I have been waiting in vain for clarity, for some ultimate conclusion to understanding the “human condition”. I naively believed this would come with adulthood. My eyes no longer bright with enthusiasm and the corners of my mouth feel the effort of every smile. Surrounded by cynicism and fear, my generation has succumbed to sensationalized media and the belief that we can not make a difference. How have we allowed them to convince us to stomp out our own flame and turn against each other? More importantly, how do we stop?
First, breaking dysfunctional perceptions is painful, but has to be done. Second, taking care of your ‘self’ through any transition is significant for shifting your mindset, especially if you are trying to work through your own demons (food addictions, money, work, etc). Third, actively working to understand the impact human connection has on how we see the world is the most powerful action we can take to change humanity for ourselves and eventually the rest of the world. Finally, the culmination of these is supporting a real-world proposal for implementing a humanitarian education for future generations.
Breaking Dysfunctional Perceptions. It is true, most of us are stuck in the perpetual state of ‘survival’, living with the fear that we cannot be greater than our paycheck, our car, or our home. It most certainly is damn near impossible to effectively create change when all we can think about is whether our next paycheck will cover the rent, utilities, and groceries for the next two weeks. I know how that feels and there is very little room for envisioning the ideal construct for a society. Even though my big humanitarian heart still felt the pull of service, the pull of my paycheck was stronger; the cycle certainly seems set. As adults, we do have our work cut out for us. So embroiled in the perceived and actual “complications” or dysfunctions in our lives, we are unable to see past it all, or get out of our own way. To understand the greater potential of who we are and what we are ultimately capable of, we should be getting out of our comfort zones, our cozy school districts, our fancy zip code. Be open to other cultural experiences. Use an app to split time volunteering in a completely different community (that might only be 30 minutes away!). That is what it will take to shift the perception of the world. That is the baby step to breaking your perceived notions of “trying to survive”.
“The most dangerous worldviews are the worldviews of those who have never viewed the world.”
Make a sincere attempt to be kind and understand where someone is coming from, even when you know the attempt is not going to make an immediate difference. It may not make a difference in the moment, but you will have planted a seed.
Self-Care. I used to think we needed to start with ourselves, cleaning up our own lives to fit ideals that we created in our minds or some doctrine we had fallen in love with. We are guided to do the self-work before guiding others to prevent projection of our own jaded perceptions. There is power in these experiences and connections you make, but we would never get anywhere if all we did was work on ourselves; it could take a lifetime. Please, do the work, make friends with an amazing therapist, finish your yoga training, go on your bucket list adventure, but DO NOT get stuck in these moments of growth and connection.
Human Connection (for the win). How many times have we sat with each other, fascinated by stories of adventure beyond our own limiting beliefs? How many amazing stories of support, recovery, and friendship, through unimaginable hardship, have manifested into almost tangible inspiration? (There are too many of you to name that have created these moments for me, thank you).
When we are able to connect with others who have experiences that are so radically different from our own, we create a dynamic shift in our perceptions.
We learn to be empathetic, tolerant, and compassionate because we learn their story, and they learn ours, and we become unstoppable.
It is not the formal education itself that prepares us for the real world, brings wealth, or liberates us from poverty; it is in the experience and confidence gained from knowing we are ABLE to build these kinds of connections and experiences with the whole world. This is ultimately what we want for ourselves, for others, to be able to make these kinds of safe connections and become everything we know we are capable of, without fear of violence, abuse, retribution. This is what we should be focusing on; this should be our common thread as parents, children, students, politicians, teachers; as humans. How can we make the shift?
Final Proposal. Combining these experiences of connection with traditional curriculum such as STEM, establishes an unshakable foundation for students. For adults, whether this exposure happens in college or in a trans-continental trek is irrelevant, both hold inherent value for their immeasurable capacity to shift stale and false perceptions, and that is POWERFUL. We can absolutely make this happen, in the classroom with technology; what good are STEM skills if the genius is placed in a think tank, designing virtual and actual bombs? The instructors in education systems that are able to present the curriculum through active global cultural engagement AND establish the real world connection of these experiences with STEM arts, will see new leaders rise with deep-rooted integrity that is based on real-life experiences, rich in empathy and compassion. Right now seems like an appropriate time to start.
*This is part of my ongoing public policy project (Humanity 101) as a student at ASU; developing policy memos and proposals in education policy and administration. If you are interested in learning more, please email me at OurHumanity101@gmail.com