United We Stand, Divided We Are (Essay)

(Note: This mainly applies to my readers in the US, but I feel there is a message here for for everyone. Please read on, no matter what country [or planet] you call home. 🙂

I told myself I wasn’t going to get involved. I told myself I would stay out of the swirling political mess that’s consuming the United States. I told myself I would stay aloof, keep my emotions calm, follow the path of positive pragmatism. Yet, I’m getting sucked in.

It’s so easy to become negative, so easy to pick a side and deride those opposed. Yes, there is reality and facts. We need to stay informed and try to see through all the spin. But honestly, it’s exhausting.

I’m not going talk about candidates, parties, scandals, or what is being tossed around on social media. I feel like we’ve probably all had enough of that. If you don’t know who or what you are going to vote for, by all means, continue to swim in the toxicity. Just remember to come up for air once in awhile.

The US, and the world in general (environmental, political, and social), is extremely fractured at the moment, and this is what I would like to focus on. Much as mindfulness teaches us to see past our stream of consciousness, I think we all need to take a step back and look past our global, collective consciousness.

Obviously, there are huge issues facing humanity: climate change, terrorism, equal rights, etc. The list could go on and on, but let’s not spiral out. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately, as I bet a lot of you are. It’s not just the political rhetoric, but all the issues we are facing as humans. It adds up. Pick whatever scale you want (personal, family, community, city, state, nation, world), and I bet you can find conflict in all aspects of your life. If any of it was easy, you’d have solved it by now.

So here we are, nearing the end of 2016, and we are fractured. Things seem pretty bad, and honestly, they probably are. But here is where we have to separate from the stream of incessant input and take an outside look at humanity. I honestly think things are better now than they ever have been before. There, I said it.

Yes, we are fighting over who will lead the US next, and we may end up with a terrible president, but we’ve had bad presidents before and we’ve survived. Whoever gets elected, I think we can make it. And if we don’t, the world will go on. Germany survived Hitler (and learned a lot in the process). We have checks and balances in the US, and hopefully those will prevent us from going in that direction, if needed.

I know, terrorists are killing people, but humans have been fighting and killing each other for good and bad causes for millennia. It’s not just going to stop immediately, even if some of us have entered an “information age”. I’m not saying what they are doing is OK, but what I am saying is that if you look past the obvious drama and pain of it, I think there is far less violence now than there was in the world 1000 years ago. We have bigger weapons, but we also have more restraint in using them. This may not always prove to be the case, but so far, we are improving.

Yes, not everyone in the world is treated equally. I can’t speak for other first world nations, but in the US, we are moving in the right direction. It is a fight. There are lots of backward attitudes and “old human” ways of thought. You know what? There are tons of people who aren’t going to change their minds. Nothing we can say or do will help them move forward. They will never believe homosexuality is OK or feel a human is equal to them if they have a vagina or non-white skin color. But here is the thing: Humans don’t live forever. Those ideas will die out, replaced with more progressive ones and people who have compassion and empathy. Change takes time, and if you look back, we are much closer to equality than we ever have been. For some sad perspective, 100 years ago, women in the US weren’t allowed to vote. It hasn’t been an easy journey and we have much more to do.

Global climate change is a huge hurdle to jump, but we can only do the best we can. Humans can’t turn back time (at least not yet! :-), but we can all try to be part of the change. Even if the worst climate estimates come true, humanity will (probably) survive. There will likely be far fewer of us, and we may be stuck underground or in space, but I think we will find a way. We made it through the last ice age after all. With all our technology and information, we can handle what happens next. The world is definitely changing—and we are a huge cause of that—but it was going to change anyway. It was evolving long before we came along to observe it. That’s not to say we should be cavalier about our future actions—far from it. We have to accept what we’ve done, change what we can, and make the best of the results.

I know we still have a lot growing, changing, and progressing to do, but we’ve made such huge strides. Progress isn’t guaranteed, so we have to keep fighting, but don’t lose sight of how far we’ve come.

What I’m advocating here is thinking outside yourself. Try to see the bigger picture, both in your own life and that of your species. Try to look at life from someone else’s point of view. You don’t have to agree with them, but maybe it will help you have love, compassion, and empathy. And maybe that person is horrible, and you’ll realize your anger is justified. Either way, you’ll learn something.

Despite all of the problems you face, realize your life is probably better than any of your ancestors’ were. Love what you’ve been given and earned. You’re made out of material that was produced in stars. Let that sink in. You’re part of the Universe and always will be. No matter what happens, you’ve had your time on this planet. Cherish it and use what time you have left to bring good into the world and those around you.

 

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