It’s a doozy.

I’ve always heard that once you get real with your content, be it writing, painting, video, balloon animals, or underwater basket weaving…that’s when you achieve success. For my part I’m not quite there yet — To borrow the words of a friend of mine I “hold a part of myself back.” I certainly held back in writing Be Water. I suppose I felt that if I injected too much of myself into the work it would be pigeonholed. Instead I opted to write a very broad overview of my personal beliefs around anxiety, depression, etc. as dispassionately as I could. I’ve found that in writing the second book I have to continually remind myself to “get out there” and stop writing what people want to hear, and start writing the things that may actually upset some sensibilities. Jimmy rustlin’ as I affectionately call it.

One of my biggest strengths and, simultaneously, one of my biggest weaknesses, is that I look at things from a 100,000 foot perspective. From a 10,000 foot view things are so very confusing. At a 100,000 feet vantage point you see a whole different picture. It’s still very confusing but things start to rhyme and similarities between seemingly totally opposite situations begin to reveal themselves. There is so much divisiveness going on in the world today on so many different fronts. Why is that? What has changed? Have we always been like this and just not realized it? Perhaps to a degree, but it’s the elephant in the room, and it’s what we’re here to discuss.

As a society we have completely forgotten how to relate to one another. The whole basis of our ability to relate to people is to be able to see their differences and respect them, and to be able to see their flaws and love them. We don’t do that anymore. We (and I do mean all of us) see differences and we get angry. We see flaws and we say, “Time to move on.” We see someone kneeling during the National Anthem and we say, “I would never do that, therefore it’s wrong.” We see people posting hashtags like, “#metoo” or “#yesallwomen” and we get our jimmies rustled because we can’t ideate what it would be like to be in another person’s shoes. All the while we’ve become addicted to sharing “our opinion”…. Case in point, this blog, Facebook, etc. etc. etc.

We’ve become so good at putting people in little boxes based on how they think. This box here is for the rich people, the poor, here’s the box for the liberals, the jocks, the geeks, and the basic bitches. Social media has served as a catalyst for this process, making it easier than ever to put people into their assigned boxes. It’s like a massive game of Family Feud — Drew Carey calls out your name, and the rest of the world says what box you should fit into. If you’re in the wrong box when that happens, you dejectedly climb out of where you thought you belonged and hop into the box which you’ve been assigned. And you learn the talking points. You learn what to share on Facebook. You learn what to wear, eat, and where to live.

Over the past two years we’ve tweaked ourselves out so much on “us versus them” that we’ve become totally dysfunctional. It’s ironic that Republicans and Democrats used to not see eye to eye, and we consider that the “good old days.” Nowadays Republicans and Republicans can’t even agree, and the same is true for the other side. As our world becomes more and more complex, our societal dysfunction makes the boxes smaller and smaller. Factions split off, smaller boxes are made, and our egos tell us that our box is the one and only correct one. We’re the ones with the solution, and, dammit, we have to do something about those other assholes before they destroy us! We know that’s what their plan is — We need to hit first and hit hard. Put ’em in their place.

If the definition of society is (help me google) the aggregate of people living together in a more or less ordered community, we are regressing as a society. It gets even more complicated when you consider that all the people who don’t fit in a particular box, who have ideas that don’t match well with anyone else, are becoming more pissed off at that fact than they ever have been. It’s akin to a high-school lunchroom where people can’t find a table to sit at, even though the lunchroom is constantly growing and new tables are being added. There will always be two or three kids eating lunch alone in the library. Those are the outliers. Those people are our greatest hope and our biggest weakness. Those are the ones that will either solve this problem or make it so much worse. Sadly, it’s usually only the bad ones that made their intentions known, because they have no qualms with violence.

If you’re a peaceful, loving, thinking, caring member of society who understands differing viewpoints, you aren’t helping anyone by sitting in the in the lunchroom hoping this all blows over. It won’t. You’ve got to combat ignorance where you find it, peacefully as you can, and continue to do so, day-in and day-out. You’ve got to reach out and meet people with different views and inject yourself into the cracks where they are dysfunctional. It’s hard work, messy work, but it’s literally why we’re here. If we don’t communicate, share community, and reach out to one another, we’re going to be lost. That’s when they start burning the libraries, and before too long, the fire will spread everywhere else.