So I’m a short, chunky, 40 year old who lives in the middle of Amish country in Lancaster PA. I have a wife, two kids and a dog, we all live together in a small brick ranch style home in the suburbs and I drive a Toyota.
Yep that’s me living the American Dream.
But I have a problem… it’s actually a huge problem.
The problem is, I’m not happy.
Now wait, before you start berating me about being an ungrateful jackass let me explain. I’m not happy that I have this comfortable life, a wonderful family, and devoted and loving friends while people all over this world are hungry, abused, neglected and forgotten.
It’s not fair.
And it’s not fair because I’m not anyone special, or any more special than any other person on this planet. I’m just one string in a beautiful tapestry that makes up the human race. One unremarkable strand in a sea of complex textures and colors that when looked at through the lens of history is all but invisible. Everyday, all day, people mill about on this big blue marble; living, breathing, loving, caring, crying, and dying. Believe me, I know how this all sounds; it’s defeatist humanism at its best. But as I said before I’m not happy about it. I want to be more than just a thread, more than just another cog in the economic/political/social/religious machine. I want to be the monkey in the wrench. I want to be the radical, the heretic, the boat-rocker, and the world saver!
But "The Office" is on tonight and my taxes are due.
I have come to realize that the problem is not all the pain and suffering in the world today, the problem is that we have gotten used to it, somehow removed from it. It’s something terrible that’s happening over there, and we’re over here ranting on Facebook and Twitter about how frustrating it is that the new iPhone 5 has a different proprietary charger than our 4S. Look, I’m not trying to lay a guilt trip on us today, the truth is that while I have mentioned a few trite issues, I am more than aware that all of us deal with some real struggles in our lives. I know that there are people reading this right now who are dealing with serious loss. I’m more than aware that most of the people around me at this coffee shop have been crushed, trampled and- just for fun- have had their spirits and dreams spit upon.
I would never what to denigrate or dismiss the fact that pain and heartache are everywhere, not just in third world countries. Right here in the good old U.S. of A grief and misery are alive and well; tucked in and taking nourishment in the suburbs and they roam the streets of the inner city. No one makes it through life without anguish and on some level we all have the right to bitch, granted we could be a bit more selective about some of the things we choose to weep and gnash our teeth about, but, the fact remains that as R.E.M. once stated: Everybody Hurts.
So, perhaps the answer to this lies not in the obscurity of my personal string…or yours, but instead on the way that each thread binds all the rest together. Maybe its not in the invisibility or visibility of our impact, but instead on how we daily remind ourselves that we are to be a unifying presence during our time here on Spaceship Earth.
Remembering that our value comes not in standing out, but in standing with.
Our purpose comes from recognizing the blessings and gifts that make up “us” and looking for those places that we connect with others and seek out ways of strengthening their hold in the fabric of humanity. Maybe by doing so, we can come to the point at which we no longer simply see or focus on our particular position but instead how we are all, each one of us, a collective tapestry, a breathtaking representation of all things possible as a species, throughout the whole of history both the ugly and the beautiful.
As we spend the month of October here at The Authenticity Project, focused on Global Awareness and how we can all strive to make the world a better and more compassionate place. May we all take some time of reflection to look not just at what is wrong with the world, all the pain and strife. But how we are connected to others and what role can we play in strengthening the bonds of this blanket of humanity with all its rich textures, colors, and patterns and how important and unique our single seemingly insignificant string can be.
- Erik Ewing is the Program Director of The Authenticity Project and Facilitator of the Definition Collective.