I always used to think of myself as a bit wishy washy, so easily persuaded from one side of the argument to the other, an easy sell even. I was always jealous of those who identified so strongly with a particular cause, social issue or way of life. They all seemed to look so comfortable and secure with their like-minded friends. From church groups to school cliques, nothing ever seemed to be worth the fight for me. It may have partially been due to my inherent laziness or lack of fiery passion, who knows. But I’ve since come to embrace my grey area, middle of the road thinking and now feel it’s a virtue.Some people believe that humans are a disease, that we are a collective virus with only the power to destroy ourselves and our planet. Some believe in the inner goodness of human kind, that we can do great and wonderful things due to our capacity to love that no other species has. Again, I find myself wandering down the middle of that street, nodding my head in both directions. I believe in the humanness of human nature, a blend of extreme selfishness and the need to help our brothers and sisters. We are a paradox within ourselves, just waiting to explode. And we play out this paradox of life within the confines of our day-to-day lives, having so many opinions about right and wrong, good or bad, left or right. To quote Shakespeare, “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” What is good to some is considered bad to others and vice-versa. How then, do we start to make sense of these matters and decide which side to identify with and how we should define ourselves? Or should the real question be, why do we have such need to define ourselves?
So many issues, so many points of view, so many takes on life and why we are here. Guns or no guns? This God or that God and which book did she write? Let your kid cry itself to sleep or hold it tight through the night? Who am I to say who is right and who is wrong? I don’t attend rallies, I don’t go door to door to push any cause or religion, and admittedly, I rarely vote. But at the same time I know there is need for all of this in the world. We need those passionate people who are so inclined to show everyone what they believe is the right way to live, to be, to vote. If we didn’t, we would be a large group of misinformed, complacent zombies. Where I believe we got lost is our ability to have empathy, to have a point of view yet understand that others may think differently, to listen to a person’s story and feel the way that they feel, if only for a moment, and to know that there is no way we can fully understand their journey as if it were our own, and make a decision for them that we believe is in their best interest.
This lack of empathy is the ego that lives in all of us. The need to be right and call you wrong or to fit perfectly within the pretty little box labeled Democrat, Christian, Pro-Choice, etc., is the ego trying to feed itself and feel it’s self-worth. And when we feed it, we separate ourselves from others and become further away from compassion and empathy. We become so self-centered that it is hard to see past our own convictions and bloated opinions. If we could only learn to recognize this voice in our heads as just that, a voice that says “feed me and I will define you and put you in your pretty box”. Maybe then we can tell it to shut up sometimes, we can learn to be still and listen. We can begin to feel the world and those around us and hear a different story or see a different journey, and realize that we are not so different after all.