Out of balance: The me and the others

by Bob Schwartz

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I?”
Hillel the Elder, Pirke Avot 1:14

Life is out of balance in America. Life is always out of balance, forever everywhere. It is the dynamic of living. But when it gets too far out of balance, and grows more unbalanced, and efforts at rebalancing aren’t considered or deemed possible, bad things can happen.

This is prompted by the unhappy news that among young Americans age ten to 18, suicide is now second only to accidents as cause of death:

More young Americans are ending their own lives
Suicide is now the second-biggest killer of ten- to 18-year-olds

You can read detailed analyses of how we got here and what might be done. I do not have the expertise or insight to offer actionable solutions. But I have a thought.

We have come to a time when the balance between the me and the others has been increasingly weighted towards the me. Connections with and concerns for the others is diminishing. Not gone, by any means, and not in danger of disappearing. But the tools of self-absorption are everywhere, and the steps from that to self-importance and self-aggrandizement are much smaller than you think.

There is nothing wrong with self-concern and self-assertion. It can be healthy and constructive. But too much can leave one and others isolated from each other, no matter how it seems on the surface. It is not just young people who are isolated, though with their unformed sense of life and sometimes inadequate models and teaching, they are most vulnerable. It is all us.