We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same. ~Carlos Castaneda
In a recent podcast by Sam Harris, he interviewed Jonathan Haidt on his new book, The Coddling of the American Mind. They talked about our current culture of boycotts, call-outs, de-platforming, and outrage. A culture where the social prestige from doing so is a form of currency. Sam Harris often talks about the, ‘what kind of world do you want to live in test’ and do these actions take us to that world. I pondered this question over the past couple of weeks and here are my thoughts.
I want to live in a world where we can still be whole people and loved even in the face of our fallibility. Where a person can mess up and still be forgiven. Where a person can be vulnerable and intimate and risk not choosing the right words in doing so. Where a carefully crafted response is not a substitute for authenticity. I think of the times that I have been out of line, or irreverent and am thankful I have people in my life who can see all of me. Even see past the unsavory and still love me and call me their friend. I’m scared we are losing the ability to hold space for the whole human, unpolished and raw. Especially in our online world, we shove people in boxes of pro-life or pro-choice, red or blue and reduce them down to a single cause, group or ideology to determine if they are with us or against us. We now gather and identify in groups not only based in commonality but the common enemy.
I want to live in a world that allows for complex conversations and nuance. A place where dualities exist and it is okay for people to hold two ideas at the same time even if they don’t fit nicely into a narrative. Where someone can sit with another’s apparent contradiction and not use it as an opportunity to call them out or gain social prestige. A world where nobody is forced to live in a black or white polarity, they can be Christian, pro-gun, pro-choice, and pro-gay marriage and that speaks to their thoughtfulness and self-reflection rather than their hypocrisy.
I want to live in a world where people can acknowledge their wounds but not have to lose their agency. A world where we’ve unplugged from the story of our powerlessness and into one of collaboration and cooperation as we build a better one. We lose so much when we choose to rally around victimhood as our path to equality. In viewing things through the lens of our wounds, we create more of want we don’t want – abuses of power and control. Birthing something new requires a new story of empowerment for all, not just a group.
I want to live in a world that is just and not necessarily fair. In a just world, we own our own will, meaning that we have the right and the equal opportunity to make our own choices. Fairness, on the other hand, is about equality of outcome based on a subjective opinion on how we think things should be. There is nothing to be gained from forcing people to act in a certain way, not allowing them to speak or shaming them into compliance. Free speech and expression of our own will are hard to retrieve once they have been lost. I’m not prepared to concede to a world that is subject to a certain individual or group’s beliefs about how things should look. We are not entitled to have our feelings protected, however, we are entitled to freedom of speech. We shouldn’t so easily put our wellbeing in the hands of others, letting their words or actions affect us unless it is truly warranted. I’d rather live in a world where we risk offending someone but can have an open, and honest debate, then jeopardize our ability to do so.
I want to live in a world where compassion, kindness, and forgiveness are of the highest value. A place where we extend good faith to others rather than assume malicious intent. I remember reading somewhere that forgiveness is when you are able to pull your energy out of the situation. So when that situation no longer consumes your attention and resources then you’ve shifted into a state of forgiveness. How can we ever do that if we have to confirm and re-affirm our stances on things and stay focused on our past wounding, rather than healing and moving on to construct something better?
In this time of great revealing which I know is a necessary step, I hope we can think about where we want all of this to go. It has to be about more than just revealing and tearing down what we don’t like – forgiveness, and paths to redemption need to be part of the conversation. We have to think about the world we want to create and I don’t know where you hope we end up, but is our current trajectory taking us there?
I’d love to hear your thoughts about the world you’d like to live in.