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Pointless arguments over meaningless ideology
Presidential candidates, indistinguishable
Name calling, finger pointing, arms flailing
Shaky platforms and loose morals
Demagoguery always in style
Uncountable suffering delivered through the iron sights of a rifle
War, destruction, genocide all exposing the twisted potential of the human race
Uniforms adorned with sharp symbols promising ingroup affiliation
Meaningless conflict over arbitrary markers assigned by birth
Life can be unexpectedly cruel and swift in its delivery of pain
Moments of agony are all but guaranteed
Swift, poignant and effective in reducing us to tears
Experiences that penetrate our very fabric
…ripping out a very real piece of our soul
Hypnotic brands with swirly letters, cool slogans and catchy jingles
Societies built on consumption, addiction, status and pride
Invisible barriers between fellow humans, falsely justified on tenuous ground
So physically close to one another, yet feeling so impossibly far
Nameless employees, faceless corporations
Unquenchable material thirst fuelling existence
Long queues, big appetites; short tempers, small worth
Everyone trying to go somewhere, yet nowhere at the same time
Not all of us have won the lottery of a happy childhood
A stable place to feel safe and call “home”
A source of praise, acceptance and love
For all it takes is a poor domestic start on our life’s journey
…to leave us feeling permanently out of touch and lagging behind
Self-doubt and pain hit our teenage years, leaving lasting emotional scars
Why do our affections and interests deserve such ridicule?
A delicate balance to say the right thing, wear the right shirt, talk the right way
Anything to mitigate the pressure to fit in
Moulding our personalities to others’ tastes
We’ve arrived at adulthood and are no closer to feeling assured
It may feel like those around us indulge every primitive whim
While we dabble on the edges of uncertainty
Unsure what to do next with our lives
We’ve all made wrong calls and poor decisions
Amassed a list of regrets that make our hearts squirm with unease
And picked up destructive habits that we can’t quite undo
…some more fatal than others
Daunting and hopeless, it may all certainly seem
But wait, step back, take some time and reflect
When the going gets tough…
and it seems like there’s no way out…
Look inward. Deeper.
In moments of darkness, punctuated by sensations of doubt
We must remember that all of us fight our own internal battles
And it is our personal problems that define our collective humanity
We must dig through the depths of our hearts, navigating every crack and crevice
Unearthing compassion, patience and understanding at every turn
A sense of empathy and love will emerge for our fellow being
Their struggles become familiar, their stories our own
We will, inevitably, come to realise….
…We’re in this together
The older gentleman sitting beside you on a bus is may be frowning because he’s fighting a custody battle for his only child that’s invisible to everyone but himself. The tired looking cashier serving you has nothing against you; she’s on the 7th hour of her morning shift and can’t wait to go home and change into her pyjamas. Nested behind your colleague’s blank expression is a seething depression offset by recently losing a member of his family. You never know what hides behind a person’s defensive facade that they have erected to shield themselves from the maladies of the world.
Remember that people’s behaviour is often deterministic, and that enough nasty ’causes’ will produce a nasty ‘effect’. A lack of REM sleep, a petty argument, financial stress, an unforeseen injury, troubles at work, a recent breakup, etc… these things accumulate and will often influence a person’s unconscious manner of interacting with others. We must remember to not take everything personally and to give other humans the benefit of the doubt.
It’s hard to remember what feeling sad is like when we’re happy. It’s harder still to remember what happiness is when we are feeling sad. The transition from one extreme to the other is all but guaranteed in life. Realise that despite your elation, the person on the other end of the interaction may not be on the same circumstantial wavelength as you, and may have trouble processing your positive emotion because of it. And vice versa, too: someone riding a ‘high’ may have trouble sympathising with your lamentation. Neither example is indicative of a lack of empathy; rather, a mismatch between emotional states.
There is an almost insurmountable amount of suffering in the world today. Whenever you feel helpless and overwhelmed, know this: all it takes is one positive interaction with a stranger every now and then to help alleviate it. Our mood, after all, is heavily influenced by the sum total of social experiences we share with others. Everyone has a role to play.
It’s helpful to slow down sometimes. Be aware, observe. Remember that your perception of the world is just that–your perception. So much is happening all around us all the time, and just because we’re not there to perceive it, doesn’t make it less subjectively meaningful. Life unfolds all around us simultaneously and spontaneously, and often times, unfortunately, has the tendency to come inside without knocking before.
We all have our demons, addictions and vices. Our imperfections and weaknesses define us just much as our best features do. Despite our mightiest efforts, it’s much easier to notice the negative aspects of people, coating them with a layer of cynical judgement, than looking closer and noticing their redeeming qualities.
We have to remember that sometimes it’s not easy being human. We all have our quirks, insecurities and weaknesses. Rise to the challenge of trying to find the goodness within everyone you meet. Be slow to judge and fast to forgive. Be patient. Look for commonalities, rather than differences in your fellow human being. Love, accept and empathise.
We’re all in this together.