When are we going to wake up? How many more catastrophes are we going to have to endure before we realize that it’s not the big things holding us back from realizing our full potential? It’s the simple things. Saying good morning. Giving thanks for a kind gesture, or doing something nice for someone who may not deserve it.
People have predicted the end of the world since the beginning of time. We’ve developed superstitions and religions as a way of explaining that which we fear or don’t understand. When we see what goes on in the world and how insensitive some people can be, we perhaps develop a wall of protection. The thing about a wall is: whereas it may offer an illusory shield from undesirable occurrences, you also isolate yourself from the basic tenets of what makes us human.
The art of vulnerability is the essence of what it is to be alive.
The most primal of instincts is the need to feel protected. What protection most often looks like in this world is being violent towards others. Violence isn’t only the killing and murdering of others. Violence is also making unwarranted and unnecessarily rude or harsh comments towards others. Violence is not responding when someone says hello and shooting them a dirty look. Violence is treating a customer like you’re doing them a favor by answering a question about a product they’re about to purchase. Violence is being nasty to your server at a restaurant because you feel superior to them. Violence is belittling someone because you don’t understand them. Violence is making disrespectful or snarky comments on someone’s social networking profile because you don’t agree with their viewpoint. These are all subtle, albeit important, ways violence takes a seat in our daily lives.
It is my feeling that we’re far more influenced by the small ways violence and hate play out day-to-day than in large scale ways like natural disasters and mass murders. In fact, I firmly believe that natural disasters and mass murders are the direct result of how little things build up over time and explode after so much pressure has been accumulated. That type of energy can only be contained for so long and is highly combustible.
It amazes me that people can only grieve at the world on large scale issues, but the world dies every day and most could care less. But we can’t mourn every day, right? We have to pick and choose what issues will be important enough and ignore the others. If you’re having trouble selecting which ones to prioritize—don’t worry—the media will help you. There’s a hierarchy to human suffering. The media categorically politicizes people’s personal struggles to serve their story; much in the way that politicians exploit people’s fear to get your blind support.
If people can just get beyond the idea that they need others to do for them what they should do for themselves, we would really witness a balance in the power structure. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with needing or wanting help, but when it comes at the high expense of your individuality, it creates more problems than it solves. As it stands now—religion, politics, corporations and the media—take too much precedence in people’s lives. They have far more influence than they should. Quality is devalued and mediocrity is celebrated. Vulnerability is perceived as weakness and violence is regarded as strength. Everything is in reverse. Whereas those institutions should really serve the people, most people are in servitude to them.
We value our beliefs and public displays of sympathy more than we do people. We’re quick to talk about how there should be more love in the world, but blatantly disregard folks on a daily basis. But aren’t people what life is all about? Like skyscrapers of the ego, we erect these institutions as a way of showing how magnanimous we are when all they really do is give us something to hide behind so we can shirk responsibility for our own actions. This creates a class of people who, for the most part, are spiritually vacant.
Mental illness is as common as a cold. It’s so easy to subscribe to groupthink or to blame the big ticket items like the NRA, the Muslims, the Communists, the Liberals, the Conservatives, the Devil, etc., but who wants to deal with self? How many institutions foster critical thinking and encourage those who challenge the false constructs that divide the spirit from the body and the body from the mind? Those who have fought to dismantle the political and religious norms that formulate the basic structure upon which society is built have been historically dismissed as crazy while the real crazy people run amok free to reek havoc wherever, whenever possible.
Groups of insanity is the real mental illness. There is nothing more pervasive than that. That’s the cause of the world’s greatest atrocities. Hardly anyone wants to address that though. It’s much easier to say video games, mental illness, gun control, etc., is responsible for mass murder when the biggest mass murders are sanctioned by the same governments and religions that people put their faith in to save them from the bad guy.
The Middle East—one of the most violent places in the world—is land which is widely considered to be holy. Americans love to talk about freedom and democracy, but will kill and condone oppression to get it. Fanatics blow up buildings full of people and themselves “in the name of God” and believe they’ll be rewarded in heaven for doing so. Fathers and mothers abuse their babies because they regret the responsibility of parenthood. Our educators don’t impart the love of learning in class because either they don’t understand the lessons or are resentful of their salaries. But for every teacher who’s phoning it in, there’s that one who makes an impression on a young mind from time-to-time.
It is in these small ways that an atomic shift can happen which reverberates and resonates throughout the whole of society. This is where true revolution begins. We are confronted with these shockwaves of brilliance quite often, but the world’s attention span for beauty is becoming shorter and shorter. We are quite numb and jaded in that regard. If it ain’t big government, BBC or CNN, we don’t believe that’s It. But It is always around us and we have to power to end it when we choose. It‘s right at our feet, just as plainly as Dorothy’s ruby slippers. While we’re waiting for The Wizard, we miss the minute ways in which we can bring closure to destruction.
There will never be a grand solution to all of our problems. There is no one doctrine that could possibly take into account all of the contingencies. People have searched thousands of years for that and have always come up empty handed. In the interim, they’ve sold you a dream to believe in to make life a bit more palatable. That dream is a lie and, in the end, is more akin to a nightmare.
There is no secret. Nothing is the answer. We are here to live. We are here to be ourselves. When people feel they can’t be who they are, they revolt and take down as many as they can with them. Another’s belief is no threat to your faith. Because your parents didn’t ask you how was your day at school is not the flight attendant’s fault. No matter how much you’ve given—nor how hard you’ve suffered—nobody owes you anything.
Change your life; change the world. The power is not without, but rather, within.
This piece is dedicated with love to my brother, Jimmy Greene, and his family and everyone else who has had to suffer in these trying times.
- Nicholas Payton aka The Savior of Archaic Pop