I grew up here, went to grade school, high school and colleges here, got my first job and first apartment here, and lived in the midst of many changes going on around me. Yet I never saw the bigger picture. I never suspected what was coming or what was underway even with all the growing evidence in plain sight.
In the 80's I got my first glimpse of a bigger picture when I visited what was at the time a brand new and rather strange theme park called "Great America". (And they say social engineering doesn't exist.) In the earliest days of its opening it didn't have much going for it, but when reports came back that folks enjoyed themselves when they went, I finally decided to go see what this place was like for myself.
It's absolutely true to say there was little going on, just a few rides and some goofy live shows that were truly bad. One of the less than exciting things being offered was to take a ride to the top of a tall thin structure for the sole purpose of being able to get a view of the valley. It didn't seem very exciting but I thought since I was there, I might as well go up and see what there was to see. It was a profoundly amazing experience.
Stretched out all around me was this enormous valley, with huge patches of green where local produce used to grow in abundance. There were highways and houses, flat miles of green and acres of buildings supporting millions of lives, and it was all cupped in by an immense ring of tall, green colored mountains.
Even though I knew all of those things were there, I'd never seen them from this perspective before. I'd never seen them from a position where I could take it all in and get this amazing view of the whole area and see that whole and the strong statement it made as a whole. It was my first look at the bigger picture and my first very real comprehension of how different things look when taken in from a different perspective.
It was weird to realize that I'd always lived smack dab in the middle of a bigger picture but had no way of knowing that or seeing it. It honestly never even occurred to me that there was a bigger picture. It's partly youth and inexperience, partly ignorance in the ways of the world, and partly human nature in that we don't really tend to see much or care about much beyond our own little piece of reality. That makes sense. After all, life is local. Reality is local. What's going on with other people in places I know nothing about couldn't make up much of my own experience. I wouldn't even know these other people and things existed.
Then there's the other perspective, the close up perspective where the bigger picture disappears and single lives take up the whole view.
I remember sometimes driving at night through clusters of brightly lit city streets and then stretches of unfamiliar residential areas and looking at homes and businesses alive and buzzing with activity, or sometimes just silently sitting there with the lights on, or off. I'd always think that there were people in there, in all of those places, each of them completely unaware of me or my life, thoroughly engaged in living their own lives in this very same moment, doing whatever it was they were doing, talking about whatever it was they were talking about and it all had nothing to do with me.
They were having arguments, falling in love, having sex, doing homework, making travel plans, speaking foreign languages, cooking and eating their meals; some were healthy, some sick; some were bound to be playing instruments, or recovering from surgery, some would be really happy and some were suffering through private agonies; and all of these people were fully immersed in their own network of private lives and work, school and business, revolving around and around in what would be a meaningful circle to them, something I would never and could never know a single thing about.
Yet to all of those people their lives were absolute reality, and whether or not I knew anything about them didn't matter a bit. My world and theirs were completely removed and in no way the same, yet all of our worlds were absolutely real. In some ways it made me feel kind of lonely, but in other ways it was very interesting to think about the millions of lives being lived, with people doing so many different kinds of things.
Life is a very different experience from person to person, and it was apparent to me even then that the folks who'd been abundantly blessed with cash lived very well indeed, and in absolute oblivion to their own next door neighbors who were not similarly blessed.
We live in a society that ignores those who must struggle through their days. Indeed it seems we are anxious to be rid of them. We think of them as eyesores instead of human beings, and never ask why some have so much while others have no one and nothing and cannot keep up.
I feel quite strongly that this is not the normal way for people to be. It's not normal to ignore other's struggles or needs. That some should have enough while others don't have enough in the midst of plenty feels unfair and I think a lot of people feel that unfairness when they see it.
It's about justice, which is something natural to human beings and something many of us inherently understand and feel and can judge. I believe this disregard for others is a product of the ruling classes of Earth, who are the major purveyors of global injustice. They set the standards we all inevitably follow to some extent or another.
I've also come to believe that at the very core of evil is injustice. Unfairness. Man's inhumanity to man. It's all about injustice perpetrated by force, the truest most destructive form of evil in existence.
In our world it is commonplace to let others suffer and not feel any compulsion to do something about it. That's the way our ruling classes feel, if you can call it a feeling. It seems to me to be more along the lines of psychopathy. Regardless of the origins of our obliviousness, this indifference along with a judgment of those suffering as being less deserving than ourselves is a reality, whether it's conscious or not.
I guess as long as we're enjoying enough prosperity and comfort we're not much inclined to stop and take a look around and see how society is put together. We simply assume that everything is functioning as it should and that everything is exactly what it seems to be.
We see a vast network of people busily going about their lives and assume everyone else is pretty much like we are, wanting the same things, valuing the same things, believing the same things. We believe we're all on the same team in spite of minor differences and don't worry too much about ideas like politics because, believing that what we see as good is what everyone thinks is good, it doesn't really matter who's president or who's a senator. They're all supposedly working toward the same goals and wanting the same things we want.
What a shock it is for those who wake up to look around and see that nothing we thought of as reality is at all what it seems to be. It's especially hard, even impossible for some to believe that there is real evil in this world and that people who embody evil could actually be those individuals charged with leading our own country.
In our day to day lives we rarely if ever encounter true evil. We have problems, yes, and society has its problems to be sure, but to directly confront evil is a very rare thing indeed. Since many of us never run into evil personally, or comprehend that there is a bigger picture, it makes perfect sense for us to come to believe that real evil just doesn't exist.
One of my greatest struggles over the last couple of years has been coming to accept that evil does exist, it really does exist. I didn't believe it for a long time and even though my hunger to understand what was happening to our country kept bringing me evidence that evil is real, I just couldn't get my mind to go there. It had to be something else. It had to be selfishness, or it had to be politics, or stupidity, or a lack of understanding that simply needed to be corrected.
The furthest I could get for a while was to accept that some people were truly stupid, and that stupidity was harming us. Eventually I broke through the membrane and at last came to see that it goes way beyond stupidity. There is evil in this world. Real, serious evil. The frustrating thing is that evil always hides behind good. It suddenly became so obvious. I began to recognize it time and again in all the likely places and with all the same characters behind it. Hiding evil behind good is possibly the most evil and effective ploy ever conceived of, and it works beyond my ability to put into words. It's rock solid and virtually guarantees success. But if it was this hard for me to come to see it, someone without a team or a belief system beyond just wanting people to be decent to each other, then how hard would it be for the next person to see?
Unbelievably, incredibly hard. In fact I'd have to say it's impossible. What I've had to do to be able to get a look at the bigger picture took a lot of time and hard work and in effect I've taken another ride to the top of another structure, and from there I can see a bigger picture as clear as day. No one else standing next to me seeing the same thing would argue that what we're looking at isn't real, it is real. But unless someone's perspective can be similarly changed, raised up and away from the static focus of their own lives, they cannot possibly take in this view. Expecting them to see what I can see is simply ridiculous even though we're looking at exactly the same things. Yet, it doesn't mean I can stop myself from trying to get people to step on board and take that private ride to expanded perspective where at last we can stand looking at the same things, and see the same things.
Remembering how less than enthused I was about simply being lifted up to get a view of my own world, imagine how much less enthused busy people would feel about the interruption of my voice and urgings that they take a moment and ride up to the top of my unimpressive structure for a better look at what they're already so familiar with. Why should they believe that their familiar world looks so very different when seen from a slight change in perspective? And even if they accept that it could look different, why should they care?
When people are confronted with the evidence that evil is real and it hides behind good, there are different ways they can react. I think the vast majority of people, at least initially, always dismiss the evidence. Evidence to the contrary of our beliefs is never welcomed, that's human nature too, and it makes perfect sense. Why should we be inclined to chuck our whole life's experience on the basis of some obnoxious incongruous factoid that falls into our lap? The most sensible reaction would be to judge it as incorrect somehow. A misrepresentation, an error.
And if it offends our sensibilities enough we may even declare that it's a pernicious lie purposely constructed to undermine the strength of our convictions and we look upon those delivering the message as beneath our contempt. People can and do become enraged over things like these, which is frightening and leads to an obvious question. Why do we first resort to judgment and anger before even considering the possibility that the messenger is telling the truth? Doesn't it border on self-delusion or hypocrisy to simply snap our fingers and assert that they are wrong and we are right when we won't even bother to take an objective look at the message or the evidence that comes with it?
But it's more complicated than that, and at the same time it's more simple. Truth is an interesting animal and it's a fact that what's true for me may not be true for you. For instance I could say that I love the taste of oranges and because of that I could stand up and unequivocally state that oranges are good. It would be a true statement that could not be rebutted. It's my own personal hands-on experience, I can't be wrong about it. In my life it would be a fact and I could prove it.
But what happens when someone else comes along who does not like the taste of oranges and they stand up and say that oranges are bad? They might really hate the things, so much so that they feel driven to warn everyone they meet off oranges. I could call them a liar but I'd be wrong in doing so, because they are telling the absolute truth as they know it. And it's a truth I cannot deny. To them oranges are bad. It's their very real life experience. So now what do we do?
In matters much more complex than oranges, I see this dilemma playing out everywhere around me today, and it's frankly depressing at times. As I observe my fellow man I'm saddened to see how plugged into our own egos we are to the point that we flatly refuse to even try to see things from anyone else's perspective.
How do we get to the place where we realize that oranges are neither good nor bad, only our experience of them is one or the other? It boils down to having your own opinion, and true and even factual as it may be, it's still only an opinion. It is not an overriding universal reality and asserting it is one, is again nothing but an opinion. It simply cannot be proven.
Can we see that difference and appreciate it? I think we can and we should because the alternative is a descent into pointless battles that cannot be won. No one can prove once and for all the goodness or badness of oranges because they aren't good or bad, they simply exist. They aren't even a topic of conversation until we encounter them and experience them for ourselves.
In matters of right and wrong this is catapulted onto a massively expanded stage and if we're not able to recognize that absolute opposites can both be reality, then we will always dig in to our own perspectives and fight anyone who says different.
What is needed, it seems to me, is to find common ground. Do we want to live in peace? Can we choose to be okay with each other even when we see things differently? If we respect each other and understand that there is always more to any story based on individual experience and perspective, then we might not feel such a need to do battle to prevail. After all, what are we really winning when our way of existing boils down to eradicating those who are not of like mind?
Creating a peaceful and just world requires a heightened perspective that allows us all to live our truths without being offended or threatened when they're different, specifically when those differences don't even affect us. It's a lovely thought but I see this battle raging all over the world and wonder if we'll ever rise above our need to feel right at any and all costs.
We don't have to adore each other, we don't even have to like each other, and we don't have to agree with each other. It's pointless to argue about the differences. No one's perspectives will change. The only thing that can change is deciding it doesn't matter whether or not we agree and that there are more important things than needing to feel superior. What matters is finding common ground and working forward from there.
Of course there are times when there is no common ground and what's at stake is precious and irreplaceable, which is why I'm against all war. I see every life as precious, important and worthwhile and I believe that war is pure evil that solves nothing and doesn't even attempt to solve anything. It's about killing your way to obscene wealth and power and forcing millions of people into powerlessness where you then let them starve and struggle for mere survival while you take their entire accumulated wealth and spend it to make yourself feel even more arrogant and more removed from the truth of who and what you are.
From the sick desire to exploit and control equal beings comes all of the decoy excuses for war to hide behind: racism, sexism, religion, greed, patriotism, power and all of the destructive ugly things that we are conditioned to believe are just how the world is. I disagree with the notion that it's just how the world is. This is not organic, it's 100% inserted into our cultures through public institutions, education, entertainment and the media and driven by a class of people who control and own all of those things and have been at this for centuries.
I can't and will never agree with what they're doing or their arrogant disrespect for other people's lives. They may believe they are superior beings on this earth, but it's only a belief. It can't be proven. It's an invalid belief because it uses force and bludgeons their will onto others, and in my simplistic way of seeing things, that's just wrong. It's the definition of everything we think of as crime. So if they hate oranges, too bad. Oranges exist whether or not they like it. They don't get to rid the world of who they hate, that's not logical or reasonable. They don't get to slaughter millions of people for wealth and power, that's just not acceptable.
Some of our differences are hard, and some are easy, and sometimes the answers are complicated and hard to agree on. I can't stop believing that as long as we're not hurting anyone else we should be free to live our lives as we choose. What other way of seeing things makes sense? What is more just and fair than that?
There are those who would say there are other ways and that exterminating those we dislike is valid and righteous. I guess that's what is at the very heart of all conflict and brutality in this world. The battle is between those who want to share our planet and live in peace and those who want to own it outright and act like spoiled Gods. Since there is honestly no way I can say that one or the other way of seeing things is ultimately true, then it should logically boil down to something we hear bandied about but see precious little of: democracy. Letting the majority decide.
It's no wonder the very individuals responsible for all the war and death and economic injustice are the same ones hiding behind words like democracy and freedom when the truth and the fact is they despise the very notion of these things and want nothing to do with them. They are stamping out democracy and freedom anywhere it tries to rise up because democracy and true freedom would obviously be their undoing. The people of this world would never choose to be reduced to poverty and powerlessness so that a few greedy individuals can play God over all of us.
It all begins to make sense with a little change of perspective. If only I could find a way to get people to look, maybe they could see what I can see. And maybe, just maybe once they did, we could come together and finally rid the world of the problem that is the genesis of all other problems, the evil that hides behind everything we think of as good. For once we could let the majority decide what the world should be instead of letting the evil, greedy few rape it into submission and
eventual total destruction.
It grieves me to say it, but I'm beginning to wonder if that's even possible. Not because it isn't literally and physically possible, because it is, but because the very notion of achieving global justice goes against the beliefs of a great many others who see things in a completely different way than I do. They're not even interested in getting there and in some cases would even say that it's wrong of me to want that global justice to become our shared reality.
As disheartening as that is, to me it's still only an opinion, and no one is obligated to buy into it. I can only speak the truth as I see it, and I'll keep doing that. Because really, what else is there to talk about that matters anywhere near as much?