Driving through the Midwest after weeks in the Mountain Time Zone creates an interesting juxtaposition. Navigating the terrifying interstates between Kansas City, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati, one can’t help but notice the sprawl, the gridlock, the cacophony of road noise. Although some of the best people on earth reside in the heartland, there seems to be a sort of ever-present, east-of-the-Rockies angst there, too.
Walking the streets of downtown St. Louis, the overwhelming sounds were unavoidable: People blared car horns with anger. Passersby bellowed into mobile phones. Pedestrians argued loudly on street corners.
Everything seemed caffeinated.
If you step back and listen, though, it quickly becomes obvious what all the fuss is about: we make noise because we want to be heard, and because it’s a loud world, we’re forced to shout amid the backdrop of chaos.
Ultimately, we’re screaming, tooting our anger-horns, and disrespecting other people in an effort to feel relevant. Too often, we treat the people we love like shit—not to make ourselves feel better, but to make us feel less bad—an ephemeral solution to a perpetual discontent.
Tearing down everyone else’s buildings doesn’t make our building any taller, though. Likewise, being the loudest or most angry noisemaker doesn’t make us any more relevant.
Real relevance—true, lasting importance in this world—comes from the influence we yield, and influence comes from our ability to contribute beyond ourselves—to add value to other people’s lives. We are considerably more relevant when we help the people around us build taller buildings.
Otherwise, we’re just adding to the noise, which makes it hard to hear the soft, beautiful whisper of the world around us.
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