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Op-eds

Do things because you want to – not for a cause

  • Howard Feldman 2018
The conversation went something like this. “I really want to climb Kilimanjaro. Do you know any good causes?”
by HOWARD FELDMAN | Sep 19, 2019

“I know plenty of causes,” I answered, “but why would you need one to climb a mountain?”

“For a cause!” She repeated slowly, but emphatically, as if I was either hard of hearing, or just slow. “For. A. Cause.”

Here’s a thought. We don’t need to know a cancer sufferer for us to climb a mountain. No one has to be in desperate need of an urgent bone-marrow transplant for us to run the Jerusalem Marathon. Diabetes might be a horrible affliction, but we need to accept that running 42km through the boroughs of New York with 50 000 other runners isn’t going to raise the awareness that we think it will. There is even a real chance that the disease might be better known than we are, which is a bit ironic. Maybe even a bit arrogant.

It’s quite possible to do something like running or climbing a mountain just because we want to. Not for a cause. Not for cancer. And not in memory of a child who died tragically. And, whereas it might not seem possible in the world of faux-meaning and duplicitous depth, there is no actual requirement to attach a lofty ideal to it. People, in fact, have been climbing mountains long before we even knew what fibromyalgia was.

We don’t need to emigrate for “our children’s” sake, we can leave because we want to. We can stay in South Africa because we choose to, and not because we feel responsible for the elderly. Similarly, there is no requirement for us to hashtag “blessed” and “grateful” from our holidays in Mauritius. Sometimes it’s actually okay to let our hair down, revel in the lack of substance of it all, and just have a good time. Because we can. And, whereas it might be ridiculously important to appreciate every moment of the good times, letting everyone know that we do, or at least saying that we do, is pretty meaningless.

Of course, causes are good. And, raising awareness and some money can hardly do harm. It’s unlikely that a whale in Japan would object to someone donning a whale coloured T-shirt with a witty but thought-provoking catch-phrase on it in order to stop fishermen armed with a harpoon and some blood lust. But it’s also hardly likely to prevent it from ending its life in the whale blubber section of a Tokyo supermarket.

Social media along with virtue signalling has prescribed that social causes and search for meaning is valued above all else. Add a healthy dose of Jewish survivor guilt to this, and it’s little wonder that we have become a jabbering, nervous species who thinks that the only way that we can actually do something for the heck of it is if we attach something sad and powerful to it.

It’s time to let that go. It’s time for us to run a marathon with someone’s name on it because we want to. And not because it gives us permission to do it. And not because it absolves us of guilt about the time we spent training, the cost of the trip, and the fact that we are going to enjoy it.

We can climb Kilimanjaro “because it’s there” and because we choose to, not because somewhere, it’s a lesson in leadership.

And when we get to the top, of that mountain, or to the top of anything else, we need to feel 

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