Okay, I've read through chapter five, and I don't think I'm ahead, so - for good or for ill - I'm going to go ahead and post my thoughts.
According to Ishmael, our culture's story is telling us that:
1) the world is for us, but needs changing,
2) this change is impossible for us to achieve, because humans are fundamentally flawed,
3) and even if this change were possible, we wouldn't know how to effect it because the right way to live is unknowable,
4) but we should try anyway.
The depressing part of this - to me - was how built into religions this is. We're constantly told that we would be sinful even if we always knew what good is (which we don't), but we should try for perfection anyway. As a result, we all spend our lives trying not to look where we're going, only to sigh to ourselves and say we're not surprised when we don't get there.
Unfortunately, I don't have any solutions to offer. I know too many people who have so much compassion that they champion every cause, shelter every stray, and spend their entire lives staring all the hurt and cruelty in the world right in the face just so they don't have to realize their own heart is bleeding.
There has to be a happy medium somewhere. I'm tempted to say more realistic expectations might help, but that's part of the problem, isn't it? The bar is already set so low that people don't feel moved to act. I guess my main question is: Is there a way to raise the bar without slapping people in the face?