We know things, seek information daily, value facts and data (we even pay for it!). Some refuse to see the actual cost of all this information. We don’t know each other: in some cases we’re trying, but in truth, we’re overwhelmed by the chasm between differences, and all the info in the world can’t help that. If we reach for each other and share willingly, at least, there’s hope for connection, for authenticity, but we have to see ourselves and others as fully human: bad breath, bad habits, sparks of goodness, all of it. Making room for each others’ failings— while striving to make better our everyday situation—is the humble beginning.
The challenge comes in doing this for those deemed unworthy (whatever that might mean to you—we each have our prejudices). Striving to eliminate those prejudices and replace them with real experiences—not fantasies or imagined doom, fueled by all that’s wrong with modern communication—is where the real work of connection begins, and where some of the suffering can start to abate. The kind of racist, misogynistic, thoughtless grandstanding that’s happening lately exists because those who spout it have not had a real experience of difference, and find themselves only able to talk a streak about “they” and “them,” missing others’ realities. In addition I’m convinced that those who spout hate have themselves deep wounds that might be too hard to heal.
The radical shift of mindset I’m naming here (and I have for nearly two decades suggested to my students, and myself explored) can change the world as we know it. Once this change is underway, we can make room for the more authentic human self, engender acceptance on all levels, and live real mercy and compassion which heals even the deepest cuts into the soul. Unless we take seriously the replacement of prejudice with this level of engagement, life will continue to show us a stream of vitriol which has no basis and fuels a nothing movement of anger founded on dust. Unless we listen to the voices of those with whom we disagree or distrust and have a real exchange (not grandstanding for the sake of being right), we’ll simply continue to follow a pattern of chaos. Finally, once we have tried our best with mercy, if we do not take a stand against moral wrong, which causes human nature to break down, then we are part of the problem. Cultivating goodness and shunning malevolence has to be a daily discipline from within and without, each contributing a small part to the whole. The explosion of hate leaves no room for anything to flourish. We are not free to do that, because we cannot afford it.
All of it begins with the willing act of kindness, acceptance, seeking understanding, not just information. I am not willing to stand by—will you jump in with me?