On The Road to Find Out
A friend asked me what I think about what has happened on the world’s stage made so starkly evident in early October in the Middle East. I told him I believe the worst thing I can do is to think about it. Opine about it. Once I have done that, all else goes into supporting, defending, and promulgating my opinion. And at the end of the day, what I think about it doesn’t change a thing and can actually make things worse.
When I was a young coach and was besieged by second-guessers, a coaching mentor (Hi Jerry) once advised me, “Opinions are like a**holes, everyone has one and they all stink.” Especially true when my opinion is directed towards commenting on, judging, or opining on other people’s behavior.
This seems to be a time where I see the opinionated ones with one hand pointing a finger at another (unaware that three are pointed back at them, and one towards the Great Mystery), with a rock in the other hand.
It does seem to be a prudent time to contemplate the true nature of human beings. Are we more like what we are seeing, or are we peaceful and loving people?
I believe science when it tells me that only a very small percentage of human beings will kill another human being under normal circumstances, even when their own life is threatened. That percentage changes dramatically when one’s loved ones are seen to be at risk or targeted. (Read, On-Killing by LT. David Grossman). Governments take advantage of that factoid. The first step is always de-humanizing the “other.”
I said to my friend, instead of opining about what is happening, it’s probably more important what I am doing about it. I have absolutely no power to change anything that is happening in any kind of global way. I do have choices as to how I personally respond to it. So, what am I doing?
I’ve reached out to friends I know who have been, are, and will be profoundly affected and reminded them that they have a safe place in my heart and it is available for use.
I am committed to hearing as much as I can, as often as I can, even though it leaves me feeling troubled, heart-broken, discouraged, depressed, humbled, and impotent. When I hear interviews of those directly affected, what I hear victims saying is that the most helpful thing (after food, water and shelter) that another person can do for them is to listen. Listen to their story of what happened and what their experience is/was. Truly listen. Believe them. As much as possible, feel their story. Be a witness. No fixing allowed. (Fixing is not listening.)
So, that’s one thing I am doing, or at least trying to do. Listening not only to the voices of the contemporary victims, but also to the voices from the past. What is happening now is not new. Or unique. Ken Burns’ recent production “The Buffalo” tells a familiar story. I am re-reading Elie Wiesel’s book, Night. I watched the film, “Lakota Nation vs US.” Different people, different times, same dynamic, same results. AND this is and has been going on continuously on continents and countries that for America and most Americans, aren’t that important to us.
I am choosing to continue to look up and see what isn’t comfortable, rather than look down and go on about my day. There are two reasons. The first is that I believe that in feeling the stories, it causes me to be more humane and softer as I walk through the world I live in. I believe it will help me make more humane decisions in my daily life. As I interact with the flight attendants and clerks at the store; saying hello to people whose eyes I meet - my family. Seeing and treating them as human beings.
I am choosing to pay attention to the beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that could very easily make me (intended or not) one of the perpetrators. I perpetrate by not recognizing fully their humanity; unintentionally, unconsciously, unknowingly - to someone, some gender, some age, some race - multiple times every day. This time provides me the opportunity to learn more about how, when, where, and to whom I do those things. To gain better clarity about what I want to do or be.
One other thing that I hope is a result of doing the things listed above, is that the space in my heart that I spoke about earlier is growing larger, warmer, more welcoming and easier to access than before. Can that happen? As Cat Stevens once wrote, “I’m on my way to find out.”
I wonder what you are “doing.”