By Jim Whitt
We’ve all seen the devastation of the fires that have swept across the Great Plains recently destroying lives and livelihoods. In its wake, however, we have seen an even more powerful force. People have come to the aid of ranchers and farmers donating money, food, feed for livestock and materials to rebuild fences and structures. Many have taken time from their own work and traveled many miles to assist in the rebuilding. This passage from The Transformational Power of Purpose is a reminder that times of tragedy serve as a catalyst that liberates the human spirit to become what we are designed to be:
On September 11, 2001 our world was rocked with surreal images of the World Trade Towers collapsing in flames. We gathered around television sets and watched in disbelief. That was followed by the attack on the Pentagon, the very heart of our armed forces.
Our world changed that day — it got a lot heavier. I thought about that old Eddie Arnold song: “Make the world go away … and get it off my shoulders…”
In Greek mythology it was Atlas who was charged with shouldering the weight of the world. Although Atlas was one of the legendary Titans, a race of gods, he decided the burden was too much to bear. Exhibiting not-so-god-like character, he tried to trick Hercules into assuming his task, but failed. Atlas couldn’t make the world go away and neither can we.
In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks we called upon God. We prayed to God. We questioned God. How could God allow this to happen? How could these terrorists kill and destroy in the name of God?
We have to remember that human beings are animals. And, as the terrorists responsible for the deaths of thousands of people proved, there are those who choose to be no more than that. But we must also remember our animal bodies serve host to a race of superhumans created in the image of God.
If there is anything positive to come from times of great tragedy it is that it provokes us to rise above our animal natures and assume the likeness of our Creator, even if for only a brief moment. In the words of Cicero: “Men resemble God never so much as in doing good to their fellow creatures.” It is in these times of tragedy that the part of us that is God reaches out to the other members of our superhuman race.
In the days following the attacks, the images of explosions and implosions gave way to images of firefighters, police and volunteers working side by side, day and night; images of people donating food, clothing, money and their own blood; images of those who gathered all across America and the world to pray. It is in these images that we saw the true image of God.
A crisis provides a temporary “purpose” that touches the human spirit and we become the superhumans we were created to be. Unfortunately, when the crisis subsides, we see the mass of humanity revert back to their animal natures and once again fall prey to the manipulation of reward and punishment. These times of crisis give us a glimpse, if but for a brief shining moment, of what happens when the human spirit is liberated to assume superhuman status.
This should not be the exception, it should be the rule. It is the way we are created to live. Not just in times of crisis, but daily.
Atlas was at a disadvantage. He alone was charged with carrying the weight of the world. He had no one to share the task. We possess power far superior to the Titans of Greek mythology. We see it happen time after time in the face of disaster. We become one heart and mind as we stand shoulder to shoulder with the brothers and sisters of our superhuman race to “do good to our fellow creatures.” And together, upon these many shoulders, we are able to lift the weight of the world.
Excerpted from The Transformational Power of Purpose: Finding & Fulfilling Your Purpose in Life by Jim Whitt Copyright ©2002