My favorite high school English teacher sought to make us citizens of the world. He challenged us to leave the protective bubbles of our childhood and learn about the vast collage of diversity and ideas that encompasses the globe. He wanted us to realize that there is more to life than just the tiny plot of real estate where we were born and spent our childhoods. He introduced us to literary tracts and world views that we had never before imagined. In the process he helped us to understand that we are all part of a vast interdependent network of people and ideas that transcend the narrow limits that we sometimes place on ourselves. He was the first to challenge me to explore and think beyond the barriers of time and place.
I may not have travelled to every part of the globe like my sister-in-law from Taiwan, but because of that teacher I was open to understanding and appreciating the cultural differences that she introduced to our family. I learned from her about an ancient culture that had often seemed so different from my own. I realized that while the two of us had grown up under very different circumstances and customs, we were literally more alike than different because of our universal human needs.
We are not alone on this planet. While it might feel comforting to isolate ourselves from the continuing problems of the world, it is a fools game to believe that we can close our borders and simply enjoy our good fortune while ignoring what is happening in faraway places. The days of using the oceans to protect us from concerns about foreign affairs are long gone, and thank goodness for that. We are a country of people from many nations and while our allegiance is to our own, our interdependence with the rest of humanity is a given that we cannot ignore.
The world is a gooey mess right now. People continue to get sick and die from a virus that has left so many families and nations devastated. The inevitable chain reaction of events stemming from the long years of sickness, lockdowns, loss of income and production has fallen down on all of us like a heavy hammer. People are warring with one another both literally and figuratively. Crime and mass shooting are on the rise. The people of the world are hurting and worried and even angry. It’s important that we try to understand that we are all on the rollercoaster of this crazy time together. Our goals should be to work as a worldwide team to help all people get past the traumas of the last few years. It will no doubt be a difficult time wrought with privations for some and sacrifices for others, but if we remain aware of not just our own little corner of the planet, but the needs of the entire world we will all make it through this dark and daunting time.
We never quite know if what we are doing from one moment to the next is the correct way of solving the multitude of problems that are stalking us. All we can ever expect is that sometimes our efforts will work and sometimes they will fall apart. We just have to keep unselfishly trying and hoping that we will find the answers to our questions before too many people are hurt. This will require us to open our hearts to suffering wherever it lives. It will no doubt mean that our lives may not feel normal for a time or that everything will forever change. If we are willing to set aside our politics and prejudices we can make it to happier days once again.
There is so much to be done. Complaining about the cost of gasoline is the least of our worries. We have to help those who are being crushed by the economics of the pandemic and war. We have to move beyond our own desires and realize that it may be a long time before we feel settled and secure. We are in for a long haul of Covid repercussions in the entire world. The sooner we accept that fact, the better we will handle the continuing difficulties that crop up. It’s well past time to quit the blame game and work together with all of the members of the family of humankind.
Each of us is a microcosm of the universe in which we live. Our bodies are very much alike under the skin. Our minds differ in cultures and beliefs but in the dark of night when we are honest with ourselves we must know that our desires are rarely that different from those of people in far away lands. We all need safety and love and belonging and self-esteem and self-actualization no matter where we were born or where we now live. Here in the United States many of us have opportunities and privileges that allow us to reach the peak of living as comfortably much like the lords of old. It is our duty to spread our good fortune to those who are in dire need both near us and far away.
I recall a time when I was at a baseball game with friends. The stadium was packed with fans. it was a standing room only crowd. One of my companions commented that if we just asked each person who was present to contribute one dollar, and we did that at every such venue across the world, we would be able to fund so many important causes without people even noticing the difference in their pocket books. I often think of his idea when I am paying twenty dollars to park and drinking a five dollar soda at such events. I realize that if those who are able, were to set aside one dollar each day of the year for worthy causes, the coffers for aide would always be full.
Maybe for now we need to all consider our individual places in the world and ask ourselves what more we can do and how we might come together rather than throwing darts and jabs at those whose ideas and ways of living differ from our own. While we quibble over the small stuff, the pain on the planet only grows. It’s time we rise up with all that has always been best about humanity and let there be peace on earth beginning with ourselves.