The last few years have been miserable… personally, professionally, for myself as an individual and (in my opinion) for society as a whole. The new year is here, though, and it has the slightest hint of promise to it; the faintest whiff of healing, recovery and renewal. If you stop, remain very quiet and listen very closely you can hear that faint sound of laughter creeping back into the world on little cat feet.
We’re still embroiled in a horrible situation in Iraq. We have another four years of a lunatic president in office, and the country has undergone a rather massive tilt to the right. A tsunami has ended the lives, fortunes and hopes of hundreds of thousands of people. Hungry and homeless people live right outside my apartment building.
All these tragedies still exist, yet I really do believe we’re reaching the end of the slow ponderous swing of the pendulum and are poised to bring things back from the brink. I can’t really put my finger on why, nothing specific leaps to my mind except an overall feel to the air and the first faint hints of a pattern coalescing out of the chaos that our world has been as of late.
Maybe I’m just happy because my long draught of unemployment is over. Maybe the fact that my own agonizing trainwreck over the last three years has finally come to an end and I’m finally feeling like a normal human being again. I’d like to think, though, that my own personal recovery is just an internal reflection of the external forces that seem to be working towards fixing things in the world. It’s time for me to be healthy and whole again and Lord knows it’s time for the world to be healthy and whole again as well. I don’t think the latter hinges on the former, of course, I’m certainly not significant enough to reflect the hurts of society. I do think, though, that many of the things I have undergone in the last few years are symptoms of things that have gone wrong with society at large… unemployment, economic downturns, failures in life, love, loss of dreams and of hope.
I’m seeing things change, though. I’m seeing people working at coming together instead of tearing each other apart. I’m seeing people focus on issues and problems bigger than themselves. There’s a quietness about it that defies an easy analysis, though. Maybe it’s a reflection of society or maybe it’s just a reflection of my own wishful thinking but I’m really beginning to see a resurgance of people simply “caring” about things outside of themselves.
In the long run, the greatest thing we can do as a society is to care for each other. When we place someone else’s needs at least equal to our own we grow ourselves. We stretch our limits and we begin to see how much we have in common instead of how different we are.
I watched an interesting television show last week that focused on interviews with teens and young twenty-somethings in the Middle East. These kids were just like our own kids; they had dreams, fears, ambitions, goals and desires that closely mirrored us as a society. One shot showed a young Iranian girl studying the play Hamlet, and I couldn’t help but think how appropriate it was to see that Shakespeare and his keen insight into the human condition could be food for thought no matter the culture.
The show taught me an important lesson in understanding and in compassion. It reminded me that we are all laboring to get through this life the best way we know how and we all face many of the same big questions. It really helped punch home to me the awareness that we are so badly in need of compassion and acceptance.
One of the problems we face, though, is entrenched ideologies interfering with our need to reach out to one another. Our governments across the world don’t generally encourage us to view each other as the same so much as they encourage us to focus on our differences. We look at someone from another region or culture and we focus on their different skin color or religion instead. We view them as our “enemy” or as a commodity to be dominated or exploited instead of as a fellow human being who when push comes to shove is probably a lot like us.
I’m hoping that 2005 will bring a resurgance of compassion. I’m hoping that we as a nation will begin to rebuild some of the bridges we’ve burnt down over the last few years. I’m hoping that some of the countries that hate us so passionately can also learn to put aside their hate. It has to start somewhere; someone has to be the first one to put down the guns and the whips. Someone has to be big enough to turn the other cheek and seek out healing instead of hatred. I’m hoping that someone will be us and I’m hoping that it will be soon.