Chris Markiewicz's Blog
Every Monday – thoughts, observations and ideas that hold up a mirror to who & how we are

What’s in front of you?

“Nothing is more debilitating than to care about something you can’t do anything about.”  Abraham-Hicks

I seem to have lost count of the calamitous natural disasters that have occured all over the planet in the past couple of years.

So much so, that I’m in great danger of feeling overwhelmed by it all.

That last statement isn’t to suggest that I’m cracking up under the strain, more to say that I question whether we, as human beings are actually designed to cope with so many such events that are totally out of our control. It is after all relatively recently in human history that we have been aware, on a mass scale, of events elsewhere on the planet or even in other parts of our home nation.

Our 24 hour rolling news culture allows us to be instantaneously and continuously plugged in to events across the globe – not just the natural disasters, but also conflicts, political upheavals and so on. Even this mass of events is but a tiny portion of all that’s actually happening, selected and edited carefully for “newsworthiness”.

So, in the case of  disasters, for example,  we are asked to dip into our relatively well lined pockets to help whatever is the latest aid relief effort, usually followed closely by another and another and so it goes.

Yet, can we be expected to take on and try to solve all the woes of the planet in this way?

This provocative question has been prompted partly by my hearing of a conversation my pal Andrew Ferguson of the Breakthrough network* had some years ago with Peter Caddy the founder of the Findhorn community in Scotland:

 Andrew was expressing concern about whether he shouldn’t be focusing on the big issues in the world rather than his work with his ethical business network. Caddy simply responded by saying: “Is that what’s in front of you?”  Andrew  had to say no, it wasn’t.  “You can only focus on what’s in front of you,” Caddy concluded.

 Now, I’m not for one second suggesting that we shouldn’t care. However, if we end up feeling helpless, debilitated in the face of all these world calamities, then it is likely to be counterproductive.

For some brave individuals, the answer is to get up and go where the problem is and actually do something to help. Thus, the teenage daughter of friends of our’s upped and went to East Africa to work with the street boys there. She chose to have that situation in front of  her in order to do something about it. I’d imagine that she couldn’t even begin to handle Haiti, Bangladesh, Darfur, Fukushima, Christchurch or heaven knows where else on top of that.

Others of us can contribute within our own communities. It can be ironic that a next door neighbour, whose name we may not even know, could be suffering or even lying dead while we are sat on the sofa on the other side of the wall, donating via our credit card to a TV charity appeal. It’s OK to donate, it’s OK to pray, to hope for a better world – these things are sorely needed. However, let’s not allow all this stuff, all that distance away and in all corners of the globe overwhelm us with helplessness and guilt when we can be looking at and acting on what’s in front of us. Tragically, dreadful things have happened across the globe throughout history and pre-history. This is nothing new. The difference is, we’ve never, until recently had such a window on things that extends so much further than what we can physically see.

It’s too much.

So, let’s give ourselves a bit of a break, let go of the helplessness and the guilt – we’re simply not designed to handle it all. However, we can check on what’s going on in front of us, whether here or elsewhere that we may choose to be.

*Breakthrough network:       


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7 Responses to “What’s in front of you?”

  1. This hits the spot for me Chris.

  2. You’re right, Chris. I also happen to believe that charity begins at home. If we each took responsibility for ourselves and our families and immediate neighbours/relatives, the world would be a better place. However, we are so far entrenched now that we have created a culture of dependency and helplessness in noble people that might have grown in a different direction, if left to their own devices. Sadly, I think it’s too late now. A bit like the Irishman who, when asked how to get to a certain place, said he wouldn’t have started from here.

  3. Nice to take some time out and think this through. Seems sound to me. Interesting comments from Hoda – I agree to a large extent. It is important to focus on, as you say ” the things that are in front of you “. However, we must not lose the ” wider picture “. If Thomas Eddison had been too focussed then we would all be reading by bigger candles.

  4. As they say, you have hit the spot Chris. All power to you, hope all is well and you are as busy as you want to be.

    24 hour news is something relatively new – and we are pulled in all directions to help and feel compassion. Adverts plea for our help, but we have been ‘helping’ for decades, to my knowledge and nothing much has changed. Closer to home, that is where it counts. Many thanks for sharing this today. Val Tyler

  5. Thank you for the quote “Focus on what’s in front of you.” It does help stop the overwhelm. One of my yoga students claims I live in a happy bubble because I do not watch TV, read newspapers or listen to radio. She’s correct, but I’m more stable and happier and can offer a better service as a yoga teacher as a result.

  6. Wise and carefull thoughts,Chris on how to remain sane in a chaotic world which can so easily cause me to feel and act helplessly. You reminded me of someone who once said”love your NEIGHBOUR” ….much less stressful than trying to change the whole world! Anyway I cant! For me thats quite enough to stretch and challenge me one day at a time, so I am retrarining myself to look at what Llife brings me Today. Thanks for the sharp focus you bring.

  7. It’s complicated, Chris. On the one hand, you’re right, we need to focus on those nearby who need us most; you are also right that we are bombarded by news that overwhelms us and can make one feel hopeless. But on the flip side, there is so much good being done in the world today; so much compassion and sharing, especially by those who can afford it (as well as those whose contribution, even if small, matters), that I would tend to say that it’s better to be aware than not, as long as you take it in small doses and switch off to your own immediate concerns, meditate, live in the present moment, and above all, laugh. There’s only so much we can do; sending a prayer and truly sympathising can be enough. Love your blog, by the way, and thought that 100-word story that Hoda Lacey shared on Facebook was brilliant.

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