Monday, February 23, 2009

My Thoughts Exactly

One of the reasons I love the act of communication - words, music, dance, art, whatever - is the magic feeling of seeing yourself in the etched thoughts of what could possibly be a person you'll never know. It's much of an OMG moment that leaves you with the sense that you're quite possibly not so mad after all if someone somewhere at some point felt the same way about something intangible as you do now. Sometimes you haven't quite yet found the words to express yourself, so when you casually trip on someone else speaking your words for you, it's like someone threw you an oxygen mask and you can finally catch a breath and move on.

That's exactly what I felt like when I came across the following quote from economist Robert Winters in Sylvia Nassar's biography of John 'A Beautiful Mind' Nash:

"When I look at the human race all over the world I think there's zero reason for humanity to survive. We're destructive, uncaring, thoughtless, greedy, power hungry. But when I look at a few individuals, there seems every reason for humanity to survive."

I'm not sure why but for most of my life, until a couple of years ago in fact, I happily glided through my days believing in the good in people. It wasn't a flighty opinion; I believed in it with all the viscous passion found in the fiery depths of my soul. Even in the face of excruciating disappointments when individuals would violently assault my faith in them or when the global community in general would fail to act for the better interest of itself and especially for its weaker members. Who doesn't need a second chance, right? I believed that things would work out in the long run if I had the patience and the empathy and the understanding.

But as the world kept spinning on an axis different from mine and I began to see that people were just drifting through life without even realising the consequences of their actions, I started to feel as if I had lost all understanding of not only the world in general but of my painfully constructed personal world around me. I remember the day catastrophic realisation hit me. I'm not one for cliches, but it sounded exactly like the little voice inside my solar plexis suddenly screaming "noooooo...". Only I could hear it. Everything on the inside was falling apart but you probably couldn't tell from my face. Well, maybe if you looked close enough you could. I fell into an internal crisis that lasted months. It was a complete calamity. I just could not believe the reality of things, I could not believe that this was how it really was. I suddenly seemed to understand what Trelane meant when he excitedly said to Captain Kirk, "Do you know that you're one of the few predator species that preys even on itself?" I suddenly didn't know what was up or down anymore. I felt like I didn't know what language everyone else was speaking. I didn't know who I was or who anybody else was anymore. My motivation tanked until the mere act of waking up to a new day filled me with dread. I just could not believe that the people around me cared so little about things other than themselves. I was filled with dread. What ugly creatures of hell were we?? We were doomed as a race. There was no hope. Humanity would collapse upon itself and I'd have to sit and watch it go up in flames, like Cassandra tearfully watching Troy being razed to the ground.

I don't remember when I saw my first flicker of hope. Maybe it was someone who let me go first in a store line. Or someone who said something nice to me for no reason at all. Whomever it was, it saved me. Underneath the vile cloud of the ugly war that is our daily life on this planet, I began to see the volunteers of peace who went about rescuing the wounded and didn't even know they were doing it. I still have these flickers of hope when I see isolated acts of goodness, of people trying to do the right thing. I see someone stop to help a poor person when others are walking by, a young person giving up on personal interests to take care of a sick parent, a single individual saying no in the interest of what is right.

I'm not sure where humanity will eventually end up. I don't believe that 85% of human beings care beyond their base needs. I believe that the human race is pretty damn terrible, worse than anything anyone's ever seen. But I do know that it is because of these few random people quietly trying to do the right thing, even at the expense of their own interests, that humanity has trudged on since the beginning of time without completely wiping itself out. Ergo, the power of good is much stronger than the power of evil. And that is why I believe again.

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