One can hardly look at Facebook, let alone read world news, without being swamped with sadness, horror, and hopelessness. Videos of cats being ridiculous can ameliorate only so much.
Perhaps this is why it’s been ages since I’ve written here. It all seems so pointless. I could rail about a wide variety of crimes and misdemeanors, people who make my blood boil, actions that break my heart, situations that crush my spirit. But someone else has probably already done so on any given issue. Why bother?
Why bother, indeed. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. I can allow myself to be overcome, to be awash in despair, to give up, because it’s all too big, too much. Or I can seek to do good, as much as I am able, in whatever ways I can.
That was before Cecil the Lion, Zimbabwe’s most beloved big cat, was lured from the safety of his home, tortured, killed, skinned, and beheaded by a man with more money than honor in a spoon-fed, illegal, hunt. I am heart-sick for Cecil. But he is only the latest, most famous, lion to be murdered. The news says 74% of the males tracked in an Oxford study have been. And these are just the lions. All the other majestic animals are being slaughtered, too. The last rhinos of their species are being hidden away even as their lives are auctioned off to psychopaths with so little self-worth that they believe snuffing out an already endangered life will somehow ennoble their own.
And they are allowed to do so. Why isn’t the desire to end a life just for the thrill of it universally appalling, vilified, illegal? It’s sick.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
How can one sad little bleeding-heart living an isolated existence overcome anything? Some days I just don’t: some days I am overcome by the evil.
But some days I put my money where my sorrow is. Born in the United States to a middle class family, by world standards, I am rich. It’s not so difficult to weigh my spending, to consider my wants vs. my needs vs. real needs in the wider world. I am hesitant to recommend to you, dear reader, any particular organizations abroad because it requires investigation into each of them to find where good work truly is being done in the areas which matter most to you. The Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at Oxford University is the group who were studying Cecil. It appears they are doing a wide array of research, education, and protection of wildlife and endangered species in particular. Oxford is probably legit and you can make donations here. I believe Wildlife S.O.S, working in India, is accomplishing great things, as well. But there are groups around the world making a difference, protecting habitats, legislating for species, caring for populations and individuals, taking up arms in the field. Find one for yourself. Get involved with them. Share their mission with people you know.
Overcome evil with good.
It is too late for many species. We have the dubious distinction of living at the dawn of the Anthropocene, ushering in the Sixth Extinction which may very well include homo sapiens, but I doubt that. It is more likely our fate to observe what we have wrought on the world through our industry. And enjoy a more impoverished existence for it.
But I’m not ready to throw in the towel. If I admire Ralph Waldo Emerson for nothing else, I love him for giving hope where hope flows away, seeps out, and desiccates in the relentless dry air of failure:
To know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, that is to have succeeded.
None of us needs to save a species on our own. For every lion, elephant, rhinoceros, leopard that isn’t poached because that gun was stilled by whatever means, that is success. Surely Cecil and his offspring would like to have lived long lives, even if the total number of lions on the planet is rapidly declining. Every one of us can make all the difference for one of them.
So, how do we keep our spirits up in the face of current events even as we are trying to do our good in the world? The same reference that encourages us not to be overcome by evil, recommends this:
Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable ~ if anything is excellent or praiseworthy ~ think about such things. (Philippians 4:8 NIV)
When dark, ugly, evil thoughts start taking hold in our brains, we can choose to replace those thoughts with something better, something good. If that passage is a little much to take in all at once, pick one. Seek out one lovely thing or one admirable person to fill your mind until whatever was bringing you down has been overcome.
If you know me, this may sound hypocritical. It has been said I am an angry person. I do complain out loud. I sit at my laptop and cry. But who needs this guidance more than the one who collapses under the onslaught of evil? I do my best and it gets better. That’s all I can offer you. A very wise man once said,
There is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.