"Through small and simple choices are great changes brought to pass."
Life is hard.
Most days, I'm not sure I see the point of the everyday. It's a never ending battle between what we want to do and what we know we're supposed to do. Like this inner turmoil that tears constantly at our soul. I know I need to be productive, but what I really want is to stay in bed. I know I need to teach my children the things that will make them happy and functioning adults, but what I really want is to let them watch Netflix all day. I know I need to write, but I'd just as soon keep my stories to myself than suffer the pain of criticism. I know I need to be healthier, but what I really want is cake.
Ever feel like what you want always seems to be wrong?
Will it kill my children to let them binge watch an entire season of Lab Rats? Will letting a few extra loads of laundry pile up bring the world crashing down? Will that slice of cake really go straight to my hips? It all seems so mundane that in the grand scheme of things, does any of it truly matter?
I'm sorry to say that yes. It does.
In political theorist Hannah Arendt's 1963 book "Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil," she analyzes the trial of Adolf Eichmann, the man tasked with the mass deportation of Jews to ghettos and concentration camps during World War II. Arendt observed that Eichmann felt no guilt for his actions, nor bitterness toward those trying him. As far as he was concerned he was not responsible for the atrocities committed, because he was simply doing his job. She goes on to conclude that people who often carry out these unspeakable mass organized crimes are not monsters at all, but simply individuals who are doing the administrative tasks assigned to them--from the plumbers who laid the water pipes in the crematorium to the chemists who developed the killing agent Zyklon B. Though her ideas are somewhat controversial, Arendt's term "banality of evil" would later be coined to mean that evil often comes in the form of bureaucracy--in everyday people carrying out their everyday lives.
But can the same not be said for good?
On Memorial Day in the United States we celebrate and honor those who have died in active military service. This is one of the few days that we celebrate heroes, not the ones with super powers we see on the silver screen, but everyday people carrying out their everyday lives. Real heroes such as soldiers, policemen, firefighters, nurses, paramedics, choose to spend their everyday helping others. They choose to participate in grueling and sometimes monotonous tasks that allow them to keep others safe.
And maybe being a parent isn't quite that life-or-death, but is it not through those small and simple consistencies that we somehow add good to the world? Is it not by teaching my children compassion that the world becomes a little more compassionate? Is it not by cleaning up their little messes that I show them the value of service? Is it not by chastising them that I help them to grow? Is it not by choosing to get my tail out of bed and care about their well-being that I show them what it's like to be loved so that they can love others?
Is it not through those small and simple choices, made in the moment, that great changes come to pass?
Yes, it's monotonous, and probably always will be. But it is through these everyday tasks--through the banality of it all, the common, mundane, and boring--that we can do the most good. So maybe the next time I want to hit snooze on my alarm or roll my eyes at another load of dishes, I'll keep in mind just how much I can do through the everyday. After all, if Eichmann could pull off an atrocity to the scale of the Holocaust by simply being a "paper-pusher," then imagine how much good I could do in contrast if I actually tried.
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The Importance of Friendship
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Fighting the Rain