Here it is, 2am again, and my mind is racing. I got a text from a friend last night which led to an hour long “catching up” conversation. I think I pretty much dominated the talk time; fortunately for me, this friend is a great listener who I trust would tell me to STFU if I was being a pill.
In talking and sharing ideas with this friend, I came to work through and clarify some new thoughts about how to talk/think about our common human traumas and crises we are all enduring at this time. Here are some of my conclusions.
First, living as a human on earth is a participation sport. There are multiple ways to play the game of life, but opting out of interacting with others is not a sustainable option. But “interacting” also has a much broader meaning than we are led to believe. You can interact by writing and sharing your words, as I am. You can also interact when you gather with others. There are ways of interacting to suit introverts and extroverts alike. Anything you share with others, such as time, attention, money or creative output, is interaction. (As an aside, the economy is only the part of our total interaction that related to money traded for good and services. The system of human interaction includes the economy, plus so much more.)
Second, the choices we make on how we interact are based on what we are capable of, what we enjoy and what opportunities are genuinely available around us. The first two requirements are determined by you individually, boiled down to: what are you good at and what do you like to do. The third requirement is determined by your circumstances, your surroundings, your environment, your family, your background, your economic and mental health status, etc. Most of these things are existential and, at least in the short term, are out of our control. Yes, you can change your environment by moving to a new city or state, but that’s a pretty drastic action and not one that is always possible. Generally, changes to our external environment happen slowly and are not controlled by us.
Third, it is a core function of humanity to use our interactions with others to build up, rather than tear down. Notice there is no object in that sentence. Every single interaction has the opportunity to build up or tear down. Being present and grounded and connected to others allows you to see and feel the effects of your actions on others and this is how you will realize whether you are building up or tearing down with your interactions. Ultimately, what we are all building is the web of humanity.
Once you can connect your interactions to the concepts of building up or tearing down, you won’t be able to unsee all the ways you are part of the web of humanity. You cannot escape this connection. You can choose to ignore it, but that is not sustainable in conjunction with a fully mentally healthy existence. All humans long for connection, to be understood by others. But there is a responsibility that comes along with that connection and that is building up, genuinely and authentically. It is your responsibility to humanity.
Many people try to amass power over others and then wield that power in interactions that tear down, rather than build up. This behavior is tolerated by a population without a clear sense of what their capabilities and desires are and what their environment offers for opportunities to interact and build. We see this play out in our political system ALL THE TIME. The amassing of power is not a partisan issue, but the way power is wielded does differ across the political spectrum. I won’t get too far down the political rabbit hole at this time. Just be sure to pay attention to who your candidates listen to and whether or not anything in their background leads you to believe they are capable of or even interested in public service before you cast your vote. I’m looking at you, Georgia!
Another way we can see these concepts play out is in the economy: money changing hands in exchange for goods and services. The pandemic has caused a huge disruption in the world economy, changing supply chains and logistics systems across the globe. This has caused some to rethink what we need to produce domestically or even locally. Every time you buy something, no matter how small, you are making a decision about how and with whom you are interacting to get that good or service. With so many of us addicted to shopping Amazon for almost literally everything, this no longer seems like a choice we are actively making. Perhaps that part of the economy should be upended as well. When you purchase from Amazon, you are building up the huge warehouse distribution centers with robots and low wage workers and tearing down your local mom and pop businesses. 20 years ago, the same could be said about Walmart. The same energy we choose to conserve by prioritizing our own convenience, quantity of good/ service and cost, we are actually taking away from quality of goods/services and interactions that build up local systems. We are all making these choices, just not necessarily very mindfully.
I think this is pretty heavy shit and it probably makes sense to stop here. If anyone has gotten this far, expect a part 2 where I plan to bitch incessantly about how people who fail to learn about/acknowledge or actively decide to fight against their connection to the web of humanity should be affirmatively shunned, ignored and/or proverbially beaten into submission to this philosophy because it is simply the truth. Note: I do not condone physical violence in any form. (This has to be stated clearly now because that is how far we have fallen.)