Hello Celebrationists, hope your Monday was pretty fantastic.
- I am grateful for a surprise visit with a wonderful friend
- I am grateful for air conditioning
- I am grateful for clean laundry
This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about the role that desire plays in our ability to be kind, compassionate, empathetic members of the world. I don’t mean desire in the romantic sense (though, it could be) – but I’m referring to wanting. Wanting to understand, accept, and find genuine beauty in people, lifestyles, and situations that are nothing like our own set of experiences.
I’m currently working on a piece of theatre that, among other things, shines a light on the wonders that can occur when communication, hope, and a willingness to understand what lies deep within a soul, are present. The story shows two cultures that are vastly different – they barely have language in common. And yet, when there is desire for understanding, a passion for remaining open-minded, and a commitment to learning something new (instead of holding fast to what we think we know best) the most powerful and poignant beauty can be found.
As these themes dovetail from the stage and into my life, I find myself being hyper-aware of the way I respond to situations and people I don’t understand. What are my natural gut-reactions? What are some of yours? When you encounter a person who moves through the world in a way you don’t have common ground with, do you find yourself…
- Feeling threatened?
- Feeling curious?
- Feeling dismissive?
- Feeling angry?
- Feeling self-righteous?
- Feeling the need to educate or correct?
- Feeling intimidated?
- Feeling shut-down or less-than?
- Something else entirely?
Probably you don’t feel any one of these things on a consistent basis, I’m sure it varies greatly, depending on the circumstance. But I have noticed, for myself, that if I’m not careful to make a conscious choice in the matter, it can be so easy to fall into some shade of negative feeling, before I take a moment to pause and give the person or situation a real chance. And we’ve seen all too well what can happen in the world when people make hard and fast judgements about people they don’t understand. So how do we promote understanding? How do we promote listening? How do we promote the sometimes hard work involved in looking at another life and connecting with the unfamiliar?
I keep finding myself back at this word, desire. When desire is present, it is astounding – the lengths a human being will go to, to discover, uncover, and accept a particular person or idea into their life. When we want to accomplish something, or arrive at a certain feeling, we are so much more likely to make the time, create the headspace, and do the necessary emotional work to achieve our objective.
So if arriving at acceptance, love, and celebration is rooted in desire…how to we cultivate it? How do we encourage ourselves to want to understand, to want to stay open, to long for the reminder that we all have so much more in common than we could ever imagine?
I think a potential answer might be found in exploring the opposite. What shuts down the desire for connection? I feel like this is a much simpler question to answer: fear.
If fear is at the root of our quick judgements, our feeling threatened, our dismissiveness, how do we move past it, and arrive at a place of open curiosity? This is a question for the books, and I don’t have the answer. But here are some thoughts that I do have…
- Getting outside of our “bubble” – whether this means literally hopping on a plane, or just exposing ourselves to the unfamiliar through podcasts, books, and putting ourselves in the position of meeting all kinds of new people – the more we expose ourselves to, the more we will learn. And potentially, the more we learn, the less fearful we will be. I find that most of my fears come from what I don’t know, or don’t understand
- Connect with your inner child – yes, this phrase may be the “hippy-dippiest” thing I’ve written in this blog thus far, but seriously. When we were children, we weren’t bogged down by biases yet. We didn’t know to hate, judge, or fear. Though we’ve all changed and developed considerably, that sweet little person is still a part of us. Try making a practice of looking through that set of eyes
- Know the risk, but do it anyway – Of course, when we open ourselves up to anything unfamiliar, we run the risk of being burned. Of being rejected, misunderstood, or hurt. But it is possible to know this, and then choose to look anyway. Choose to see and ask questions, and get our hands dirty. Choose to let our curiosity take the driver’s seat, and relegate fear to the trunk
- Action – I feel like the answer to dealing with most types of fear, is action. Sitting back in silence gives fear the opportunity to brew and fester and rage. Reaching out, speaking up, and moving forward will always make us feel most at peace, even though it can be hard to take that first step
It’s easy to recognize the toll that fear has taken on us, on a global level. But what isn’t always easy to see is that it starts out small. It starts with the person you casually make fun of, when you think no one else is listening. It starts with the person you won’t look in the eye because their way of life makes you uncomfortable. It starts with silence. It starts with gossip. It starts out so. small. But what if we could cut it off? What if we could do the work necessary to cultivate desire? To cultivate a passion for understanding? A passion for curiosity?
Want to join me in the pursuit?
Have a great week Celebrationists. Let’s be good to each other.