A month ago I had dinner with a friend in London who asked me to imagine a world where each of us had all that we needed.
Would people be satisfied?
I think about that today as people celebrate Easter.
If we could provide food, clothing, and shelter and health care to all and you could still have everything you need, would you be in favor of that?
I know people who don’t feel that way.
They want to make sure that the un-deserving don’t get things they don’t deserve. Some people vote in such a way that they themselves don’t get services they would be entitled to just to keep the un-deserving from getting those services.
So, I told my friend, “no.” No I don’t think people would be satisfied.
We can talk about what religion is at its worst. We can worry about the divisiveness and the “othering” that can come from gathering with a group of people and celebrating your love for God and God’s love for you.
But at its best, religion can bring a community together to remind it of the blessings they enjoy and to point to those around them who could benefit from the love, kindness, and generosity of those in a position to give.
We’re all in a position to give love and kindness.
In my friend’s world, everyone would have enough. Not just a minimal amount – but by your own standards you would have all that you need.
But, I said, people keep score. It’s not enough for some that they have enough. It’s not enough that they have all that they could possibly need. It’s not even enough that they could have more than they really want. For some, they must have more than their peers.
We’ve been asked that since youth. Why do you care what the other kids do or have?
We just do.
It’s not healthy.
It’s the root of our unhappiness.
If we have all that we need and want, why do we care if someone else is given what they need and want?
“It’s not fair,” we think.
It’s not equal. It might be fair.
There’s the cartoon of the three people behind a fence of different heights. In one image they are all given equal height step stools and only the tall one can see. In the second image they are given different stools of different heights and all three can see over the fence.
The shortest one had the tallest stool.
Is that equal? No.
Is it fair? I think so. Not everyone agrees.
The tallest one can see over the fence in either situation.
There are two sorts of tall people.
One tall person complains that his stool is less high than the other’s. It’s not my fault they can’t see. We’re all given the same advantage.
The other tall person is happy that all three can see. He doesn’t mind that more material and effort went in to assembling the other stools.
To my shame, I cannot say that I am always that second tall person.
I try to be.
There are days that I know I’m that first version – mostly it’s when I don’t notice. Sometimes when it’s pointed out to me, I still don’t change appropriately.
My friend’s utopia has us all living as the second tall person.
I love thinking that that world could exist.
That we could stand side-by-side peering over the fence and being able to talk about what we all see.
Perhaps when there are fewer fences, we won’t have to worry about the different heights of the stools.