Sources of the Problems

The view presented herein is that we, along with our systems, structures, and institutions, are not sufficiently living up to our potentials, and that we have inadvertently been causing this to occur through two avenues. First, we have often set our sights on circumstances or events that will not satisfy us; actually, they will hinder us from reaching our potentials and satisfaction. Second, we have set up many of our systems, structures, and institutions such that they are, quite simply, incapable of providing their intended result; thus they cannot fully support us as we try to reach our potential, no matter how hard we try, no matter how angry we get, and no matter how long we stick it out with them.

It probably seems crazy that many of our problems are born from our strong attraction to things that reduce our level of fulfillment, but we see similar behavior in children. They refuse the bitter medicine that they need to get better. They whack another child and are stunned when they receive a revengeful conk on the head. They want to play with chemicals, matches, or fireworks that injure them. They choose the mindless video game over learning something. The list goes on and on. Clearly, the limited level of awareness that children have influences them to make choices that don’t really benefit them in the medium term or longer term.

While it’s easy to point out this unaware behavior in our children, it can be harder to see in our adult neighbors, and even harder to see in ourselves or in close associates. All of us, even adults, have developed a strong tendency to crave and work for short-term substitutes, rather than for what fulfills us, or for what our well-being apparently requires. We pursue things that are immediately exciting or pleasing but aren’t beneficial in the longer run. With this “candy mentality,” we crave surface over substance.

To fulfill our craving for eye “candy,” we choose a shiny appearance over quality. For our ears, we often choose continual talking and noise or synthesized stimulus over silence, natural sounds, or personally moving music. For our noses, we drape our bodies and clothing in manufactured chemical scents, rather than create an environment with its own good smells.

For our social side, we follow the lives of celebrities and dozens of keyboard friends, rather than spend time with the most important people in our lives. For activities, we spend weekend days watching other people play sports on TV. For occupation, we work for higher pay and pass up the chance to work on something we love. When it comes to romance, many people choose sex over intimacy. Wanting to find their souls, many take drugs rather than trying to see and understand the divine already in and around them. And of course, many people find that the candy in their mouths tastes so much better than the real food their bodies need to be healthy.

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with good looks, background music, making friends on the internet, getting paid well, watching TV, and jelly beans. And we all need time to rest and periodically escape from our regular lives. But when we have a “candy mentality” we take it a step further and actually begin to strive for these superficial things.

We all struggle with this mindset from time to time. Unfortunately, once the candy has become the goal instead of the occasional treat, then no matter how much we get, it doesn’t connect us to our happiness, lasting success, or continued fulfillment.

But that’s just one problem. There’s a second problem—our systems, structures, and institutions contain design flaws or are mismatched with conditions. If they are poorly designed, it means that well-intentioned and smart people have been creating and working within systems that include incorrect assumption about how things work.

If all this is true, then we should just be able to admit the truth and get everyone on board to make any changes that are necessary. But unfortunately, the notion of changing things that don’t work often meets great resistance from people. Why?

No one likes the idea of being wrong. What’s so uncomfortable about being wrong? Maybe it is frightening for people to think that goodwill and hard work can still result in utter failure to reach a goal (Wasn’t the War on Poverty well intended? How could it fail?). Maybe it’s just arrogance, and people would prefer to believe that humans are too sharp to err in this manner, or that the Founding Fathers were aware of every national pitfall, and that the Constitution essentially set us on a path of permanent success, or that this nation is blessed with a benevolent cadre of government officials that are too perfect to make significant missteps.

Maybe the culture has convinced people that “winning” is too important. We have become used to seeing people finger-point and refuse to accept blame for any problems. We are all affected by the desperation to win. However, while we hold onto winning and being right, we are also incapable of making improvements.

In summary our nation is moving toward the brink of destruction because we are seeking superficial satisfaction at the expense of long-term gain, and our systems, structures, and institutions are simply incapable of delivering what we want, at least under contemporary conditions. Next we will look into dealing with these unproductive conditions.