It's easy to see between block categories of criminals and police â one group considers an illegal pursuit of greater worth than justice, the other upholds the law. Of course that's a bad example because we've agreed to a set legal system, parameters of acceptable actions and we live in a country under those laws.
But it's also on display at a dinner party that you attend. There's Mr Wealthy who thinks that his influence and finances allow for him to be less concerned about his personality or the way he treats people. Next to him is that kind-hearted friend in a go-nowhere job. Again these are broad-brush strokes, but you can see that each thinks that the other has their values wrong, each thinks of the other as 'poor' in their own categories of value.
I've been thinking about this differing categories of evaluation in terms of time as well. I think (and can't be sure, but am convinced) that we each default to spectrum of time in which to assess our lives. You can take the window of time as a month and consider every four weeks the average success or failure of your life, or you can take each day, possibly each hour and ask yourself if you're doing things well.
At the macro level you're much more likely to be content, to step back and consider that all these events and feelings and places are really serving to push you along a path towards a goal with ever increasing clarity, then you'll be content, despite the daily ups and downs. If, however, you take the micro evaluation of your life in minutes, hours, conversations and days, you'll be more easily unsettled.
If we are concluded upon based on our most recent action or conversation then we'll be very concerned how each and every one of them goes. An awkward silence is not just a pixel in the frame of a decade of your life, but it is the focus, the event, the pass or fail.
If you've ever been to a 21st or a wedding (or even a funeral I suppose) you will see this in action. This person (or persons) whom you know and relate to regularly is all of a sudden painted in a, not-unrealistic, but simplified and positive light. The ins and outs of your relationship is one way to view them, but then at this milestone event in their life we all take a step back and consider who they are as a whole, what their years have amounted to so far.
This is really the true test of a man (person). This is what our lives stand or fall on. But the difficulty is to be able to see the whole from within the parts. There's Mr Humble-Nothing, quietly going about his life, not winning any awards or sponsoring any product with his identity, but then as he passes into the night you consider his brave tenacity to his family, his faithful provision for the poor, his long service in his workplace and his unceasing kindness to everyone he met.
It's the surprising summary that we're too busy not looking for. It's the "you know, at the end of the day, he really wasâ¦". It makes me wonder who I will be 'at the end of the day'. Because there is the potential tragedy that for the person who is always in the nicest place at the best time (doing the most enjoyable thing) that at the end of it all, stepping back to consider their life, you could have difficulty concluding that they did it well.
It almost seems like you can only have one or the other. The flashy gratification of now â the recognition of a firework â or the seemingly unimpressively, gradual collection of traits and actions that eventually show themselves to be of real value.
Sam Manchester is currently a theology student with an inescapable sociology degree behind him. In an attempt to reconcile the two, he reflects and writes about their coalescence in everyday life.
Sam's archive of articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/sam-manchester.html