Tag Archives: Earth

The Human Mosaic

mosaic tiles

“I love pizza.”

“I love pizza, too! It’s my favorite!”

“What’s your favorite kind?”

“Deep dish with white sauce and chicken, tomato and spinach!”

“Wait. What? That’s barely even pizza.”

“Of course it’s pizza. I get it from pizza makers. What’s your favorite kind?”

“Normal stuff! Pepperoni. Sausage. Mushroom. Extra cheese. Tomato sauce. New York-style crust, preferably.”

“Sausage? Thin crust? Gross!”

A couple of human beings with a shared passion. And still disagreeing.

One of the worst things about me is my ability to make people feel like I don’t respect them when my personal tastes differ from theirs.

It might even be why I’m not married anymore.

Because my perfectly intelligent wife couldn’t flip through TV stations and pause on 16 and Pregnant or some other morally bankrupt show without me making some snide comment about it that made her feel like I didn’t respect her.

Because everything I do is so smart and righteous!!! Excuse me while I drink too much and air hump something, puke in the bathroom, and play Grand Theft Auto V all morning while I recover from the hangover.

I’m such an asshole sometimes.

“I love music.”

“I love music, too! It’s my favorite!”

“What’s your favorite band?”

“I mostly listen to whatever is popular on the radio!”

“…”

“What!?”

“I love peanut butter.”

“I love peanut butter, too! It’s my favorite!”

“Crunchy or creamy?”

“Creamy, of course!”

“God.”

“I love wine.”

“I love wine, too! It’s my favorite! What’s your favorite kind?”

“I like many wines, but lean heavily toward dry reds.”

“Ohhh. You’re one of ‘those’! I like sweet wines!”

“Like boxed white zin?”

“Yes!”

“God.”

I wonder why it is that so many of us have so much trouble accepting that other people have radically different tastes and points of view, then embracing and acknowledging that it’s not only okay, but preferable to everyone liking the exact same things.

“I love God and want to go to heaven!”

“I love God and want to go to heaven, too! Also I’m gay and pro-choice.”

“Burn in hell, sinner.”

Why do we fight it? Politics? Is that why? The political arena is a useful place for healthy debate and exchanging ideas. But out here, where 99 percent of us live, why do we treat people like shit because they voted for the other guy in the last election?

If an asteroid was going to destroy the planet tomorrow, I wonder how many people would care about who voted for who.

“I love reading.”

“I love reading, too! It’s my favorite!”

“What do you like to read?”

“French poetry, biographies, and romance novels. Want to borrow a book?”

“…”

We’re all different. But we’re all the same, too. We all have different interests and passions and beliefs.

Many people like sports! But golf fans don’t have much to discuss with auto racing fans. Soccer fans don’t have much to discuss with baseball fans.

Many people like sex! But straight people don’t like the same things as gay people. And the things that make one person feel good can feel like a violation to another.

Many people love beer and movies and food and clothes and dancing and charitable causes and writing and pets and an infinite number of other things.

Hobbies and passions that unite massive amounts of people. Yet, even within those groups of common interests, there are people with radically different tastes and opinions about what is “right” or what is “best.”

People knew it was okay to enslave African people like property and treat them shitty.

People knew if they hijacked airplanes and flew them into buildings that they would die martyrs and be rewarded in heaven.

People knew the world was flat and that the sun revolved around the earth.

People knew Y2K was going to cripple the world’s infrastructure.

People knew Bill Cosby was a good man.

People know they’re right and people who disagree are wrong. The people who are wrong know they’re right.

Maybe nobody really knows anything. And maybe thinking we do is holding us back from being the best versions of ourselves.

Maybe creamy peanut butter is actually better than extra crunchy peanut butter.

Maybe popular music is actually awesome. After all, it’s popular!

Maybe people who don’t like craft beer actually still like beer.

Maybe people who prefer white pizza actually do qualify as pizza lovers.

Maybe we’re always just too close to the mosaic to see what everything really looks like from the big-picture perspective. To see why that piece is here and that piece is there. And why they’re all different shapes and sizes and colors.

Step back and look.

A little bit further.

There.

Beautiful.

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The Great Mosaic

Image courtesy of adot.com

Image courtesy of adot.com

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.

Me-first.

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…

cassini-wave-earth-detail

We see this.

wave_earth_mosaic_3

Happy Earth Day.

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