Monday, November 19, 2012

What It Means To Be Human

The more radical the person is, the more fully he or she enters into reality so that, knowing it better, he or she can transform it. This individual is not afraid to confront, to listen, to see the world unveiled. This person is not afraid to meet the people or to enter into a dialogue with them. This person does not consider himself or herself the proprietor of history or of all people, or the liberator of the oppressed; but he or she does commit himself or herself, within history, to fight at their side.
Paulo Freire, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Life is bigger than the dramas and distractions often confused for Reality. We yearn to be liberated from the often unacknowledged anxieties and fears that weigh us down into despair and depression. We sense that we just don't have what it takes to be good enough or strong enough in a culture beset with competition and celebrity sightings. Meanwhile, our default browser is set to satisfy urges with burgers and replace the status quo with the next best thing produced by slaves in Asia.

But this just in: we are gifted with Compassionate Curiosity from an unsuspecting Neighbor. Authenticity transcends commodification and fuels us with reserves not available at the marketplace. When we dare to share and confess, our listeners bless us with an unpredictable response: "You too?" Whenever 2 or 3 of us gather in the name of unconditional Love, the Breath of Life refreshes our exhausted souls and floats us gently into Grace.

But compassion is a gift that yearns to be given. Let the 2 or 3 become 2 or 3 billion! Like a tiny pinch of leaven in the loaf, this gift rises until all of humanity is restored.

Meanwhile, the profit-mongers chase us all with promises promoted by songs and images. But their goods never seem to replicate the smiles painted on the models. And besides, the unsustainability of cheap goods! Pollution. Outsourced lives. Skyrocketing cancer rates. Blah blah blah. But like grandpa says, "Invest for YOUR future." Right?

But where will we find Fulfillment. Turn off the TV and there she is, occupying dwellings called Simplicity and Humility and Generosity. In this neighborhood, the mortgage costs everything but she will never foreclose on us. As it turns out, when we cheat on her with cunning consumptions and baffling addictions, it all backfires. But Forgiveness is at hand. Salvation comes one day at a time.

The Common Good is good indeed. We can spread dignity like a disease. When we downscale our rate of return, Humanity is returned to us. The status quo is an enemy that will never be quelled by indifference, apathy or cynacism. Neutrality and objectivity are tools for the privileged. Let's trump narcissistic agendas by having an agenda of our own: we all do better when we all do better.

Humanity consists of carefully and critically considering what we eat, how we invest and why we work. Humanity happens when we include our global neighbors in all our equations: how will this affect Everyone Else? Is it Sustainable? Who is this killing? Defrauding? Malnourishing? We are implicated in a world breathing mutuality and interdependence. No matter how many times we isolate into our own music, workouts, grub sessions or status updates, nobody is autonomous. Nobody. The world simply refuses to tune out.

Reality is partial towards the oppressed and vulnerable. She groans and strains towards Justice. She will have her Way in the end. She will creatively and strategically do whatever it takes to put the world back together again. To be human is to be one with Reality, in solidarity with Everyone Else. It means noticing the plight of the poor. It means taking personal inventory: what am I doing to create that horrific situation? Nobody's hands are clean. We are all in this together. Someday, Reality will get her Way. Will we be with her? Or not.

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