Reflextions on the Age of Anxiety

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Eric Allen Bell

We’re not one big happy family. But everyone around you is in some way your relative. We share the same DNA. We all originated from the same place. In a vast dark universe, we share the same tiny blue reflection of light. We breathe the same air. We all bleed the same color.

It is as natural for us to cooperate as it is to compete. We are complex beings, and getting along is not always easy. We inherit a legacy that is both positive and negative. We have learned how to survive together and climb to the top of the food chain. And far too often we have fought each other in order to do so.

Perhaps more than any other chapter in history, the past hundred years have shown us how incredibly intelligent we are. We have glimpsed just a flash of our collective potential. We have cured diseases. We have learned to fly, even to put a man on the moon. We have constructed great societies. And we have also seen our darkest side. Two world wars killed countless millions of people. We have seen some of our best and brightest leaders gunned down and taken from us. We have watched lunatics fly airplanes into buildings. We have looked at ourselves and seen our best and our worst.

It would be hard to call our fear of each other irrational. It would be even harder to look within and to confront the fear of our own selves. We live in an age of anxiety – an anxiety that is stimulated and stirred daily by powerful media forces. Our house is not in order, and it has been said that a house divided will fall.

When I walk down the street I see people who are different from me. Some of them talk differently, some of them dress differently, some of them believe in things that just seem crazy to me. And I am often tempted to think I am somehow different, or better.

And yet every single one of us are part of the same creation. Our global society as well as our local communities are in fact a collaboration. We’re all in this together. It’s easier to believe otherwise, but it isn’t true. Separation is a trick of the mind when we operate from a place of fear. And we all do it.

I personally feel that this country some of us live in, the United States of America, is a pretty amazing place – in spite of all our faults. We are a young country and still something of a social experiment. Perhaps one of our greatest assets, what has caused us to innovate and to excel and to make so many important contributions to the world is in fact our cultural diversity.

Your neighbor, the one you really don’t like, may be the most important teacher you will ever have. They may be teaching you patience, tolerance, compassion. If you disagree with that statement, move somewhere else and you will find another version of that same dreaded neighbor living right down the street, or in the office next to yours, or as the parent of your child’s best friend. You almost have to wonder if there is something karmically perfect about how it is all constructed – as if a Divine force, with a sense of poetry and a sense of humor put it all together.

Separateness is a complete illusion. And thank God, because being all alone is just no fun. And being with only people who are exactly just like you just gets dull after a while. If we want to hang on to what is good in this world, we must recognize that absolutely everything that is positive is the result of relationships with other human beings. If you really let it in, it becomes plain to see that we are all in fact a family – a dysfunctional one perhaps, but a family nonetheless.

What makes a family strong is that one thing that often seems most impossible and that is love. We don’t have to like each other all the time. But when we tune into a sense of love, there is no telling what we can do. And if we don’t, I think it’s pretty clear where we are headed.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if, over the next hundred years, we learned from the past hundred years? I’m not saying that we don’t need to defend ourselves from those among us who would seek to blow themselves up or blow us up. There is danger in the world. But when I think about the 7 billion people who currently occupy this planet, I also see that there is so much love – perhaps more of that actually than fear. And it is maintaining that balance that holds the whole thing together. I see how horribly we have treated each other in this world and even in the community where I live. And I feel like we can do better.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

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