Humans fascinate me. Everyone has something interesting about them. It may explain why the introverted me somehow finds a way to chat up a stranger and get their whole family history out in a matter of minutes. Like this one time driving with a friend through Utah. We happened at a gift shop run by a young man. Before you know it, I was deep down his Mormon family history with an army of aunts, uncles, cousins, and juicy details. "But my brother and I are not THAT kind of Mormons," he said. "We don't have multiple wives."
In last week's post on How I feel About 2021, I mentioned a writing experiment with a fellow writer, Ric Leczel. He reminded me of something I wrote on my website. It goes like this:
I get why everyone pushes the idea of self-esteem and feeling good about yourself. People want to feel good. But seriously, no one ever feels good all the time. Those who chase the feeling end up drinking and driving through life inhabited by the illusion of a good time until they crash in a field somewhere nowhere with an empty bank account and ruined relationships.
Ric wrote to tell me that's where he's been many times before and had the pictures to prove it. At present, he was signing divorce papers, going over his prison poems from years ago, and writing his heart out to process it all and then some. Back and forth the planning emails went. I formed a mental picture of a tornado of fears, hopes, confusion, good intentions, dreams, regrets, insecurities, and curiosity. I had a convenient term on hand provided by Ric himself – a Ric-cident. He applied it to the mishaps and incidents in his life.
I went a little further.
If I could put the minds of all Americans in one brain, excluding the top 1% of elite gazillionaires and all career politicians, it would look like a Ric-cident, as the nation thrashes around in a tornado of fears, hopes, confusion, good intentions, dreams, regrets, insecurities, and hopefully, still some curiosity. I am conflicted about those excluded because I am not sure how "people" they are. Mostly they remind me of puppetries and James Bond-style villains with aspirations for world domination.
Take a look at the image above. Who, in real political and business life, do these guys remind you of???
Ric's identity clarification quest leaves a progress map throughout his writing. He started with "Red Neck, White Skin, Blue Color" but realized his multiculturalism. He wrote about it in Multi-Racial in America. Eventually, this self-reflective exploration caused his publication to change its name and tone to Compass Star Wordsmith. Meanwhile, in our collective Ric-cident we struggle with those same ideas, but I am not sure we've made enough progress. Individually, we still divide ourselves into white vs. all others and find ourselves conflicted on a very fundamental level. Our biological and social DNA exposes us as an amalgamation of cultures, hereditary or acquired through lifestyle and experience. Yet, we cling to specific identities and suffer the conflict of contradictions and hypocrisy. Collectively, we function as a nation with a multiple personality disorder. Different personalities chime in whenever convenient, asking for whatever they can get, and sometimes war with each other.
The nation of hope and E Pluribus Unum bangs its head against the wall in desperation and falls to pieces. Who is there to put it back together again? Of course, everyone wants a slice of the pie. But pie delivery is only available to certain addresses. Everyone else is free to choose between a leftovers casserole and a surprise lunch bag that may or may not contain a prize. The food fight morphs into a blame game in which we blame everything and everyone, including ourselves.
At the same time, we manage to do nice things for each other too. We learn from each other, adopt shelter animals, and contribute to GoFundMe campaigns. We make inspirational art and invent life-saving technology. We rally around ideas of justice, even though we can't agree on what justice is, who needs it most, and what it should look like. But our collective heart is in the right place, and so are our intentions. We hope to figure it out, but we fear that time is running out.
What if America became more honestly self-reflective, like Ric, who dug deep to rethink his definitions. What if we focus on the Unum and own the Pluribus the way a dog owner can't choose a favorite dog of all they’ve owned? We've already seen the negative effects of inbreeding - hip dysplasia causing pain and instability, vision problems, and short life. Also, puppy mills and people making crazy money by segregating dogs by breed. Meanwhile, most dog owners have mutts with fun names like ausiedoodle, pithuahua, schweenie, shorkie, and "I don't know." I could argue that dog owners live happier lives focusing on the love, not the breed.
I don't claim to know how to stop a tornado. But when in trouble and in doubt facing tough choices and uncertainty, I try not to run in circles, scream and shout. Instead, I put my thinking cap on and make a list of what I don't like and don't want. Those are easy to figure out based on past experiences I wish not to repeat. My next step usually involves taking a macro perspective of how I would like to feel about myself, my life, and my work. Things like family, friends, freedom, health, financial stability, having a positive impact and creating more choices, make my shortlist for consideration. Starting with the end in mind helps me strategize how to get there. Ideas pull me along, and plans facilitate the trip. If I find a better plan along the way, that's great! I'll get to where I am going faster. I take the fork on the road whenever I see it. What if, as a collective mind, we take a macro perspective of ourselves, life, and work and decide what we universally do not want, then calibrate our individual behavior accordingly? You know, kind of like Kant's Categorical Imperative "Act only to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law." We've got a lot of practice compartmentalizing and fragmenting society into ever smaller groups, trying to satisfy immediate demands by taking from one to give the other. Have we forgotten how to unite based on universal principles and a long-term, mutually uplifting vision?
Perhaps, America needs psychosynthesis to integrate the various aspects of itself, to evolve, and self-actualize. According to the father of psychosynthesis, Assagioli, the will provides the capacity to make conscious and conscientious choices about where to direct awareness and how to act. Introspection affords the opportunity to identify and explore one's experiences. Undergoing a process of disidentification from these experiences helps us move through life without getting stuck in a particular way of existing. It also provides fluidity to explore newness and different ideas. Synthesizing our subpersonalities into a larger organic whole may be our only way out of a collective Ric-cident.
Meanwhile, Ric continues his journey, exploring a common theme in individualistic cultures – success! We value success, in my humble opinion, because we see it as the remedy for insignificance in a world where only the successful are considered worthy. In other words, we conflate the ideas of success, significance, and worthiness producing a cytokine storm that takes many lives. But is significance a measure of success, and is worthiness a function of it?
You can't answer these questions until you answer what success is to you? What does it look like to you? Not everyone imagines a fancy suit and a briefcase, a yacht, or a private jet. Some people see smiling faces at family dinners. Others see themselves on top of Everest. If your idea of success looks like something from a Facebook ad, you are zombified. Someone's got your brain in an algorithm. Uninstall the app.
Instead of telling you what to do and think, I'd like to show you what this self-introspection process looks like in real-time. Read Ric's post coming out this Friday with questions he struggled with around the topic of success and my answers to him. Perhaps, you had those same questions but didn't know how to ask. To get his post, subscribe to Compass Star Wordsmith, and it will come to your email.
Different (International) Perspectives On How To Handle The Pandemic:
Australia – after shutting the border for 600 days, will allow visitors– if they come from certain countries. First New Zealand, then Singapore (NZ is about 77% vaccinated, Singapore – 83%). "In Australia, where 83% of people aged 16 and above have been fully inoculated against the coronavirus, nationwide vaccinations are voluntary. But states and territories have mandated vaccinations for many occupations and barred the unvaccinated from activities such as dining out and concerts." Oh, and they have done it in draconian ways!!!
Austria – Monday, Austria instituted a lock-down only for unvaccinated people and people who have not had COVID. Probably the strictest measure in Europe. Austria is 68% vaccinated.
Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Slovenia are among the EU countries to have introduced some form of Covid pass, writes The Guardian. While Denmark adopted a pass in April, it is now suspending it with 80% of the population fully vaccinated.
The UK is going back and forth on the issue of Covid passes, on again off again. The UK is 75% vaccinated.
The United States is 69% vaccinated, behind many other countries, including Cuba (88%), Sri Lanka (72%), and Bahrain (72%). I bet you can’t even find Bahrain on a map!
Everywhere vaccine mandates and Covid passes are pissing people off. However, every country that has them has seen a huge increase in vaccinations and a huge drop in deaths, for now, with life normalizing quicker.
Thank you for reading.