Looking for Opportunity
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Looking for Opportunity • Posted: May 10, 2014 19:09:54Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

There have been some terribly sad stories in the news recently about immigrants. They have all left their places of origin, if not their sentimental homes, in order to find something better, a place where they feel safer, where they hope opportunity resides. What makes those stories so sad is they often do not find safety. They grow hungry and find themselves increasingly vulnerable to heat, cold, disease, persecution, and victimization. And real opportunity is nowhere to be seen.

But, what is this thing called "opportunity"?

In the previous post, The Struggle for Normalcy, I suggested "normalcy" comes from finding and being able to maintain one's zone of comfort within a community by "finding and developing what one has to offer" to that community. But knowing one's self is only part of the problem. Getting to know one's community in such a way that one comes to recognize what one can give to it is the other part. Opportunity, then, becomes seeing how the two fit together, how self and community might come together through action so as to increase the chances of finding and sustainably maintaining one's zone of physical, psychological, and intellectual comfort. Even if one is entirely selfish in orientation, opportunity still means finding a match between what one has to offer and one's community, market, or environment. It is something we can work with, a situation we can exploit for benefit.

Not all opportunities are perceived, nor are all opportunities efficiently exploited. Ignorance, fear, and poverty hold us back. When properly activated, though, that is, not overwhelmed by fear nor dormantly stuck in ritualized repetition, the human mind is capable of recognizing the dynamics of a novel situation and stepping in to non-disruptively trade inspiration and insight for things that improve one's state of being. For instance, stumbling upon a flow of fresh water, one might cup one's hands and take a drink. Seeing that it tastes good, one might then try to find or build a container in order to save some for later. Water is flowing. We know we need water. So, we act to exploit the resource for our own benefit.

But, how does looking for opportunity differ from aggression? What if the flowing resource belongs to someone else, or is accompanied by a sign that reads "For Sale"? Take it anyway? No. There are consequences. We could get shot, or arrested, or, at minimum, socially shunned. That is the point where we need to look inside ourselves and try to find a match between what the owner of the water might need and what we have to trade. That is the point that measures who we are as a human being and what our worth to the surrounding society is. It's a weighty moment, for both new immigrants and the newly unemployed. Or, even for third world countries faced with what's left over after first worlders have taken what they want.

Not fair, you say? Well, maybe. But opportunity is not limited to copying or mimicking what others have done, nor to longing for the way things used to be, nor even to forcefully seeking a redistribution of extant wealth. Seeing the potential for something completely new is where opportunity lies, not in dwelling on or attempting to reenact things seen or done before.

Ignorance and reluctance are what hold people back. They either don't know about or refuse to acknowledge or accept the new direction of things. The cure for not knowing is easy. Ask. There are tons of knowledgable citizens of the world more than eager to share their understanding of things. And for free, with no hidden or contractual obligation, simply because it gives them pleasure to help someone else achieve the delight they feel in living. Just be careful if something is asked in return, that it's something you can afford to give, something you won't miss dearly, something that won't undermine your future or enslave you. But as to reluctance, that is another story, another story exactly. Story is, in fact, what binds us to the life we know. It is a script that describes who we are and what our place in society is. Mess with that story and people become hostile. But it is only a story, a set of constraints on our vision, beliefs, sentiments, and actions. Give people a new story in which they are the hero, and they quickly see not only the potential, but the opportunity.

So, what is the story within which you will star today? Because, you know, it could, it really could, make a difference for all of us.

Monday, February 10th, 2014