Imagine two eight-year-olds playing on a playground. Then the two have a dispute. Let’s say an argument over who gets the ball. One pushes the other. The other wrestles the first one to the ground. They kick and punch each other, and then a teacher comes to the rescue. She pulls them apart and marches them to the principal’s office. They receive all manner of lecturing and punishment. Parents are called, detention, restriction of privileges, etc. And we tell them, “This is not how we solve our problems. We don’t fight each other; we talk things out.”
What we don’t say to them is, “As you grow up you will see grown-ups making many mistakes. They won’t always get it right, but they will strive to be good people. They will strive to do the right thing and not resort to name calling or fighting over their differences. And that’s what you must strive for — to be the very best versions of yourselves.”
We don’t say that, because we don’t do it.
Collectively . . . as a society . . . as a culture . . . by demonstration . . . we are not striving, we are descending when we give way to division and polarization.
We have forgotten the axiom, passed down through the generations, in fables and stories, from the framers of the Constitution to respected authors, and John Lennon and Harry Potter and the state motto of Kentucky and even the Bible: United we stand, divided we fall.
Everything Is Connected
It’s easy to forget that quantum physics tell us everything is connected. It’s easy to forget because quantum physics is too weird and complicated to understand anyway. It’s also easy to forget that nature prospers on symbiosis, not competition, because we drank the “competition” Kool-Aid. It’s even easier to forget that our very existence in the adult world was only made possible through some measure of unity and self-sacrifice on the part of parents, teachers, mentors, friends, and community.
The Trap of Polarization
Ten minutes on social media or scanning the latest national news brings me sadness — not anger or self-indulgent righteousness, but sadness. I feel sad when I hear intelligent and somewhat thoughtful people falling into the trap of polarization. People I know, successful people, spiritual people, even best-selling author/thought leaders, falling into the trap, pitting one side against the other.
The worst of which was a New Mexico politician who said at a protest, “The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.” And the crowd cheered. It’s interesting to note that the protest was held over a church being told not to hold services in order to stem the spread of COVID-19. A protest over a church based on a book that says, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste.” A church that lives and thrives in a government that was formally established as a two-party system, with “checks and balances” to ensure fairness, equal protection, and the rights of the minority.
Then the other side resorts to name calling. For example, one of my all-time favorite actors De Niro, seems only to be able to pull up all manner of insults for the current residing president. And other well-meaning friends who whip themselves into hateful furies about what this politician or that one is doing or saying. One side hates the other because they dare to disagree with the current administration. The other side hates the current administration because they believe in an us-against-them kind of world.
The One Us
There is no them. There is only us. And the current state of our political affairs is merely a reflection of the current collective state of consciousness. Our consciousness. That means all of us.
And if you’re reading this after having risen from your meditation pillow or yoga mat, burning incense, and praying for peace, you’re a part of this too. We all are. That’s because there is no separation. We are one people, one humanity, that consists of many seeming individuals who have forgotten that they are part of the one — the one us.
I can no more decide that I dislike my left arm and begin an argument with it, than I can with my neighbor. I can’t yell at my left arm and say, “You’re wrong.” And then hit my arm, maybe even seek a doctor willing to amputate it. And neither can I dismiss my social media echo-chamber friends who lament over the current state of fucked-up-ed-ness.
But I am saying, STOP. Stop with the division. Stop saying that democrats or republicans, liberals or conservatives, are fucked in the head, because they’re not, they’re merely confused. Confused because they forgot. We forgot. That we are a one people. “One nation under God,” as it’s said.
Dismissing the Whole Because of the Actions of the Few
Stop falling into the trap — a meme, a quote taken out of context, a flurry of comments, an opinionation that boils your blood. Stop responding with conflict. Stop hating. Stop dividing. Stop thinking that you’re right, because you probably aren’t. Or then again, you are right, and so is the “other side.” Stop dismissing protesters because there is violence. There is violence on both sides, and most are non-violent. It’s easy to dismiss the whole because of the actions of the few. Don’t fall into it. Be as one. One people: black, white, brown, red and yellow. Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, and Hindu. Republican and Democrat, conservative and liberal.
The Cat is Both Alive and Dead
Schrödinger’s cat tells us that the cat is both alive and dead at the same time. I know, I know, the quantum physics analogy again. I can’t resist, because it’s actual science, and it’s been proven: an electron is both a wave of probability and an actual particle fixed in space and time, not either or. And you can be right, and so can they — even though there is no such thing as “they.”
When you open the box, the cat will either be alive or dead, but until you open the box the cat is both alive and dead. And you can be both right and wrong, and you probably are both. Schrödinger explained it like this:
WTF? We can only decipher this formula with graduate level physics. But the truth of it is undeniable. Things are not what they seem, until they seem. Which means our opinions are only fixed in space and time when we attach ourselves to them.
When we open the box, our observation of the cat will determine whether it is alive or dead. But if someone tells us in advance that the cat will be dead, then our expectation affects the experiment (the nature of our observation), and therefore the cat will most likely be dead.
Is the cup half empty or half full? Do we judge a class, a segment of society, a political party, a race or an ethnicity based on the behavior of a select few? Or do we decide that the cat can be both alive and dead at the same time? The point is that it is up to us as to how we choose to perceive the world around us.
We Are All Connected
Reality is not static; it’s made up of energy. And all energy is connected. You and I are connected. We’re connected with the starving child in Bangladesh, and even that guy in the White House. Yes . . . even him. And Pelosi and McConnell and Biden and Tucker Carlson and the Dixie Chicks and Di Nero and Limbaugh and our neighbor next door and the social media troller, the heavy metal rocker and the folk singer, the homeless guy on the street corner and the CEO, the immigrant child in a detention center and the gun-totin’-cowboy-hat-wearin’-republican.
We are also connected with George Floyd. When he died, a piece of us died. And we’re connected with Derek Chauvin. When he killed George, he was reflecting the collective shadow of humanity.
There is no us-and-them . . . unless we want our house to fall and our nation to spiral into conflict and chaos. There is no us-versus-them . . . there is only us. The current state of chaos and conflict is a mere reflection of us, of our consciousness, of our collective humanity. And we won’t pull ourselves out of it through division. Only through a recognition of our common humanity and a striving to be better versions of ourselves — each day, with each act, each word spoken, each gesture given — will we reach a culture, a society, a life, filled with peace and unity.
I Love You . . . Really
I love you. Even though I don’t know you. I love you because I am you and you are me. I may not agree with you, but I still love you. That’s my commitment to striving to be a better version of me. To love you, all of you, all of the time . . . anyway . . . without conditions.
Tropes, memes, and slogans feed the egoic part within us that wants to be right, and therefore the other side wrong. It feeds the eight-year-old within us who wants to name-call and fight. MAGA says we’re great, and the other side isn’t. Hating Trumpism is no better. It feeds the worst part of us.
No one ever said being a good person is easy. In fact, it’s the most difficult thing we could possibly endeavor to do. It means making sacrifices for the common good, it means admitting when we’re wrong and being willing to say, “I was wrong, I’m sorry, please forgive me.” It means loving the pauper, the poet, the politician, and the pitiful alike. It means acceptance. It means love. Yes, love. Love of all — all the shit and all the beauty, all the good and all the bad, and all the stuff we’d rather not have to deal with.
It means loving everyone and everything, as an extension of the great wave of probability that life is. It even means loving “that guy,” whoever “that guy” may be for you. It doesn’t mean I’m inviting him to dinner, but it does mean I’m accepting that I’m connected to him and him to me.
Full disclosure, I’m one of those guys who sits on a cushion and prays for peace and love in the world. And I also strive each day to recognize my shadow; the parts of me I’d rather not look at, and the parts of me that reflect all that is good and beautiful and meaningful in this race of people we call humankind.
Striving to Be Better Versions of Ourselves
United we stand, divided we fall. The axiom has been with us for some seventeen hundred years, and recurs throughout art and music, literature, and political action. Its truth is self-evident and irreducible. Our striving for unity is not. We cannot merely flip the switch on human behavior and be a different kind of society. But what we can do, is to strive to be more, to be better versions of ourselves. And we can begin by not falling into the trap of egoic positionality and polarization, by recognizing our connection and oneness, and doing the hard and scary work of taking small steps toward living as one.