from a guest author:
A friend and I recently had a fairly common exchange about which show was better – Community or The Office. I argued for The Office, because in my opinion, it’s more accessible by a larger audience. The rebuttal (in favor of Community) was that often, things that are loved by the masses are lower quality. And this started me thinking…
What my friend said is often true. Let’s take a look at things that are loved by the masses, and are also of low quality. Sex, drugs, promiscuity, violence, consumerism, material goods, moral laxity, donuts and McDonald’s have all achieved celebrity status and are universally glorified. These “goods” are available to everyone, and STD’s, overdoses, broken families, premature death, the temporary and empty thrill of a purchase, diabetes and obesity are equally accessible by all.
“Ye are even as the bird which soareth, with the full force of its mighty wings and with complete and joyous confidence, through the immensity of the heavens, until, impelled to satisfy its hunger, it turneth longingly to the water and clay of the earth below it, and, having been entrapped in the mesh of its desire, findeth itself impotent to resume its flight to the realms whence it came.”
What is harder to get – intellectually and materially – is better for us. What are these things, so prized, you might ask? Private education, intelligence, clever jokes, organic quinoa and heirloom tomatoes, scholarship, locally-made apparel, elitism, and apparently Community, to name a few. These are not so easily accessible, and are therefore more valuable. Not everyone can have them. Their rarity makes them the property of but a few. The rest of the world does not “get it” as a result of their lack of knowledge, lack of funds, or both. But we must keep it that way if some things are to be valued above others, right? If everyone could have organic heirloom tomatoes, wouldn’t that make them worthless?
Or would it…
Commonality does not always imply poor quality, and alternately, we must be infinitely careful that rarity does not prescribe value. Let us take two examples noted by William Hatcher. Professional sports players, although highly skilled, hold an exaggerated value in society. Although they have attained a high degree of excellence in their craft, it is largely their rarity that makes them so highly valued in the minds and hearts of men. In contrast, the station of motherhood, a universal, mundane occupation, doesn’t merit a second thought. Does the fact that motherhood is accessible to half the world’s population de-value it? Is motherhood less valuable than sports because of its commonality? It certainly brings in less revenue. Yet, to quote Hatcher: “if only one generation of women all over the world refused to play this role, it would be the end of the human race, forever. But society could clearly survive quite well if professional sports ceased to exist altogether.”
Obviously, many things can, and must, remain highly valuable when equally accessible (Will not the junior youth spiritual empowerment program retain its value as it grows? In fact, won’t it gain in value and quality as it increases is size and strength? Similarly with the growth of the membership of the Faith itself…) We must re-orient our perception of value and justice if we are to pull this off. Value must no longer be defined by scarcity, but rather in its ability to exalt man’s station. “…man should know his own self and recognize that which leadeth unto loftiness or lowliness, glory or abasement, wealth or poverty.” Justice implies that those things that lead to loftiness, glory, and spiritual and material prosperity, are not only common, but accessible by all. If we lived in a just world, many of the “luxuries” enjoyed by the elite would be equally accessible to humanity, while others, also as a result of justice, would vanish. Humanity should have equal access to knowledge, health, and education that strives to empower. We should collectively be called to a higher standard, one “that seeks to raise capacity within a population to take charge of its own spiritual, social and intellectual development.”
This heightened standard must manifest in our rectitude of conduct, the way in which we treat each other, the foods we eat, the words we use, the clothes we wear, and the way in which individuals, communities and institutions carry out their responsibilities, enlightened by values that lead to man’s loftiness and glory. As individuals come to see themselves as “active agents of their own learning” and pursue spiritual excellence, so too will the communities and institutions made up of such high-minded individuals be re-structured to release the vast potential latent within humanity.
In this way will humanity collectively advance, and in this way will distilled quality, both material and spiritual, become the right of every individual.