individual and their actions were important; on rare occasions I think that some kids actually listened …
I’m thinking about this, and other stories, following reading an item by the Ukrainian novelist Andrey Kurkov on the BBC website that contained this little phrase …
Dominos fall one by one …
We appear to live in a culture and country where UKIP can be regarded as a viable political entity – rather than a bunch of xenophobic, isolationist, exploitative, self-serving, elitists. (Bet you can’t guess what my political view is! NOT!) And, disturbingly, the best argument the alleged opposition can come up with is to condescendingly tweet stupid pictures … good grief, Kier Hardy et al must be spinning in their graves fast enough to power the National Grid!
We have alleged newspapers that promote a set of political or corporate interests rather than actually report news – unless it serves their own agenda and/or allows them to plaster hysterical headlines like my most recent favourite. Why do people pay money for this vitriolic tripe?
We have wall to wall ‘video valium.’ Top Gear re-runs, ‘reality television,’ endless soaps and pay-per-view sports – never pausing to wonder how much advertising we’re consuming unconsciously, or why that footballer is making more in a month than the average wage earner will make in fifty – Yes FIFTY – years!. (The average wage is supposedly £23,000 per year – times 50 years is £1,150,000; Wayne Rooney earns around £300,000 per week – £1, 300,000 per calendar month – for playing football!!!!!!!)
We tacitly invite faceless corporations into our home and let them tell us what we should wear, eat, buy, covet … and if another Supermarket produces an emotionally exploitative Christmas advert I think I’ll explode; they don’t make them to make you feel good about imaginative children, or close families, or spontaneous football matches in the trenches, they make them to make you SPEND!!!!
It can all seem a little disheartening … downright depressing even.
Dominos fall one by one …
You see, when you look at the type of things that tend to drive me mad – venal politicians in bed with vested interests, billionaires getting richer while the poor become more entrenched in poverty, media outlets controlling the flow of information and news in order to shore up their own agendas – you can start to imagine that these ‘dominos’ will never fall.
And perhaps that’s true – it’s an uncomfortable truth to grasp is that – but it doesn’t mean that Andrey Kurkov’s line is any less true.
Dominos fall one by one
Perhaps – almost certainly – I’m looking at the wrong dominos. In fact, there’s just the one domino I can affect, and that’s me.
I can choose to fall.
When Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds,” (John 12:24) perhaps we might start to think of that not solely in terms of His own sacrifice. Perhaps, we could think about ourselves falling to the ground too.
Not in a self-aggrandising pseudo-martyrdom, but rather by refusing to let this consumerist culture capture us in a web of deceit and despair.
What I mean is this – when we are confronted by the ludicrous state of affairs around us, the paucity of contemporary politics and the inanity of purported entertainment, instead of howling ineffectually and beating our breasts in frustration, we could choose to fall … choose to not stand caught in the onrushing headlights of all this flimflam and claptrap.
By choosing to fall – perhaps by choosing to be mindful of what is crashing towards us in the coming consumerist tsunami that is a contemporary Christmas and choosing not to let everything be defined by that – then maybe you get to be amongst the first of the dominos. Maybe you get to show a different approach … Maybe you get to think, “Love people, use things – not the other way round.” Maybe, in some small way you get to find your own approach to your own life and not settle for some cardboard cut out advertising slogan …
For instance, you could choose to not just listen to what the Daily Mail or Fox News would have you believe and instead make up your own mind about things; you could choose not to care if that stuffed penguin gets its mate, and instead choose to see Christmas as something other than an orgiastic frenzy of shopping and gluttony. You could choose to think of yourself, and all those around you, as real people who don’t need a swoosh, or three stripes or any other logo on their clothes to have a valid identity.
You could choose to be amongst the first dominos, one of the first starfish back to the sea; you might even start a chain-reaction around you. You could choose to think that maybe, just maybe, a Galilean preacher from nearly two thousand years ago might have had a point and that by ‘falling’ you too might find a real and productive life.
Go on … fall.