It’s all so intense, so pressurised, so transactional. It feels like we have become robots in pursuit of purpose, meaning and ultimately humanity. Isn’t that a ridiculously huge paradox? We are losing the very thing we seek.
So, you may ask what the f*ck am I actually talking about. I’m talking about us, the way we live, the way we work, the way we connect, the way we distract ourselves, the way we see ourselves. It’s all got so out of balance. We wear our ‘busyness’ like a badge of honour, rather than the shackle it actually is. We are not robots, or machines built to be utilised for every available hour. We are human beings who need connection, time to play, time to rest, time to think and time to simply be nothing and to be everything.
We talk about our mental health issues, stress and anxiety as broken parts of the human condition. We recognise these alleged breakages far too late and then do our best to patch them up, only so that we can return to the environment that created them in the first place. Perhaps it is not our resilience, our ability to cope that needs to be improved or changed, but the conditions we are presented with that demand such levels of resilience and sacrifice. Perhaps we are not broken after all, but fully awake, feeling all that there is to feel and therefore having a perfectly reasonable response to perfectly unreasonable circumstances. Is our desire to withdraw simply our last desperate attempt to protect what little of ourselves we have left, is it actually our survival instinct protecting, rather than harming us?
I for one, do not want to stop feeling — particularly the sadness and the discomfort because that is where I grow. This is where I find my most insightful lessons and oddly enough this is also where I find much of my connection with others — it’s in the human messiness, where trust is created, through our shared vulnerability and a wonderful realisation that we are not alone, we are not odd, we are all humans beings having a human experience, doing the very best we can, given the hand we have been dealt. And it is through these eyes, rather than those of perfection, judgment or societal norms, that we can begin to really see people, to understand that we all have strengths and weaknesses, fears and wounds, triggers and ego’s. The behaviours we are presented with, in nearly all walks of life are simply a facade, the window dressing and the real tragedy is, that we very often never get to see any further than that, because most people are a) not in a safe enough environment to truly show up and own up b) simply do not know how to do so because they have spent so long cultivating an image, or belief in how they should be seen or c) have not faced enough adversity to be able to empathise, or understand feelings which words cannot always convey.
So, I do question whether we have things rather arse about face. Our perceptions of one another, of what constitutes success, of how we should live and of how we should work, have to change. Fiddling around at the edges with well meant, but ultimately meaningless initiatives to address climate change, diversity, work/life balance, mental health challenges and levels of happiness, will only ever focus on the consequences, not the root causes of them. The causes are far deeper and trickier to address — an economy driven by consumerism and profit at any price, inequality, dis-engagement, hopelessness, poverty, injustice and a morale crisis born out of a capitalist system, that was invented to achieve a perfectly balanced eco-system of value creation, only to be screwed over and re-defined as value extraction (and unbelievably the guy who thought this was a good idea was awarded a nobel peace prize — how little we understood then). We are not talking about a few tweaks here and there, but a complete re-think of how we live, work, play and operate as a human race. And let’s face it if we don’t, it really doesn’t matter whether Elon Musk makes it to Mars or not, there will not be anyone left to go, as we will have managed to all but eliminate the human race by completely screwing the planet.
And so we continue to experience huge levels of cognitive dissonance and of course the great art of putting our heads in the sand, as otherwise we might just start feeling a bit overwhelmed and sh*t about things — except hang on, isn’t that what is happening anyway? And another huge paradox is that the very things we do to avoid these difficult realisations and feelings, only serve to feed them more. We are constantly distracted, thereby filling what scant time we have for ourselves, our families, mother nature and balance, with meaningless activities and stuff, which in turn screws the planet more, drives the gap between rich and poor to unprecedented levels, creates an optical illusion we are all peddling like mad to try and live in and forces us to dis-engage in order to simply be able to get through the day. As Einstein quite rightly said “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”. Nothing will change if nothing changes.
So, what is the answer you may well ask? What can we do? Isn’t this all so f*cked it’s too big, too overwhelming for any of us to change. Absolutely not I say and to use another’s words, wiser than mine “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has” Margaret Mead.
We are the change, every single one of us. With our thoughts, our actions and our voices we can and must change our world. Now, I’m no high performing social media influencer, in fact I’m not the slightest bit famous in any way shape or form, I generally struggle to get my kids to listen to me, never mind about a worldwide audience, but I’m not going to allow small details like that to stop me — because they are small and it’s all bullsh*t. No-one was famous until they were. No-one was heard until they were. No-one was read until they were. And the common denominator here is that you start — you take an action, no matter how small and you keep taking those actions towards a better, truer, more balanced, more truthful and fairer world. And if you are really unsure where to start, I’ve shared my ‘changing the world’ to do list below:
- Stop avoiding the difficult stuff, get your head out of the sand, be honest with yourself about the things that make you feel really sh*t and look at what you are prepared to do about them. It’s a classic risk analysis — how sh*t does it make me feel v how much courage do I have?
- Start listening, I mean really listening when people talk. Look beyond the behaviours you see and the words you hear and get curious about what lies beneath. Take some time, speak to people outside of transactional stuff, be direct, ask what’s really going on and start sharing your own stuff a bit more honestly too. Have the rumbles, talk about feelings (yes feelings, those things that pretty much drive all of our decisions, whether we like it or not) and try connecting as human beings, not gladiators fighting for your own survival.
- Take some time to get to know yourself, stop allowing yourself to be distracted from yourself. It’s difficult to feed your soul when you haven’t got a f*cking clue what your soul eats. Create some space, be bored, be still, do something instinctively and stop worrying about what the Joneses are up to.
- Be kind, everyday find a way to be kind to yourself and to others. Write a note, call someone and tell them something nice about them, help someone who needs it, smile at a stranger — f*ck it, have a conversation with them. Just be kind.
- Read, read some more and then more. You cannot create new knowledge all by yourself, you need some other dots, from somewhere else to join for that. So, read. It doesn’t have to be a whole book, just a page or two will do, or an article, or a quote. Just read to exercise your brain, understand or disagree with other perspectives, spark a thought, inspire an action, ignite a passion — whatever just bloody read!
- Get out into mother nature, look at the most sophisticated eco-system in the world, open your eyes to what true beauty looks like, allow yourself to feel the elements and start listening to real sounds, not the bullsh*t mad-made narrative we spend so much of our life surrounded by.
- Feel, really allow yourself to feel. Cry, laugh, shout, be silent, be happy, be sad, be fearful, be hopeful, be frustrated, be excited, be disappointed, be surprised. Who knows what feelings you need to have — just have them, allow them to be, face them and accept them. There are far too many ‘walking dead’ amongst us. Those that have been judged or punished for feeling, that have withdrawn from feeling lest they be judged or punished and those that are just too damn tired to feel anymore. We have to wake up, it’s our feelings that ultimately provide the energy, motivation and passion that will fuel the changes we need to see.
- Give what you can, share what you can, without expectation of something in return, or judgement. Many of us have more than we need, in fact we also believe we need more than we really do. And yet there are so many with so little. So, whenever and wherever you can, please share whether that be time, money, gifts, your skills, or experience, just give without judging or needing a return.
These actions are really just the tip of the iceberg, but as in all things, what matters is that we start. And I guess these are as good as place as any to do just that. Because I for one truly believe the power lies within each of us, should we choose to use it.
I hope you do too.