What Shall We Do? How Shall We Live?

May 27, 2009
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"Los Angeles is becoming the great world city of this still new millennium, the place where the promise and peril of the modern world live most intensely. Ours is the most diverse city in the history of the planet. Groups - ethnic, religious, professional - must here learn to think beyond themselves and grow responsible for the whole community. And isn't this the lesson the world must learn as well?


Robert Lawton, S.J., LMU President from his address, "What Shall We Do

and How Shall We Live?" President's Convocation (2004).


While it is agreed that the world’s individuals must learn to look beyond themselves and realize that all life is as valuable as one’s own, it is vital that a person cultivate one’s own spirit. It is evident that for one to truly effect the most change in the world, one must make positive change within him or herself. Inner peace is as important as outer peace, and both must in turn coexist peacefully in a world distracted by flashing lights and instant gratification.

Los Angeles is the epitome of diversity. It is proof that people can coexist together under the same sun, even in the shadow of towering and sometimes ominous buildings. The city itself is a massive ecosystem, reliant on each organism for the proper functioning of the whole. It is easy to forget this in the hustle and bustle of the daily routine. Just as in science, every action produces an equal or opposite reaction. It is perhaps the greatest challenge to man to discover how to cope with such reactions in a world desperate for understanding, appreciation, and respect. The problems in today’s world are not only political, they are personal, and the same can be said of any large metropolis like Los Angeles.

The first step to effective understanding, appreciation, and respect is courtesy. Simple acts of courtesy go a long way. Often, these are sidestepped in the interest of time; yet, what is time? It is a manmade concept that dictates lives. If people can slow down for just a moment, breathe deeply, and absorb the beauty and wonder of humanity, a lot of the anxiety that creates tension and irresponsibility for others would flutter away on the exhale. The idea that life is some kind of race is instilled within us from the time we are small, when we are pressured to achieve so that we can make money and live lavishly. This pressure for not simply sustenance, but extravagance, also contributes to the overtly competitive nature of living in a big city. People seem to believe that objects are the only thing that will show evidence of an accomplished life. True accomplishment accompanies happiness through reflection that allows for empathy. So, how can President Lawton’s goal be accomplished? How can people learn to think beyond themselves and grow responsible for the whole community? The answer lies in realizing that life isn’t a race.





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