Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Just to Understand

I’m addicted to CNN. I never thought I would be. The news always used to bore me. I never imagined I’d ever live in DC either – it just didn’t interest me. But we can’t imagine our future anyway. People are constantly changing, and we can never imagine thinking or feeling any differently than we do in the current moment.

Our hearts and minds are capable of such extraordinary things that at times they seem limitless and all-powerful. But one of the universal traits that connects us all and makes us human is that we are fallible. We make mistakes. All the time, every day, big and small. Sometimes we don’t know we’ve made a mistake until days, weeks or even years later. Sometimes we may never know at all.

Human mistakes and fallibility are all over CNN. Almost all mistakes cause some amount of pain, but colossal mistakes cause immeasurable damage. There is so much unnecessary tragedy in the world. Across the world, millions are hungry. Across town, thousands are hungry. People are suffering everywhere. But last week, my main concerns involved getting flowers from a guy I wasn’t really into and which shoes to buy at Macy’s.

It’s hard to conceive of it all. It’s hard because we only understand what our own experience illuminates for us. Though it’s hard to hold anyone accountable for innocent ignorance, not knowing about or understanding the world is a mistake we can no longer afford to make.

Watching CNN, reading the New York Times or the books I choose to buy are the ways I think will help me be more informed and enlightened. In the best way I can, I want to understand things outside of my own life.

I have a good friend who always responds to my frustrated cries of, “Isn’t anyone paying attention? Doesn’t anyone care?” with a poignant retort:

“D, most people don’t care as long as they can still shop at Wal-Mart and buy shirts with little ponies on them.”

But it would be a better world if every individual could view others by what unites us all as human beings. We love, we hurt, we laugh, we want, we need. We want to feed our families, we want to work a steady job. We want to protect those we love and want to live without fear.

Though it may not be Wal-Mart (and really shouldn’t be!), we want to be able to shop where we want to shop. We have basic needs of clothing, shelter, food, comfort and love.

Whether “the other” is viewed separate by their class, religion, race or gender, we’re all driven by the same things. And to create an unimaginable future together, we have to understand where we all are now and how we got here.


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