You’re late to work and you need your coffee. You stand in what seems like a perpetual line. The person in front of you asks “how’s your day?” What’s the first thought that comes into your mind?
Why is he trying to talk to me?
What does he want from me?
Can he waste someone else’s time?
What do all of these thoughts have in common? You are the center of the sentence. Not literally, but you are the main subject. David Foster Wallace, the author behind “This Is Water” describes this as our default-setting; our initial, unconscious reaction. And it’s a fair habit to think that we are the center of the universe because you are what you know best. But the point in which this idea becomes destructive is when we think we, ourselves, are the best.
Please don’t misinterpret that as being confident and worthy. It’s believing you are better than others and your life has value over others.
That everyone in traffic is ruining your life by slowing you down.
That that guy in your Starbucks is trying to take away from your time.
Where does this hostility come from? What happened to “all for one and one for all”? Well, it’s always been like that if you think about it. How did the first man to walk on earth survive? He had to put himself at the top of the food chain. By asserting your dominance, you get what you want. And now that we, as intelligent beings, have established ourselves at the top of the animal kingdom and no longer fight with the beast, what do we do? We turn on ourselves. We don’t kill each other necessarily but we can easily put others beneath us.
Society functions on norms so that we can easily detect what will disrupt tradition. With tradition, there is security. When we stray away from that, we risk being seen. And when we are seen and noticed, we risk being ridiculed and seen in an undesirable way.
For example, social media allows us to share our lives and thoughts with people near and dear or not so near and dear to us. Some people like to take advantage of it to receive attention they need in order to feel whole. And to those who do that, I’m sorry you feel that way. But at the same time, to each their own. Some people simply want to share their lives. But because we like to have order, even social media has it’s rules of thumb. So it’s so easy to judge:
We get it, you think you’re pretty
Congrats, you look like every other girl trying to get likes
Didn’t you post yesterday? You’re posting way too much
What’s the rule of thumb?
- Don’t bother anyone
This is one relevant to today way we reinforce hostility and silence. We don’t want to cross each others’ paths but we mindlessly scroll on our phones. People may feel threatened by their own lack of individuality that they must put in the energy to bring others down to their level or maybe even below them. Or maybe we are taught to only do as you need to and anything more is asking for attention. Or maybe we think everyone has an intention with what they do and share. Maybe we don’t like intentions.
So let’s not bother each other. Don’t talk to me when I’m drinking my coffee. Don’t bother me with your reposts and rants about your thoughts. Who cares? Why would it have any value to me?
Well, you live in a community. You live in a community that is or is not what the people, including you, make of it. And so when you are the center of the universe and you feel no obligation to add to the universe, yet the world is so shitty to you, who is to blame?
Although I became vegan because of the mere fact that I was bored and wanted to lose weight, I knew there was a lot to learn. I allowed myself to be open to the existence of veganism and what it entails. The more I learn about factory farms and sustainability, the harder it becomes to go back to eating meat and dairy products. And for some reason, I started tearing up just thinking about it.
When I try to preach these discoveries, what I mostly get is “well one person isn’t going to change what happens behind those doors, they are going to be slaughtered regardless.” And the idea that we have to wait on others to be a part of change or validate its credibility is why change is so slow or disregarded. Change does not begin when a crowd has formed, it starts with an individual believing that change needs to be made. Crowds will make you heard but individuality gives change fuel and reason.
But a drastic change, in a vegan direction for example, is the least of most people’s worry. Because even though you look past the propaganda style documentaries at the hard evidence, you don’t want to make change. Because that would mean your steak, your bacon, your foie gas, your meat lover’s pizza with extra cheese can no longer feed the addiction that those casomorphins (it is what it sounds like) are making you feel. It’s a hard sacrifice, just like the sacrifice your steak had no choice in.
We allow ourselves to be ignorant because our tradition and society fuels on ignorance and puts a pretty bow on it. We hurt each other and believe we have to put on a strong face so we aren’t weeded out; and so our strengths become lies and morphs into bitterness. We get our meats in pretty little packages, advertisements with Barbies and Kens, jobs that do the thinking for us, and lobbyists who make sure it stays that way. And we as people think acquiring these things contributes to our uniqueness, but we all turn out the same. We all become our own centers of the universe.
If we put as much effort into our days and lives as a whole as we do with our insatiable desires, imagine where we’d be now. We’d be talking to each other, helping each other, helping any kind of being that lives on Earth, we’d be that change we’re always talking about. Thinking above what we know and being a team player requires consciousness, that aspect we’re lacking when unconsciously acting as a slave to our own routines and worships.
That man talking to you at Starbucks isn’t another delay in your life. He too, is someone waiting for the same dark roast coffee. He too, can be someone late for work, who if he does not make it in time will also get fired, and will also not be able to go on that vacation to escape “all this.” He is an equal who shares the same experience. Whether or not he shares the same experience, he is an equal. So are the cows, so are the pigs, so are the birds. When you strip what man has made, we are all trying to live our days on the same soil.
So why don’t we live it together? Why live our days with tense shoulders when we can massage each other? That was the worst break from seriousness ever. Sometimes we forget everyone struggles and suffers because our struggles and sufferings feel so unique to us. Just because the struggles of others are not necessarily heard, does not mean they are not felt.
Living unconsciously is normal, I do it all the time, hey I’m not perfect. If I can ask my audience to take away one thing from this rant, is to never allow yourself to be ignorant. I’m not asking you to become vegan and hold hands and sing Kumbaya. I want you to allow yourself to be knowledgable of what tradition overshadows and what it makes us become. We are an intelligible species which means we are capable of a shit ton. You can choose whether to be hostile or open, greedy or charitable, ignorant or aware, me or we. You can go fast alone but you can go farther together. Be conscience, be aware, and if you feel lonely, talk to someone in line when you’re getting coffee. You’ll be surprised at the commonalities you share with other humans.
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