While I am writing this, reports of hurricane Irma’s devastation are still pouring in. Clearly, nature has flipped. Scientists have been warning for years that global warming means stronger storms and increasingly frequent freak weather. But knowing this will happen and seeing it unfolding are two different things.
But this column is not about disasters. It is about hope and about taking action.
In my previous column, I wrote that our main problem is not natural disasters, but our alienation from each other. I suggested a practical way to create positive conversation and shared a link to a free download of my book “Completing the Circle,” which, among other things, offers connection games and ideas for conversations that help people connect.
A few days later, I learned that two young men, who happen to also be studying with me, initiated such a discussion with survivors of hurricane Harvey, and even filmed the conversation. If you want to have hope in the future of America, you owe it to yourself to watch the abbreviated documentation. These beautiful, intelligent young people did not know each other prior to that meeting, and judging by their appearances, chances are their paths would never have converged were it not for Harvey’s devastation. Yet, these millennials prove by their very conduct that solidarity throughout America is possible.
This horrific hurricane season will be over in a couple of months, and the fires in Western United States will be extinguished. If we put this menacing summer behind us and go on as before, we’ll have wasted a chance to make a real change.
One of the participants in the filmed discussion said, “The mindset that we have, everybody here sitting at this table, hopefully they pass it forward.” Another one added that when “there is only one goal, to help people, it restores my faith in humanity seeing everyone working together hand to hand … making connection that I believe wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for such a devastating situation, and it’s sad to say that. Hopefully, the media portrays that and shows that people can come together even without a time of need and that we’re not separated by belief, religion, or any of the other factors.”
Naturally, such isolated initiatives cannot change the face of the country. But this is nonetheless a proof of concept, which is why I’m sharing it here. The authorities can and should utilize people’s currently enhanced sensitivity and direct them toward seeing the power of connection.
In fact, human connection is more impactful than we think. In the early 1970s, renowned physicist Dennis Gabor said, “Till now man has been up against Nature; from now on he will be up against his own nature.” But instead of focusing on human nature, we are looking for ways to fix nature itself, and in doing so, we’re missing the whole point. Our own ill-will causes every problem in the world. Global warming, financial meltdowns that impoverish millions of people, war, famine, depression, substance abuse, inequality, and racism are all man-made disasters. If we fixed our ill-will, which causes all these crises, we wouldn’t have a worry in the world.
And the way to fix ill-will is by establishing positive human connections. This is why I am so adamant about discussions like the one I mention here.
There comes a time when you must look in the mirror and say, “I’m done blaming others for my problems; I have to take responsibility.” As a society, we are at that point. Now is our time to start “practicing” positivity toward each other. It is a conscious effort that may feel a little unnatural at first, but as we all know, practice makes perfect. And in this case, it takes very little practice to make huge progress, just look at that video.
If every person in your community attended just one or two such meetings a week, within a month the whole neighborhood would change. Going to the supermarket would mean going to see friends because you would know other shoppers, or you would know their friends, who would introduce you to their friends, and you would come home smiling. In such an atmosphere, it will be natural to care for one another and society will easily find its balance.
In such a caring space, the rest of our problems will sort themselves out, which will affect our entire environment, from human society all of nature. As it turns out, restoring nature’s sanity begins with our positive connections.
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