Saturday, October 1, 2011

Keeping it real

At this time, America appears to be a restless nation. There is not much contentment, and a casual glimpse around our national landscape proves this.

Economically and politically, there is a lot of upheaval. Our leaders in Washington cannot agree on much. Each side points its fingers at the other in a vain attempt to advance its own agenda.

This gridlock is frustrating, and it is not going away anytime soon. Next year, voters will go to the polls again to elect officials that will hopefully guide us in a more successful direction. However, next year's results will likely rubber stamp the divide that we have seen in our country for the last 12 years.

People in the red states will likely vote in a more conservative way, and people in blue states will point more to the left. Obviously, the political climate could change in the next 13 months, but I do not think so. Everybody has their heels dug in right now, and that is not likely to change.

The struggles of our economy are also feeding our nation's discontent. It is hard to feel upbeat when unemployment remains nearly 10 percent on the local, state and national level.

When money is not coming in the door, feeling content is as elusive as a hot day in January. At this time, contentment looks like a distant figure on the horizon that becomes a mirage when we get closer to it.

Much like our political situation, our economic mess is not leaving anytime soon. Unemployment is expected to remain above nine percent heading into 2012. If a person is financially prospering right now, he should be extra grateful because there are a lot of people who are not.

During tough times in the past, people often sought distraction in entertainment. We have all heard stories of how people went to the movies during the Great Depression to forget about the troubles of the day. This type of escapism is important. If people brood over problems it can compound the issues that plague some people.

Unfortunately, this escapism is not as easy as in the past. For those who have not gone to the movies lately, it costs an arm and a leg just to buy a ticket, a box of popcorn and a cold drink. Multiply that by a factor of four and it is very difficult for a family to spend a quiet evening at the movies.

True, there are more outlets for entertainment than many years ago, but those are often lacking when it comes to quality.

So, if contentment is elusive these days, what can be done to get it back? Perhaps we should take a closer look at what we are looking for as the source of our contentment. Though many of the examples listed above are important, none have a lasting place in our lives.

Politicians will come and go. Economically, there will always be seasons of prosperity and want in our lives. Entertainment is so trivial that we often forget what we have watched the next day.

Maybe we should be taking a closer look at the parts of our lives that have a lasting impact such as our spiritual, family and friendship needs. When the hustle and bustle of our lives die down, these three areas are often the most important when shaping whether we are content or not.

Sometimes the stress associated with some of the topics written earlier can cause these areas to fragment. Relationships become strained. It becomes easier to blame others or God.

However, in the long run, these are the only things of lasting value we have. We should treat them accordingly.

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