A QUESTION OF VALUE

As the sun rises on another New Year, our value systems may be seen in a new light

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by Amanda Smith

Let this New Year offer a fresh perspective on
your life – and its meaning. From money to moral
responsibility, from family to health…what
do we value? How did we arrive at these ideals
– and did we ever question them? Most importantly,
how are our value systems embodied?

 

Imagine free-floating in space, witnessing the planets in orbit, and beholding
earth as it completes yet another rotation around the sun. Suspended in
midair, one gazes at the planet’s astonishing beauty only to suddenly realize
the extent of our own smallness – tiny lives passing by in the blink of an eye.

Any piercing realization of our own finite existence can inspire a whole
gamut of reactions; some feel inspired to live life in the fast line while they
still can, others feel compelled to be an agent of selfless service to the world
around them. There are even those who greet these grand – and often uncomfortable
– truths with an apathy that swallows them whole, dwelling
on the time wasted, and envisioning nothing more than a future paved with
habits we can’t break. But if you persevere, if you dare to break through,
that sweet, sweet ring of the New Year bell whispers a reminder of the one
thing no one can take away from us – hope. A hope for a brighter tomorrow, a
hope we may leave a legacy for future generations – or even just the faintest
flicker of hope to find the courage to take the tiniest step forward towards the
person you’ve always known you could be.

Not to be underestimated, hope is a most precious commodity, capable of
inspiring miraculous feats, like the magnum opus “Man’s Search for Meaning
by Victor Frankl, a classic novel documenting the power of self-belief
as his personal salvation from the holocaust. But the concept of hope can be
the greatest Trickster of all…as they say, be quite careful what you wish for.
It seems the true key to utilizing hope, one of the greatest of humanity’s inner
resources, is to know your aim as you load that precious arrow in your
bow; having clearly defined what it is you’re hoping for. That in itself is one
of life’s greatest journeys – probing deeply, honestly and courageously into
what it is you truly value.

Throughout history, humans have explored and defined value systems
of all kinds; religious doctrine, cultural standards, moral codes of conduct.
Some are passed down generational lines, internalized without a second
thought, an automatic download of inherited expectations dictating what it
is we think we deserve, we desire and of course, what we value. As age
seasons us with experience, disappointment and deep wisdom, the turn of
each passing year offers a time of reflection as to how much of the value
system(s) we inherited are we still aligned to, understanding how our own
experience on this earth may have shifted our personal values over time,
and most importantly, whether we actually live in congruence with what we
claim is our deepest-held beliefs.

With a subject so deep, so wholly penetrating, it’s vital to find comedy
in the chaos of complexity and contradiction one confronts upon critically
examining the execution of upholding proclaimed value systems. We have
to laugh as another hectic holiday season comes to a close, and the dance
between the materialism of modern-day gift-giving and the story of the birth
of a selfless saviour notorious for turning over money tables is shelved until
next year. Just as comical is to consider a nation founded on the ideals of
total independence, and freedom of thought and faith, and the painful reality
that it’s becoming involved displacing the land’s original inhabitants. Then
there are the more micro-level examples of the woman who claims to value
social justice but never acts on behalf of upholding those high ideals in any
concrete form, or the man who claims religion while exploiting others’ weaknesses
in his business dealings. These inconvenient truths may make one
squeamish or even a little aggressive, but perhaps we should instead find solace
in the universality of the infallible human mind. A rare and glorious sight
to behold is the human who lives his ideals consistently, and maybe practicing
a little self-acceptance – and indulging in a bit of humor – upon realizing
the somewhat inherent contradiction of the psyche makes heavy topics like
civic duty, ethics and a sense of responsibility a little easier to aspire towards
with grace and self-compassion.

So if we can’t always rely on what we say we value as an accurate barometer
of the value system we actually live by, how will we ever embody the
high ideals we claim to believe in? For all of the heavy-handedness in considering
one of the most existential questions known to our kind, the answer
is, like most things, pretty simple. Actions speak louder than words, and
there is no greater revelation than reflecting on how you spend your time.

You say you want a revolution…” sang the Beatles, “We all wanna change
the world.” And you know what they say about those giant journeys starting
with those tiny steps. So ask yourself, if I say I value my family do I spend
time with them? Am I an armchair philosopher or am I actively discovering
avenues for promoting social change through self-expression? How strictly
do I uphold my religious beliefs? Do I claim to be of faith but spend time
gossiping and practicing deception? Do I feel an allegiance to the planet by
which I gain sustenance – the very water I drink, the air I breathe? How do I
spend my money? Who do I associate with? Do I value freedom and movement,
do I sacrifice my health for a tomorrow that may never come? Do I
waste time holding myself and others to impossibly high standards of value
that only serve to cripple any constructive progress? What tiring questions…
let’s turn on the TV…

 

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