Events in the world are larger than me. It’s a fact I find hard to accept. I’m not alone in this, and I suspect it fuels our acrimonious era. Americans (among others) seem unable to imagine lives different from those they’re living or they’ve seen others live within a short historical memory. The obsession with ‘jobs’ robs us of our basic humanity. We’re more than ‘human resources’ for an economy that’s wholly out of our control. And the xenophobia and racism that’s always been part of our national (and international) life, now in sharp focus, leave me wondering how we can clamor for our individual dignity without acknowledging the fundamental dignity of others. Among our many crises, a deficit of imagination and empathy concern me a great deal. Without the ability to imagine a world better from that we’ve known, and without the capacity to acknowledge our reciprocal humanity, there’s no way to travel to a better future. And there’s no way to transform our individual lives.
We have no way of knowing what comes next, and that causes anxiety. My own plans, my desire for a kind of personal (if modest) prosperity and happiness feel interrupted. And within these interruptions I’ve had to acknowledge an uncomfortable fact about myself: I’m not fully living within my values. If I want to live within an imaginative and empathetic world, I need to do some hard work and make change in my own ways of being. While it’s too soon to have come to real clarity, my first insights have inspired some commitments:
- Make more art. Be political. Whenever possible, make beauty evident.
- Seek connection. Live more publicly. Work in cafes. Go to events. Join societies. Create new associations. Greet people. Make friends. Go to sleep socially exhausted.
- Lead when called. Step aside when others are better suited to the task.
- Live honestly. Find joy. Love more. Hold people accountable. Hold myself accountable. Resist the culture of narcissism.
- Imagine better. Create a life that’s never been lived before. Help others do the same. Seek understanding. Cultivate curiosity.
- Protest better. Fight for justice, not just against injustice.
- Make better investments in the world. Make better investments in myself. Forgive mistakes. Be kinder.
Undoubtedly, there’s more to come.