During a summer evening in 1948, a woman worked quietly in a paddy near Fukui Japan. She was likely checking that the water levels were adequate for the growing rice. Suddenly, a magnitude seven earthquake shook the muddy ground. According to reports, soldiers witnessed a four-foot-wide fissure open at the woman’s feet. She grasped at the rice plants as the earth swallowed her. Family members found her body buried in the mud still clutching those plants.1 2
Cracks are appearing in the bedrock values of our modern world. These fissures are a kind of forgetfulness that is threatening individuals, families, and even entire nations. We no longer embrace values that once held us together, and enough of us have forgotten that the world is on shaky ground.
Here is a list of five lost values and what is replacing them. The modern world chooses:
- Wishes over truth – Truth is now secondary to personal desire. We seem to be searching for a middle ground between honesty and illusion. Not too many lies and not too few – just the right number to get what we want. We even deem certain topics or data too dangerous to discuss. When did we start believing that confusion is preferable to clarity?
- Resentment over forgiveness – Many are demanding apologies and assuming the worst intentions in others. For some, forgiveness is considered a sign of weakness while vengeance is a strength. It looks as though we are trying to hide our weakness under righteous anger. How did we forget how to forgive imperfect people?
- Self-love over responsibility for others – We used to take care of those around us instead of using them to ease our own way. There was a time – not too long ago – when people only admitted to seeking wealth and power so that they could use it to help others. Status is no longer a means to serve others but the primary purpose of life. When did we forget that meaning comes from sacrifice for others and not from self-care?
- Disgust over thankfulness – We had almost nothing and still felt satisfied. Now we have more luxury, time and opportunity than any people in history. And yet, we find our modern world repulsive. We see the unfairness of it all and are blind to the beauty and blessings all around us. Why can’t we let go of comparison so that we can feel content? Is it possible that our world is enough?
- Entitlement over humility – We are so easily offended when anyone challenges our specialness. We used to be open to learning from others. We were willing to have our ideas challenged and our skills tested. We were willing to lose and to grow. In place of actual progress, we seem to want unearned promotion, respect, and power. Can we abandon our world of entitlement for one of hard-fought growth?
The tension created from distorted and forgotten values is building. One day soon, there will be a shock to our society or a series of escalating tremors. In the ensuing earthquakes, our world will come undone if we forget our core values. We need to hold fast to the truth and to each other if we do not want to be swallowed up.
All this forgetfulness leaves a space for the few who remember. Many of those lost in mists of confusion are seeking anyone bold enough to speak the truth. Those who feel abandoned gravitate toward willing guides. The empty and aimless are drawn toward those who are grateful, humble and happy. So remember to tell the truth, forgive, take responsibility, and be grateful and open to learn.