The Many, The Few, And The One
“The needs of the many outweigh . . . the needs of the few . . . or the one” ~ Star Trek II.
Building on ideas from yesterday’s post, when I encounter someone with many problems, I often find people with more problems tend to be people who are focused on helping fewer people.
Isn’t that an interesting irony or paradox? Is that counter-intuitive?
Why would people who are doing more work to attempt to do more good for more people have fewer problems than people only primarily working to help themselves?
Star Trek II is one of my favorite films. And because it’s one of my favorite films, I’ve taken a great deal of time to sit and watch many old classic Star Trek TV episodes with my children, primarily so they will understand the larger stories and context of the characters and series . . . so they might feel a similar emotional impact at the end of watching Star Trek II.
At the core of both Star Trek and Star Wars was this idea: Some people create friendships that are as strong as some familial bonds, friends who will go to great lengths for each other’s common good.
The reason we cheered or wept with joy when Han Solo and Chewbacca surprisingly returned in the Millenium Falcon to tip the battle against the Death Star is: Han Solo showed he wasn’t a self-centered scoundrel. If Han Solo didn’t much care for the Rebellion, he at least cared for Luke and Leia, and he was more than happy to rebel against the powers that be.
And while that romantic ideal of strong friendships may occur rarely in reality, it does occur in rare friendships. Some friends do last. What friends will last? I don’t know, but time tells what friends last.
Neurosis, in its many forms, is an interesting thing. By definition, it is when a mind tends to over-focus on the problems of the self.
Is it ironic or counter-intuitive that one possible cognitive-therapy for neurosis is to practice thought patterns that instead of primarily asking questions that start with: Why do I ____? Or why am I _____? Or why can’t I ______? – - It might be better to ask questions, that begin with: Why do we _____? Or how can we ______? Or why can’t we _____?
Is part of the problem with neuroses the fact that many of the repetitive questions are framed too narrowly? Even if a neurotic person “solves” or “answers” their narrowly-framed questions, then have they still achieved too little and helped too few? And therefore, are they still left with major unresolved problems? I don’t know the answers to those questions.
You all probably have a Facebook friend like one of my Facebook friends. He (we’ll call him a “he,” but she could as easily be a “she”) almost always uses his Facebook updates to complain about something in his life. He even knows he does this. He even makes self-deprecating humor about it. He even complains about others who do the same. But I wonder: Does he ever wonder if the narrowness of his problem-solving is a partial cause for why he has so many problems? Is the narrowness itself part of what creates more problems for him? If he was genuinely concerned about helping and improving things for more people, if “How are more people doing?” was his measure and focus, would he be less neurotic about his own personal problems?
If a person is not very concerned about themself, because they’re more concerned about measures for a larger social group (their workplace, extended family and friends, a cast, or a classroom), do people with broader focuses and measures care less about their own failings because they are more thoughtful and invested in helping many of the boats around them rise?
If a person is genuinely more concerned about the many, or the few, then does that tend to make them less neurotic? Or is there no correlation? Or one more option: Can they be both genuinely more concerned about others AND still disablingly neurotic?
I don’t know.
But I tend to think people do better when they are sincerely more concerned about the well-being of many people around them. That is only my speculation and theory. My data is only anecdotal. But my good and enduring friends tend to be people who work hard to be good and enduring friends with many other friends. And the friends I miss, the friends I’ve lost, tend to be people who are more closeted and cloistered, people who appear to maintain fewer friendships. Some appear to reach out less. Others make great efforts to keep their few friends separated from each other, not wanting their friends to socialize together. I don’t know why that is. It is a mystery to me.
What is your focus?
The one? The few? The many?
Would your life change if you changed the focus of your daily questions from “I” to “we”?
I’ll finish this post series with a related post tomorrow.
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