It’s hard to be on the internet. My main motivation is to follow a few thinkers I admire, and exchange healthy ideas with the world. The tension comes from seeing things I cannot unsee — such as the venomous exchange between two people in a parking lot, with 100k+ views, and the thousands (millions?) of equivalent videos recorded and posted daily. About what exactly? It doesn’t matter – simply anger. This was the first thing coloring my mind this morning — purely as a consequence of refreshing my news feed.
It seems to me such encounters stem from deep identification with narrative — from ideas of right and wrong, and egoic drives, and tribal battles. But that’s mostly what it is… pure narrative. Hot air. Poisonous thoughts and emotions swirling like a tornado, but when the wind dies down, there is nothing of substance inside. Passionate and amplified rage accomplishes nothing beyond perpetuating hurt, fear, cynicism, and victimhood.
I believe unshakably that all us humans are the same. Deeper than narrative, deeper than persona, deeper than skin, deeper than country, deeper than pick-ANY-identifying-trait that seems to matter. Drop all of that, even for a moment…
We, in the deepest sense, are all born into circumstances over which we have no control and are simply trying to cooperate and be alive. This has been messy and violent and hard since the dawn of humanity, and probably always will be. This predicament is totally absurd. And we all share it. And we are not separate – never separate – never – in that sense. We’re all irrevocably connected to this absurdity and to each other and all the previous events that led us here. We are not tribes. We are a species. And the reason to be hopeful – is we all know it can be way more beautiful than terrible. We know this because we experience moments of beauty – even if only briefly.
The United States, for all of its flaws, is rooted in a dream for people to be free from tyranny and coexist peacefully. In the absolute deepest sense – it will always be this, always trying to be this, at its absolute core. This dream, whether it’s in the US, another country, or a unified global population, is never going to come from government coercion or flawless laws or flawless leadership or amplified internet rage. It’s going to come from individual people using their great privilege of “freedom” responsibly – to realize their personal selfish narrative is morally empty – and that any behavior that maximally serves them – leads to a world that simply doesn’t care.
To anyone living in the US who is “fed-up” and has a long list of people to attack and blame, whether it’s the person on the street who appears to be from an opposing tribe, or entire swathes of humanity – it is not the world that has to change. As you read this, it might be tempting to say “yea – I know people like that”, and roll your eyes. But consider a little version of this fed-up bitter person is probably living in you, too. I am not denying people are often wronged, or that they’re unfairly punched in the stomach. But to ensnarl oneself in hate by perpetuating further hate is a one-way door to suffering – individually and collectively. The ability to let go of this great drama, to seek silence as a refuge in all situations, is available.
Freedom is a great great privilege – but it is easy – TOO easy – to use this privilege to propel selfish dreams, as opposed to support each other. This is the terrible mistake – because once one has sufficiently binged their own tv series for long enough, where they are the star of the show – the victim – the struggling hero – they have officially missed and my never understand what real freedom should be about: simply trying to support each other being alive and well. The only goal that makes any universal sense.
Not only to my fellow US citizens, but to the entire world, this is an appeal to consider the freedom you actually have – if you are lucky enough to have it – and not to squander it all on yourself. That seems to lead to an unsatisfying dead end – not only for you but for all of us.
Happy 4th of July 2022 to the US, but more importantly, happy freedom to the world – freedom from your own hate, greed, fear, that may be stealthily lurking inside. Freedom from your personal stories and beliefs that reinforce your separation from everyone else – that make so many “others” appear as enemies. Departure from our own selfish drives is the only way to realize TRUE freedom, in a broad and lasting sense.