Action Figure Wannabe

Today as I looked at the morning Boston Globe and read more stories of fraud and deceit and violence and greed and every other evil released from Pandora’s box, I declared yet again (as I have for every Thursday-Sunday of the past month – the days I receive the paper) that I am going to cancel my subscription. I am exhausted by these stories. Any hope I might muster up for the world being a good place is always squashed by the reporting of the daily news media. It’s a bombardment of bad news, trite news, shallow news.

And even when something comes along that might be deemed “solid investigative journalism”, it renders nothing. There are no presidential resignations a la Woodward and Bernstein. Stories produce a lot of hub bub and more stories to follow, but little actual repercussions and little actual change for the better. And I’m left little more than all riled up with nowhere and no one to vent my anger and frustration towards, save perhaps anyone within earshot of my rants. I feel for those – my spouse, my coworkers, my car radio.

But this morning, as my thoughts strolled over this well-worn tract yet again, I realized that maybe what frustrates me most about this entire ritual is that in many ways it is simply holding up a mirror in front of my face. I frustrate myself perhaps most of all. I am so very much like the Globe, simply reporting the stories, repeating the news, spreading vexation around like a plague over everything. That is my only action. I simply report or interpret or opine about all that I see and hear going on around me. Rarely do I ever actually do anything about these things, anything to change the stories and make the outcome different.

Lately, I have been reading two books related to the work of Paul Farmer; one about him, Mountains Beyond Moutains, by Tracy Kidder, and the other by him, Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor. Dr. Farmer is a remarkable man, somewhat of a modern day Albert Schweitzer, but I think for me what I’m finding most extraordinary about the work he does through the organization he founded, Partners in Health, is that it is actually so utterly ordinary. What could possibly be a more normal human response than to help another human being in need?

And while this is an incredibly simplified thought, at the core of his work I believe this is exactly what Dr. Farmer is doing. People have health needs, he offers them medical attention. They are hungry or in need of clothing or lacking shelter and he does what he can to fill these voids. People need someone on their side and he advocates for them. He is in many, many ways angry and frustrated at the world we live in and the societal structures we’ve created that perpetuate poverty, but he is not merely sitting around being angry. He is too busy for that.

Riding into work yesterday, I had the thought that my superpowers were working overtime – that is, my superpower called “invisibility”. Captain Invisible, I believed myself to be. This was after two cars pulled out directly in front of me and a third almost hit me while I was in the crosswalk.

But this morning I’m left wishing I was a different action figure… a figure of action in a mired world. It’s something to work towards.

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