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  • Writer's pictureVaughn Powell

Our Human Nature is Connected | The 1st Issue



Fourteen months ago, if you would have asked whether I could picture myself initiating conversations with strangers or choosing to place myself in social situations, my answer would have been no. I relied heavily on my status as an introvert, and I let those qualities – a fear of last-minute planning, a need for seclusion and endless fatigue – define me.

So what changed? Surely the pandemic would have been a recluse’s utopia. I imagined introverts across the country relishing in the solitude that COVID-19 laid bare. But I could also imagine them hurting. I recall my own hurt in particular. What seemed like endless solitude combined with the fickleness from government organizations led me to worry about if I would ever socialize in the same way again, and with that came an uncertainty about whether I would be able to use any of the energy I collected in solitude.


Perhaps I reached capacity. Maybe that built-up energy caused a social explosion where, all of a sudden, I wanted to reach out to people I hardly knew, stop in the street to chat with strangers or revive relationships that I otherwise could have let coast in limbo. I see truth in that. I also see something deeper.

I see a pain that connected me to those who occupied the same space. Suddenly, we all had a common enemy – a virus that had its way with this country – and although the impact of that virus impacted folks differently, we could all agree that our lives shifted. For the first time in a long time, we could recognize the shared suffering in others.


That unity, however, could not exist without some form of ego trying to tear it apart. The loss of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmad Aubrey separated white from black. An election year, Capitol Hill riots and mask mandates separated right from left. We shared a common struggle and yet, we moved farther away from one another through it all.


At the risk of sounding conspiratorial, this separation, I believe, is intentional. It is easier for the powers that be to control small groups than it is to rally a mass. A single media outlet funnels information to one group of people while another news channel shapes the narrative for someone else. Right now, we can read, watch, tap and swipe on anything that confirms our belief of what is true. The actual truth is that nothing we internalize through our senses is reality. Without nonattachment, we are only capable of perception and the mental gymnastics employed to create meaning.


To have a human experience is to live uniquely from anyone else. Nothing that I have experienced has occurred in the same way as it has for you, and while that makes us different, ideally it would warrant empathy for another’s path. If I have not lived your exact experience and witnessed the ways in which you have come to be, how could I possibly know whether you are good, bad, right or wrong?


This has been a challenging question for me as I witness injustice in this country. As a black woman, I grieve heavily for the black and brown lives lost. I have also come from a place of extreme anger, where I have called people out, shut people down, cussed, yelled, blocked and exposed folks who did not see things the way that I did – all in the name of social justice. As a result, I buried myself deeper into the narrative of race as a partition - that there is an “us” and a “them.” In the fight for equality, I found division. There was exhaustion, too, from a fight that would likely never be won because separation is what sells.

I began paying attention to how separation felt in my body. There was judgement, rage, confusion and an overall lack of understanding for the people who thought differently than me. And while I felt self-righteous, I also felt drained. I had little energy to devote to the activism I was so quick to tell others to be a part of. Whom could I serve when I was mentally exhausted?


The concept of Yin and Yang came to mind as a way to reconcile my own misalignment. To see everything in the natural world as being part of a whole showed me that what that I was witnessing was meant to exist. And not only does it rightfully exist, but also it is interconnected with my own human experience. I began to ask myself whether I would care so much about racial justice if the opposite viewpoint did not exist. Or would I be such a proponent for change if there weren’t people finding comfort in the way things already are?


There is no way to know the answer, but at the very least, I have come up with this: If I am a part of nature, then so are you. You have the same right to be here as I do, and so I have no right to tell you who to be or what to believe. Your human experience, no matter how similar to or different than my own, informs my human experience, and so for you, I am grateful. With this mentality, I found some ease. If everyone is meant to exist, then there was only harm in trying to convince someone of something that was not a reflection of their own reality. Rather, I open myself up to the different ways others view the world around them, and I recognize that I am no better or worse than anyone.


Our experiences are individual, but our human nature is connected. I worry that when we feed into separation – when we say that only certain individuals deserve a platform to speak, when we engage in cancel culture and even when we attempt to hold people accountable, we lose the nuance that informs our own way of thinking.

The pandemic served to lift the veil on the many inequalities that communities face, and unity arose as a way to empathize with those who are hurting. In the short time that I have been on this planet, I have never seen people come together as a collective to support their communities more than they have in this global pandemic. And yet, we were still given opportunities to divide ourselves into different categories of thought.. Tests like this will continue to occur until we recognize what we need to do to heal.


For myself, my introversion gave me time to sit with my own thoughts. And while my thoughts are valid, they do not reflect the truth. In my newly-found extroversion, I have shared my thoughts with others and become open to different interpretations. Fortunately, interpretations do not have the liberty of being right or wrong. They are just a reflection of how we each see the world. If I choose to see myself as equal to you, then your interpretation is just as valid as my own. I will choose to see the beauty in your perspective, and I will choose to love you through it.


May all beings everywhere be happy and free.


Peace,


Vaughn Powell




 

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Peace & Pineapples!

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