.the first tuesday we talk about the world.
my experience of the world has changed in the past few years, and that is to say that the world is so much bigger and so much smaller than i originally thought. the ‘bigger’ part is obvious; the earth is simply a massive place. i was in elementary school the first time i left the continental united states and visited another country. i was incredibly fortunate, but of course too young to understand what traveling would some day mean to me. now i have been to 25 (/50) states and 12 (/196) countries, and the farthest i’ve ever traveled from home happens to be where i am living right now.
the first time i crossed the continent of africa, after 2 hours of flying already, i looked out the window as the plane approached the coast of algeria across the mediterranean sea. it was a night flight, and i could see small clusters of lights along the shore that to my mind somehow looked exactly like the coastline i had seen on the map. beyond that, a vast, dark space. we had 9 more hours of flying to go before reaching johannesburg. that was enough to take some air from my lungs. i felt the heavy sense of the enormity of this planet, and simultaneously my incredibly tiny place in it. i seriously had tears in my eyes.
i had been dating someone who lived near that destination for over a year before i finally got to make the trip. emails, skype, and eventually whatsapp made that gigantic chasm seem easy to traverse. (wrong (tm, the donald).) but that leads me to the world is so much ‘smaller’ part… technology has, without a doubt, shrunk the world. and it’s not just because we can communicate real time with any connected person anywhere. it’s not just because the news in north dakota can be known that same hour in zimbabwe. it’s because this connectedness offers a big window into a basic truth; human beings are so much more alike than we are different. “the problem[, says morrie schwartz,]… is that we don’t believe we’re as much alike as we are.”
this, to me, is a truth that has driven so much of my life. it is why i majored in writing in high school (and why i am writing this blog right now). it is why i have a degree in psychology, and another degree in nursing, and another degree in midwifery. it is why i have the spiritual beliefs that i have. it is why i try to treat all people the way i would treat myself, though i often fail (not that i always treat myself so great). it is how i know i am normal, even at my weirdest. it is how i know i am unique, just like everybody else. it gives me confidence where there is space for fear. it gives me hope where there is space for desperation. it is what keeps me grounded when everything seems afloat. because if we look through that window we will see: humanity is us.
every honest sentence in your head that starts with “i” could also start with “we.”
we want to be seen, heard, understood, accepted, and loved. we want to succeed. we are painfully scared and impossibly brave. we want to live a fulfilling life. we are confused. we want purpose, meaning, security, and belonging. we don’t want to be alone. we don’t want to suffer. we don’t want to be starved or beaten or ruled by another. we want sovereignty. we want to be cared for. we are simultaneously strong and weak and impenetrable and beautifully vulnerable. we are disappointed and we are in awe. we want to help. we want to learn. we want to grow. we want to be remembered.
we, every single one of us and everything we know, exist on a pale blue dot that could be obliterated from the horizon by a thumb. and nothing could be more tremendous.