The Human Condition

The world has always been a pretty messed up place. Whether you believe the world was created in the span of 7 days, with a big bang, or something in-between- there has always been chaos. The chaos of life was chronicled on walls, in caves, on stone and parchment. It was stored away in jars and tombs. Its remains scattered riverbeds, and continents- embedded in layers we now consider ancient. However, everything that was once hidden and stored away was revealed in time, and parchment and stone were replaced with other means of record and communication.  Although the past reminds us that chaos has always existed, we must acknowledge that our speed and ability to communicate in the technology of today presents a philosophical question related to the human condition. The technology of today puts the worlds chaos in the palms of our hands. What will you do with the information you hold?

You can ultimately choose two different paths, with little crossover in-between. You can be apathetic, or empathetic. Translated – you can choose to do nothing, or you can choose to do something. Example: you see a picture of a child buried under rubble, and you feel sad, you tell your friends how sad you feel and they knowingly and sadly nod their heads in agreement. Your sad pow-wow ends there, as one friend brings up a picture of a hamster jet-skiing to bring some positivity back in your lives. You forget about the picture, and maybe in a couple weeks you see another article and you feel sad again, and the cycle repeats. You are apathy disguised in empathy. Because when life and death are at stake, you acknowledging with words the plight of the world does nothing. You might be able to switch to a picture of a jet skiing hamster, or drink your expensive coffee, but what about the people under the rubble? They require action, or true empathy. Not everybody can be the person to lift rubble off of them, or even be the person to donate money to the doctors who will try to save the lives of the people under the rubble. However, you can not ever say there is nothing you can do. Under any circumstance, there is always SOMETHING. Maybe that something is calling a person in congress, volunteering at an after school program to tutor refugee students, or possibly even crossing the ocean to use your talents in various capacities. Maybe it means sacrificing some of your time, or resources to focus on helping someone else in any context. I recently overheard a conversation in which two teenagers were talking about their social media lives. At one point the girl asked the guy, “when you use snapchat, do you have to get that perfect picture before sending it to people?”, he replied, “yeah, it has to be perfect, i’ll keep taking it and taking it until the picture is perfect… but only like 600 people see it anyways.” I thought to myself- ‘what if all these seconds, minutes, hours that were spent on social media, perfecting an image, focusing on oneself, were instead spent on focusing on others?’ It isn’t an original thought, but it is one that I feel I need to continue to project. Social media in that context and the narcissism it breeds is just one example of  people not utilizing their potential to change lives. You could decide to give up your fancy lattes, or choose not to buy that dress that you may only wear once. Instead you could donate the money to a person, or a cause. There are so many ways you can use your talents and resources to help people. If you need another example, you can look at how I ended up in Cambodia. It all started with lotion making in a village and the desire to employ and empower survivors of trafficking. Change happened from a little bit of lotion, and a bar of soap. If a bar of soap can change the world, then anything you can do will also change it.

Ultimately, empathy requires action. And empathy is not a one and done transaction. It is truly caring. You cannot mark it off a checklist of doing good, or reassure yourself that you don’t have to feel afflicted by cause b,c, or d, because you give to cause a. You can’t limit your love, or hide yourself from the reality that the world is a messed up place. You don’t have to spend every waking moment thinking about the plight of others, and the chaos that ensues each day. That is a burden nobody is able to or should bear. However, you should try to acknowledge the fact that you possess something called comfort. Comfort looks different to everyone, but the true sign of comfort is the ability to simply click the ‘x’ in the upper hand corner of the tab that was giving you the news. Comfort is knowing, even after you click that ‘x’, that you can continue on with your day, without feeling the true fear that comes with living out the headlines of the news. Knowing you possess that comfort, you can work towards feeling compassion to those who lack that comfort. And soon apathy, or empathy disguised as such, will turn into true empathy.

When the humanity of today is studied in the future
Maybe they will write about you
Or people like you
And how they chose to put people before things
And with great empathy they helped the dreams of people fly as if it had wings
How when the chaos was at the tips of their fingers
They chose to wrap their hands around the problem
Realizing that the same fingers they use to swipe and scroll
Are the same fingers that belong to their brothers and sisters of different places and races
And for those who saw the chaos, and washed their hands instead
Although they may have not directly killed anyone, by doing nothing they accepted the bombs and barriers that increased the number of the dead
The world will continue to be a rough place
But if we choose empathy, then we give grace
Grace breeds hope, and with hope around
Love will abound
Love cannot answer every question
Or stop the plight of someone who may suffer
But a burden carried together
Is a burdened lessened
And from this we can learn
That the blood we bleed is all the same
And its only when we unite that the world can change



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