Whether you like it or not
We are all in this together.
Whether you like it or not, this doesn’t really seem like something with which you can disagree or argue. I mean, at its very basic it’s a fact we all exist, we are here on this planet at the same time, and thus, we are experiencing this thing called life together.
Although, I mean more than that, of course.
From our first moments of conception, we are literally dependent on another. And once we are born, our brains are wired to bond with this person specifically, to gets our needs met - both on a physical and an emotional level - and this person is biologically wired to bond with us in return.
As we grow, we learn everything we’ll need to become our own person from other persons - language, locomotion, emotion regulation, how to tend to our basic physical needs. We start with the influence of one person, two; then slowly, our circle begins to widen.
Much of our development is how to live among others, like learning personal relationship skills, and societal norms and customs. Some of our most troublesome emotions even - like guilt and shame - are proposed to be an evolutionary product of keeping our position in the group healthy.
Nearly everything about us is social.
Nearly everything in us craves caring about something larger than ourselves.
It would seem only natural then, for all of us to get angry together too. To get sad together. To be scared together. To get frustrated together.
To care - at the very least - when other people are struggling. When other people are suffering.
To realize once and for all that we are creatures of both personal responsibility and communal responsibility and the two cannot be separated. We are - and need to be - selfish and unselfish. With the selfish we survive; with the unselfish we thrive.
But no more naive then pretending problems don’t exist in the face of overwhelming evidence that they do. No more naive then seeing the same distress played out over and over again and reacting the same way - as if what we are doing is working or worse, as if people have no right to their distress at all.
This kind of reckless dismissal is more than unhelpful. It is traumatizing in its own right.
And I don’t claim to have answers. I don’t claim to feel anything but helpless in the face of so much, but what I do know - as so many others have discovered before me - is that nothing will change in silence.
Acknowledgment is required for action.
I also won’t pretend that hope right now is easy, but hope we must.
Hope for a world not in which no problems exist as that hope is fiction, but one in which we can at least agree that we are better off when more of us are better off.
How to do that I also don’t know; my own hope waxes and wanes seemingly by the hour. As I was writing this though, I thought of an article I'd read not long ago, and an excerpt I'd saved that touched me. Re-reading it touched me as well - made me feel that hopeful spark - so it makes me happy to share it with you now.
While reading these words isn't much, I'll grant you, perhaps it's a start.
“There’s this thing called the Overview Effect. When people fly in space, they come back slightly altered. It’s very slight, but having had that perspective of the Earth without borders and seeing the beauty and the uniqueness of our planet compared to everything else that’s out there, you gain a greater appreciation for it. You also gain a sense of its fragility. You can actually look through and see how thin the atmosphere is; you realize that this thin layer is all that protects us from what’s out there in space, which is radiation and freezing temperatures. You become not only concerned about stewardship of the plant, but also of each other. We’re all in the same spaceship together down here on Earth, so to speak. It makes you feel like we ought to be able to figure out a way to get along with each other a little bit better, because we’re all team members.” - Michael López-Alegria (article by Adrienne Westenfeld)