An Apology in the Midst of our Current Social Climate
Currently, within our culture, I get the feeling that it’s only acceptable to tolerate, to endure interaction with the general population. After all, they’re all idiots, right? It’s appropriate to denounce and ridicule one another. It’s expected that whatever has been created, music, YouTube video, music video, photos, art, movies, personal accomplishments in any area; or any comment on any of these be scrutinized and devalued, whether professional or amateur. Don’t even get me started on politics. Is any gesture more widely used than the combination eye roll and scowl?
I can’t deny it. I have a crazy, inexplicable affection for humanity. Not even an attempt to keep up with the latest political fist pumping and posturing can set me free. I thoroughly enjoy the company of people, in spite of the combination eye roll and scowl. Once you get that out of the way, people are often fun, interesting and not nearly as negative as they initially appear.
Please accept my apologies. I like people, and what they create. I like what they say and do and feel. People are infinitely interesting and surprising to me. I worry about all the fear I see that creates the need to dismiss and devalue others. But once you crack the shell of that fear, or distract individuals from it, harmony can—and sometimes does--burst forth. Whether it's because of, or in spite of our individual damaged parts and pieces, I don't know.
Here are just some observations I’ve made recently:
1. A Hero’s Born Every Minute
I’ve been witness to some really sad events. In every instance of tragedy, the people who are near have stepped up to assist, and to comfort in any way possible. Not everyone, but certainly most people. The worst situations are when those bystanders aren’t able to do anything. But even then, they stay; they worry and if they believe in a higher power, they pray. They keep vigil over the event. They bear witness, and it becomes a shared experience, a shared sorrow. It doesn’t take much to be a hero, just the willingness to be present. Here’s an example: When a child goes missing, the community responds. People drop what they are doing, and join in the search. They don’t get paid. They won’t have their name in the paper or a sandwich named after them at the local diner. They do it because it’s the right thing to do. It doesn’t matter what political party the child’s family may support or if they are even known to them. It’s a way to help and most people do it and hope people would do the same for them.
2. Little Things Mean a lot
I’ve witnessed, or been the recipient of the everyday kindness of thousands of people that I’ve known and not known. Have you seen doors held for someone whose hands were full? Have you seen traffic stopped for a family of ducks on a journey that takes them across the road at rush hour? Have you seen someone steering a tearful, lost child to an employee with an intercom? Have you noticed how successful benefits are for families dealing with illnesses? People turn out from the community not because they’ve been desperate for a genuine spaghetti dinner and raffle. They do it because it’s a small thing they can do to help. Perhaps these small things are no big deal in light of the immense ugliness out in the world, but I believe these small non-events shape us just as much, or more than the disasters. In fact, maybe its these non-events that become our subconscious guides when there is a monumental disaster, shaping us, leading us to donate money, or if we are in a position to do so, volunteer to provide relief, or help rebuild after a part of the world has crashed and burned.
3. The Courage to Create
Do you know the kind of courage it takes to create something and put it out there into the world, especially in today’s vitriolic climate? Art takes a backseat today to joblessness, broken economic systems, global warming worries, devastating natural disasters, wars and rumors of wars. Not to mention that all of these issues and many more put people on edge. The feelings of helplessness and fear that grow out of all of the real problems around us make us a bit snippy with each other; quick to find fault. But artists, the bravest anyway, still create. They paint, write music and poetry, sing, dance and they find new ways to create new things and combine old things to make new things. They do it despite the possibility that they may be ridiculed on social media or simply ignored. Whether what is created has value is certainly not my place to say. I know what I like, but that’s not the point. I stand in awe of the courage it takes to put oneself out there in a culture where often, something becoming popular--gaining a following, breeds contempt for the thing, without consideration given to the thing itself.
4. A Glass of Water in the Desert
We live in a desert of dry communication that sizzles on the surface of our lives. Frivolous interactions bounce around us like static electricity, lifting our hair, making us slightly uncomfortable, but not satisfying any of our needs. We are terrified of and desperately in need of the cool, clear water of meaningful discourse. But we don’t even know where to begin anymore. If a subject is meaningful to us, we tend to be angry and defensive about it and so we either stay angry and defensive all the time or don’t discuss anything meaningful. The people we elect into positions of power can’t have meaningful discussions without becoming angry and defensive, so how are we supposed to? I believe that in our dry, static lives, the oasis we seek is each other. We should come together more for more reasons, or for no reason. We should create more opportunity for face to face interaction and we should just create more. We should reach out and find each other and what we have in common. Art can do that. Go to more festivals and fairs. Make it a point to talk to people, any people while you’re there. Join an exercise group, maybe a bicycling club or a walking group. Work in a community garden. Volunteer somewhere. There are always opportunities online or in the newspaper. Step out of your comfort zone. Try something that you find intriguing but scary, like horseback riding, or learning to wind surf. Do things that open you up to more, more life, more people, more cultures, and more experiences.
The Thing is...
When we connect more, we learn more, we become better at communicating, our communication becomes more meaningful, and therefore our lives become more meaningful and rich. Maybe we can listen more and get less angry. The result being that we all have better lives and less to fear. Is this an oversimplification of some very complex societal problems? Probably, but if we can approach life and people with less fear, we will have richer experiences. Will we have pain resulting from these interactions? Sure, but let's face it. we're going to have pain whether we hide out in our quiet small spaces, or get out there. If we can go through our pain with others nearby to steady us, we're better equipped to deal with it. But that’s just my opinion, and I’m just one of those goofy, nerdy people who really like people. I've learned a lot from them. If this hub has made your eyes role with its annoyingly positive spin on humanity, please accept my apology, and have a nice day.