Welcome to Big Old Goofy World . . . a place where I can share my thoughts, hopes, and dreams about this rock that we live on and call home.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

For What It's Worth

"Really?  It's just a piece of cardboard."

That was the response I received from the wife years ago when I proudly showed her the first baseball I had invested in--"It's just a piece of cardboard."  Cardboard is of no value and she could not understand how it could be a valuable investment--in her eyes it was worth pretty much next to nothing.  In my eyes it was a valuable asset pointing to an easy retirement--where she saw pennies, I saw dollar signs.  There was a definite conflict in values.  So what was that first baseball card that I ever invested in worth?  In all honesty . . . whatever someone is willing to pay me for it.  Outside of the fanatical circle of baseball card collectors it probably isn't worth much at all, but within it--where these cards are valued--it could be worth quite a bit.  Rest assured, though, I long ago gave up on the idea of retiring off of my baseball collection.  Maybe, and this is a big maybe, my great-great-great grandchildren might be able to find some major windfall well after I have left this great planet.

But this is not about baseball cards, this is about "value".  In particular, it is about the value that we humans place on things, and more importantly upon other human beings.  The way that we "value" things and people often dictates the way that we treat these things and people.  The more we "value" something or someone, the better they are treated.  Since the wife did not value my baseball cards she had saw no problem giving the kids a few cards and clothes pins to make noise makers for their bikes.  I still cringe when I think of hearing the "thump. thump, thump" of a Nolan Ryan baseball card against the spokes of one of the kids' bikes.  The more value--the better they are treated; the less value--the lousier they are treated.  Proven fact.

Typically most of our "values" are determined for us by the society and culture that we live in, thus "values" can be different from society to society and culture to culture.  The best way to determine what a society's or culture's "values" one only has to turn to mass media.  Mass media--television, movies, newspapers, magazines, advertisements, and so on--pounds us with they assume are the society or culture "values".  Think about it for a minute, walk over to your television, watch an hour worth's of commercials, and tell me what you see that is portrayed as "valuable" in our society and culture.  Here are a few hints: wealth, health, youth, beauty, athleticism, technology, and the list could go on and on.  You didn't see any over-weight, poor, old people in those commercials did you?  What about on the shows?  So, what do you think is "valued" in our society or culture?

Anything that does not meet the criteria of "value" within a society or culture is then "devalued".  Since these things and people are "devalued" they are treated differently--usually they are treated with disdain or indifference to downright violence.  Often they are ignored and pushed out towards the outer boundaries of a society or culture.  They are not made to feel included and they are not included.  It pretty much sucks to be "devalued".  And, guess what!  We are all guilty of it.  We are all guilty of "devaluing others and things in our lives.  We do it consciously and unconsciously.  It is not an exclusive party that we are all involved in when it comes to "devaluing"--we all do it.

Which is a shame in my estimation.  Which is a shame when I profess, as many in our society and culture do, that I am a follower of Jesus.  That Jesus who told us to love our neighbors--meaning all of God's children who are created in God's image (of which we all are). It is a shame because we do not do this very well.  All we have to do is to look around how we treat "the least of these".  Poor people are not treated well.  The elderly are not treated well.  People not of our race or culture or nation are not treated well.  People with different sexual orientations than ours are not treated well.  People with disabilities are not treated well.  People who are different than us are not treated well.  It is scary how poorly we treat one another.  That Jesus--whom I follow--told all of us that we should love those neighbors as we love ourselves.  I look around the world and shudder at how well we love one another--seems that we really do not love ourselves too much based on this behavior.

This idea of "valuation" is an issue with me--it is something I believe in deeply and feel a great pull towards in my life as I witness the devaluation that is taking place all around me.  This is a great injustice and a slap in God's face when we cannot love one another as God has loved us--especially the "least among us".  If we love God . . . if we are all created in the image of God as the scriptures say . . . how can we not love one another?  How can we not love everyone?  How can we not value another no matter how different he or she might be from us?  That Jesus guy I followed did not say that he came to only save the few, but that he came for everyone.

I am not talking about baseball cards here--I am talking about how we "value", how we love the people in God's creation.  The current state of our society and culture is scary as we become more polarized and antagonistic--there is a lot of devaluation going around and it can get worse.  It was not that long ago that the world witnessed devaluation at its worse--the memorials stand all over Europe to remind us.  The place was Germany through the mid to late 1930s on through the end of the second world war.  Remember this little poem by Martin Niem√∂ller?

First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak out because I was Protestant.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
Add to that group that were exterminated: the disabled, the Gypsies, people of other races and nationalities, and any one that did not meet the "value" of Hitler's "perfect race".  It was not that long ago.

"Value" is in the eye of the beholder.  My "beholder" is God.  I think I (and all of us who claim to be followers of Jesus) need to work on my eye sight a little harder. 

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