Less Dangerous To Be Human
Thought Cookie: Edition 29, Vol. 3
“It seemed, in the 1930s, that the whole course of humanity was at stake. As it very often does today. Too many people wanted to find an easy answer to complicated questions. It was a dangerous time to be human.” – From How To Stop Time, by Matt Haig
These four sentences in the novel I am gobbling up pierced my heart.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have easy answers to complicated questions?
Sigh. Swoon. Smack my lips.
The connection between the need for easy answers to complicated questions and the dangerousness of being human for these times intrigued me.
If I can identify a speck of sense of the off-kilter things I see in the world, it is that people have become so exhausted by the unceasing bulldozer of information (the Muchness again…) in the world that their tired minds, aching hearts and stretched spirits have reacted to that by pulling the red lever on the internal fire alarm of their understanding.
They don’t want to understand anymore. It’s too much.
In the west, we’ve been conditioned to think we must understand.
We’ve built our educational systems around the idea that we, as human beings, must understand as much as we can. Cram as much knowledge in as possible. Commit to memorize the states, the periodic table, the presidents (in order), to understand our world more clearly. The expansion of our minds has undoubtedly given way to beautiful, breathtaking discoveries of our world, of science and of structures and systems for living.
But our obsession, our drive to need to understand has consistently overshadowed our other, equally important need to wonder, to wander, and to disregard understanding for the greater prize: respect and loving, compassion and curiosity.
(Alok Viad-Menon has been the most inspirational and profound speaker to me on this topic recently. You can listen to their appearance on The Man Enough podcast here.)
There are no simple answers to complex problems.
But the idea itself creates a tense temptation.
I can tell you from the bottom of my heart, I do yearn to find one way, one answer, one guru, with all the simple answers.
I am tempted to fall for the idea that exists.
I am thirsty for a rule that will supersede and staunch the deluge of information that comes my way, that will give me a simple method to sort it all out.
My deepest beliefs will not let that happen.
Humans are messy. Life is messy. (As Alok says, “welcome to the awkward choreography of being a human.”)
There is no one way.
There is no one ideology that trumps all others.
There is no one person among us who holds all the truths.
To me, the closest we come to grasping reality is always,
a combination of approaches, a mishmash of thought processes and perspectives, a melding of hearts and minds, paired with dashes of this and that.
This is disheveled and complicated. It can be ugly.
It can be gross and twisty. Confusing and bewildering.
It can break our hearts only to balloon them up again with longing and hope.
Guarantee: It will be hard to impossible to intellectually understand.
And so some people just tap out. They relent to be rescued by the coming fire brigade, no matter the definitive nature of their promises, as a way of tidying up the mental, emotional and intellectual bind of it.
I have compassion for that.
We are all struggling with complicated questions. It’s a struggle to be human in these times.
If forced to rely on a philosophy, it would be this:
To be curious.
To release the need to understand.
To grow in compassion instead of certainty.
These approaches do not eliminate the danger of our times. But they do give us our own love back.
Because the first anomalous, complicated, messy, emotional question we must apply this love to is ourselves.
The complicated question of, “Can I love myself completely? So much so that I can love the complexity in others?”
Only then will the times become, bit-by-bit, less dangerous to be human.
Did this Thought Cookie touch your heart?
If it did, will you share it?
My intention is to grow Thought Cookie to a readership of about 100 by the end of 2022, which gives me five more months to achieve that goal and touch 40 more lives with my Thought Cookies.
Sharing these Thought Cookie posts is the best way of inviting others who need that soul-spurring in their days.
This post is public so feel free to share it.
Thanks for reading Thought Cookie! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.