1. the state of being united or joined as a whole
Yesterday was a winter hair-wash day, where I spent 30 minutes drying and straightening my hair in front of the mirror. 30 minutes of staring at myself. 30 minutes of not moving much. And it’s usually within that 30 minutes that I have my deepest conversations with myself; a few existential crises; a lot of thoughts smashing together that don’t really make much sense inside my anxious brain, but may have some foundation if I just get it out on paper (or a cloud, I suppose).
I’ve been a bit enamored with the show, The 100, lately. If you know me personally, you know it’s pretty much all I’ve been talking about for the past few weeks. Now, I’m no Siskel and Ebert but I have large appreciation for the series in its entirety: the acting is great, the plot keeps me on edge, and the character development is really well written. But what I find most intriguing is the intense moral dilemmas every character has to face in almost every moment of every day. Each decision is based around survival: survival of their loved ones, themselves, and at times, the entire human race. Some of their decisions can be perceived as just, some as poor, and they are constantly playing tug-of-war with the question, Do I save the few people that I love or the most people that I can? And when every character is asking themselves that question and getting different answers, chaos ensues among the masses.
And so, inside of my own chaotic mind as I’m painstakingly doing my hair (can you tell I don’t love it?), I began thinking about these characters’ decisions and thought processes in relation to our own, with regard to the ever-constant issues on our own planet.
Healthcare. Education. Human Rights. War. Environmental Protection. Morality. The issues are endless, and they’re mentally, emotionally, and physically taxing. The further we are on either side, the further we’re pulled away from each other. And if you’re completely indecisive, the pulling happens within yourself. I don’t even have the words to describe how heavy of a burden this is on us. And I’m not writing to pick apart the issues themselves or talk about my opinions, but more of how we walk the path to either side.
I spend a lot of time listening, asking, and absorbing. Listening to family and friends, learning about peoples’ lives, and reading opinion articles and the comments sections of social media to keep up with the back and forth of society. I step out of my own view, so I can see someone else’s. I don’t just want to know what the issues are, but I want to know why people take the stances that they do. Mixed in with all of the words and feelings and character limits, I find many people have the same intentions: their views are charged by what they believe is for the greater good and they are just trying to do the best they can. Their definition of “best” is learned from family, friends, society, ancestory, geography, socioeconomic status etc. And their perception of “greater good” could include their family, community, and country.
Now, I want to be very clear that I’m not talking about the folks that are driven by selfishness, political agenda, hate, sociopathy, or narcissism. I’m excluding 99.999% (’cause there are no absolutes) of those individuals in this discussion. I’m talking about the yous and mes and theys. The mom in Virginia who wants the best for their children. The teacher in Texas that wants their students to have unlimited possibilities. The Syrian family that just wants to be safe for another day. The child in North Korea who wants their family to live to see another day. So many stories. So many decisions.
What is right and wrong, and good and bad isn’t a clear cut answer. It may be to you and me, but at the core of the answers are perceptions, histories and everyone’s individual stories. We have over 7 billion people on this planet and over 327 million people in this country. In just the U.S., that’s 327 million stories of what is good and bad, and right and wrong. Because, let’s face it, every single person is not going to agree on every issue.
So I ask: If you had your way, who decides which way is the right one? Is it one person, majority, or unanimous? What if we can’t be unanimous? Is the majority’s way truly the right one. And what should we do if everyone can’t assimilate? And finally, will there ever be true unity? And if not, what then?
Those are the questions my favorite small-screen characters have to face head on, and many times throughout the series we hear the words, There are no good guys. As the audience, we’re in a constant battle trying to decide who the “good” folks are, with some of our answers changing drastically from one moment to the next.
Hmm. There are no good guys.
Now I hope at this point that you understand that I’m not answering any of these questions, making a stance on any issue, and that this piece has nothing to do with the issues themselves. I just want to ask these really difficult questions out loud, on screen, to myself, and if you find it interesting, to you because I think we forget how much we ask of ourselves and each other at times. And if you ask me at this very moment what I think the answers are, I’ll tell you whole-heartedly that I don’t know.
What I perceive is a country and a world bigger than words and definitions, filled with people that have different stories and make different decisions to the best of their ability. And their “best” might not be my “best,” and I may never understand where their definitions came from.
And if the definition of “unity” is, the state of being united or joined as a whole, can a “whole” consist of a group of people who don’t agree on everything? And if it does, what does that look like? And if it doesn’t, what next?
And, there you have it. More questions. More of me not knowing.
All I can do is be okay with not knowing, but keep asking the questions because they aren’t intended to be swept under the rug. I can live my life with the intention of benefiting all beings, and to listen and be open to the perceptions of others because their stories have the power to teach me so much.
And if I can execute the above with both passion and compassion, I might continue to grow in the right direction. Whatever right means.