Up close, it’s little more than chaos. When we’re in the thick of all the noise, buzzing around doing all those super-important tasks.
Money! Laundry! Groceries! Lawn care! Errands!
Buzz, buzz, buzzing around like bees, doing all this work on jobs that will never feel finished.
What are we doing? What are we looking at?
The Rat Race. Where so many of us are scrambling around to grab everything we can for ourselves. Mine, mine, mine.
Ever see Black Friday shoppers in a frenzy?
It’s like a frightening metaphor for how so many of us live.
It’s how I’ve often lived.
I used to think it was because I grew up as an only child. But maybe it’s just because I’m selfish.
Everywhere in nature not involving human beings, equilibrium is maintained because living organisms only consume what they need. Trees don’t soak up all the water and nutrients in the soil, depriving all other nearby plant life of what they need to live. The trees use exactly what they need to grow.
Lions hunt gazelles. After eating one, they don’t run around killing more.
But sometimes people do things like that. Needless metaphorical gazelle slaughter. We’re cruel to one another. We inflict pain. Lie to get ahead. Insult. Steal. Wound. Rape. Kill.
We do it because other people have different beliefs. Because they have different color skin. Because they live in other countries. Because they’re a different gender. Because they’re not as cool as we are. Because they’re weak.
Because we can.
I didn’t realize it, but the cultural story we all believe about ourselves is a story that’s only 10,000 years old. Humans have been around for 175,000 years. Life is 4 billion years old. So, 10,000 years is nothing. A relative blink.
We’re young. Young and stupid. Like when we were growing up, and we’d take toys from one another, and whisper secrets in the back of class about teachers and other students, or snicker in the halls at kids who knew they were being snickered at.
Up close, in the middle of all the shit, it feels chaotic and hopeless.
“There’s just so much ugly!” we say after watching the news. After driving through bad parts of towns and cities. After reading comments written by cowards on the internet.
But is there really? As a matter of percentage? If we really do the math?
I notice people holding doors open for one another. Smiling and exchanging pleasantries. Extending courtesies of all shapes and sizes.
The news doesn’t tell us about the people who donate their time and money at the local shelters and soup kitchens. Who band together to raise money for their friends’ cancer treatment. Who do immeasurable good.
The ugly gets a microphone and a video camera.
The beauty often gets ignored in the great mosaic.
We need to step back. It’s time.
Life’s Operating Manual
That’s the title of the interesting book I’m reading now. Author Tom Shadyac—an accomplished Hollywood filmmaker—asks readers to rethink many things. He asks a very thought-provoking question: Does life have an operating manual? A set of instructions, that if followed would see the world—and all its inhabitants—achieve an optimum state of being?
The gut reaction from many people—including, admittedly, me on some topics—will be to accuse Shadyac of being a dreamer. An idealist. Someone with a lot of interesting thoughts that are not necessarily executable because you could never get buy-in from enough people.
It would take a revolution.
Is this the world we want?
It would take an awakening.
Does the author ask the impossible?
I used to make fun of environmentalists.
I thought they were a bunch of namby-pamby liberal hippy morons.
When I was 21, I stood face to face with U.S. Vice President Al Gore in the summer of 2000 inside of the newsroom where I was working between my junior and senior years of college. He asked me about my career goals. I shook his hand, smiling, and answered his questions honestly, even though all of my goals have since changed.
I respected the vice president. I was polite. I try hard to treat everyone that way.
But in the back of my mind? I remember thinking his position on the environment bordered on lunacy.
This will not be a place where we spend much time discussing politics. But I do try to be transparent with you and it’s a topic I’ve mostly danced around. Intentionally.
Because I care about connecting with people. I think connecting with people is WAY more important than politics.
And political conversation, debates, arguments disconnect us.
I don’t want any part of that.
Because I respect you and want to talk to you no matter how much you agree or disagree with me. That’s the only way that makes sense to me. That’s the only way I can think of that gives us any chance of making the human experience a better one.
I have a mostly conservative and right-leaning political history. I was raised in that environment.
I’m politically moderate today. When I take those online political quizzes, I come out damn near dead center of the grid.
I’ve left behind the political ideals that stopped making sense to me based on my life experiences.
And I’ve gravitated left on some social issues, education and the environment as a result. All of those things have a very striking commonality to me.
They strike me as non-partisan issues. We politicize them so we can scream at each other on TV and radio and in internet forums and at political rallies and conventions. Our media accommodates because they like the ratings and the opportunity to help shape public opinion on editorial pages and via talking heads.
But the truth is, most sane people care about the general welfare of all people, an education system which functions effectively, and do not recklessly seek the planet’s destruction.
The vast majority of us don’t even think about it. How much has changed.
We were born into a world with highways and skyscrapers and infrastructure and where traveling the globe relatively safely are commonplace.
It’s what we know.
But not long ago, EVERYTHING was different.
Just 2,000 years ago—there were only 250 million people on the planet. Today, there are 317 million people in the United States alone, and more than 7 billion people worldwide.
It took 174,800 years of human life before there were a billion of us. It took 123 years to reach the second billion, 33 to reach the third and 15 to reach the fourth.
In about a dozen years, we’ll have 8 billion alive on earth.
The planet is filling up.
I’ll leave it to the experts and Chicken Littles to debate the health and sustainability of our planet’s natural resources. I’ll just listen to what makes sense to me and try to be part of whatever the solution is.
But I do think about all the people. As we continue to close in on one another. As our needs increase.
It’s going to become increasingly more important that we co-exist.
As the population increases, we need to make sure the beauty—the good—increases as well.
No Beginning, No End
We don’t have any hard edges. You and me. We’re mostly empty space. A whirling flock of subatomic particles dancing in the air, comingling with everything around us, including one another.
Our hearts have a measurable electromagnetic field it emits 10-15 feet from our bodies, causing our hearts to literally affect other peoples’ hearts.
At the risk of sounding like a namby-pamby liberal hippy moron, I’m really coming around to this idea of “oneness.”
That we’re all made from the same stuff.
Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
But not just with our planet.
But with one another.
I believe we are all intertwined. Connected.
That you are me. Sorry!
That I am you.
And that all those soft-edged particles of energy that make up our bodies, hearts, minds and souls can dance together if we can just take a step back from the chaos and see the big picture.
A change of perspective.
A step back from The Great Mosaic.
So instead of this…
We see this.
Happy Earth Day.