Truth - We are all connected. Take a second to pause and reread that statement again. I said we are all connected. But what does that actually mean? On so many different levels, people all around the world - beyond social media or complicated internationalized market economies but rather the metaphysical notion of the human condition. It is both possible for us all to be different and yet the similar/the same in so many ways. It's both our adherences to rules, regulations, borders, governments, etc. that have separated, segregated, and stratified us. We have come to believe that we are better than our neighbors near and far. In doing so, we have missed out on the opportunity to connect via that common humanity. It's time to reclaim our worldwide community - it's time to go global.
"The differences between people need not act as barriers that wound, harm and drive us apart. Rather, these very differences among cultures and civilizations should be valued as manifestations of the richness of our shared creativity." Daisaku Ikeda
Now more than ever it is so important to travel. Get out of your comfort zone, expand your horizons, and most of all meet people who are different from you. It is so easy to become enthralled in the mundaneness of an insulated life. The silos of philosophies, perspectives, and privileges that do nothing but create echo chambers where little to no challenge exists. We become stale, stagnant, and stringent. If not only to experience what else is out there, but to shake it up. When was the last time you had a proper dialogue with someone. Not an academic discourse or a discussion where your goal was to sway their opinion, but a sincere conversation where you listened to understand not just to reply? When was the last time one of those back and forths was with someone of a completely different background from yours? What stops us in the day to day from making those conversations a priority? Maybe we think we don't have time, that we don't know too many people with the experience to get us to think reflectively, or could we just not care? It matters immensely. Learning from others interpersonally is something that can never be replicated anywhere else. Those talks where you lose track of time, where you feel respected and lean in to the discomfort, those are where we grow most. Learning from others is part of what we do. It is what it means to be human. We witness others and mimick their behavior or learn what how we do not want to act. Others reinforce or reframe our opinions. The most profound people engage in that process often.
Connecting with others means both parties are giving part of themselves or at least their stories. It is absolutely crucial to not just take in what another shard with you but to reciprocate yourself. Just as we learn from others, they also do the same. We never know what our life experiences will teach someone else. Global citizenship requires us to participate in that give and take. A connection cannot be overpowered on either end lest it become a transaction and lose it's genuineness. Too many times we travel and expect others to explain their existences, show us their ways of life, or entertain us with their circumstances without doing he same in return. It is problematic. It is unfair. It ks toxic as hell. Global citizenship is about sharing, contributing, and giving to others - however you are able. Your story can be one of most powerful and simplest ways to do so. It takes times and practice to be able to do so but if we expect others to let us in, then we have to be prepared to do the same. Our stories may be rehearsed to a certain extent but there is always detail to be added spontaneously. When we feel like our narrative has become a monolith how do we recognize it ourselves and dare to go deeper? What stops us from being vulnerable or sharing something brand new? What are we afraid of? Why do we value our stories over those of others? Maybe we have to push ourselves and validate the invaluable nature of the experiences others give us.
It always makes me laugh in conversation when we say we have nothing to talk about. It's an absolute lie. Recognizing it and going last that defense mechanism is one of our biggest tasks. We have years upon years of memories, experiences, and stories to tell. Know that what we have been through matters and what we are going through matters. Who we are matters. If we don't know so, how can anyone else. We have to ask questions. We start small and go from there. Asking follow up questions might be even more important than those initial questions themselves. It let's people know you're not only lkatenkng intently but that you actually care what they have to say. It's remarkable what people will tell you if your jar ask. The more open ended, the better. Give people an opportunity to tell you who they are, little by little, rather than succumbing to the stories we have imagined for them as soon as we have been introduced. Any question we ask someone we should be ready to answer ourselves and should take the time to do so. Conversations are like dance battles that can end up being a competition or beautiful syncopation to the rhythm of our meter. Strive for the latter where all have room to give truth and receive it in return.
Global citizenship starts with the communities we are already part of. How can we care about or engage with others across the globe if we ignore the issues and hardships of those we choose to ignore grapple with daily? Voluntourism defeats the purpose of philanthropic and interpersonal work as it does nothing more than promote this problematic sympathetic sort of pity and self-congratulating back-patting. Why are we able to walk past a person who may have fallen on hard times? Why are we so cynical to offer help or to get involved when we see others in need? Why do we believe the worst in people instead of the best? It is about being present and making connections wherever you are. It's not just those who share your socioeconomic status, religious beliefs, or racial identities but especially those who do not. Isn't it funny how people are brought together at times. There are so many people that we see but don't really see. We realize they are where they are but we turn away, avoid them, or judge them harshly for their circumstances. Poverty looks very differently then stereotypes would orate. You never know what someone may be going through or living with whether that be a diagnosis, identity issues, or anything. This means getting connected to places that make it matter. It's more than just sending money abroad to the faceless children of famine, illiteracy, and devastation. It's volunteering with your local food bank, serving as a mentor, or provide an opportunity for others. It's looking people in the eyes and acknowledging their existence no matter what. Going global means everyone gets to come along for the ride. X