This has brought out the best and the worst of us. Those who see the world as a zero-sum game try to protect as much of the single pie for themselves. Those who see the world through an abundance perspective try to share their piece of the pie. Shouts of shortsightedness, stupidity, and even traitor are lobbed across the divide between these two camps. And the humanity caught in the crossfire continue to trudge forward looking for life, or fall to the side, no longer able to walk.
As Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno explained, “it is this conflict which unifies action—life!” The question is, what will that unity look like? It is the values, norms, and expressive symbols that make up common identity—of a group, a nation, our global community. We need to decide where we stand and then STAND. In Renan’s lecture at the Sorbonne in 1882, he explained,
A nation is a soul, a spiritual principle. Two things that actually are one come together to build this soul or spiritual principle. One of them lies in the past, the other in the present. One is the common possession of a rich heritage...; the other is a present accord, the desire to live together, and the will to continue to accumulate and build the common heritage.
Will we sell our soul and the heritage of our past for a sense of false security, or continue to build our soul and spiritual principle—the accord and desire to live together and the will to continue to accumulate and build? For further thoughts on this, see a series of 15 blog posts I wrote in 2009, starting withhttp://suretrumpet.blogspot.com/2009/06/us-national-interest-toward-common.html.
Meaning Marketplace Scale: M--Significant meaning 86
“We make an interesting pair Thaddeus,” Leyla began. “Sometimes, en-route I get pretty flustered going through bad weather. Airplanes feel so powerful and big on takeoff and even landing. They were built to get airborne. But, they feel so tiny, insignificant, and helpless; so alone in the midst of Mother Nature’s power. The plane is like a dot in the clouds—just another molecule rising and falling like the water molecules around it. It is a spec, a particle in the big world of things.”
“I feel like a dot sometimes,” I admitted with a smile. “I only have one sister who lives on the East Coast—New York actually, with another home in Lebanon, and both of my parents have passed away. I live alone. I have friends at work, but I am pretty much a loner. I wonder sometimes if people remember me. Do they ever even think about me? Here is my theory: I exist, so I suppose that makes me a dot. There is hope though, I think. When somebody loves me or is even just thinking about me that creates a line from them to me. I am no longer a dot, but at least a two-dimensional line. Then when a third person is added, I become three-dimensional! Family is three dimensional, a shape, tangible. One of the powers of religion is it creates shape. I have thought about these lines coming into me, but I can create lines going out from me too. Doing things for people, you know like service, make us more than dots. And I can’t believe I just told you that. I will stop before you come up with a reason to find another seat.” I noticed Leyla’s mouth had kind of dropped open. She must have realized it and clamped it shut.
“All the seats are taken Thaddeus,” she said after a few seconds. “This is a full flight. I do believe this will be a full and delightful flight.”
Kitab Kabbani, chapter 3
Short Fiction by one of my newsletter readers. Shared here with their permission: “Bus 87”
The bus’s wheels push against the carefully placed pavement, gradually taking us to our destinations. City lights drown out the cosmic tapestry expanding beyond the horizon, far above. Though, those artificial lights might as well be electronic stars. Just as far, just as distant, as the worlds and galaxies lighting up the great black abyss.
We were returning from walking around a large crowded shopping center for no other reason it seemed to me than to just do something. There were six of us in total. Tired from walking through the maze of shops, we had decided to eat some noodles with beef and head back by bus. To be honest, I always enjoyed the bus rides more than the shopping.
The cold winter air had frozen the few inner city rivers. The bus windows had fogged up. The night cityscape, usually rigid and clear, was turned impressionist. The ambiguous blur isolated the bus from the cars, buildings and people outside. Giving an unspoken—and little—sense of camaraderie among the passengers. Friends and strangers alike.
Toward the back of the bus, on a seat facing mine, my friend—the girl I secretly loved—sat in front of me. Well, it was probably not-so-secret but unconfessed love. Behind her were the other members of our group. There were just enough seats for all of the passengers. Some were talking and others were idly rocking to the tilts and turns of the bus. I wonder, what were they thinking about? Where were they going? What kinds of lives did they live? Were they happy?
The few conversations tapered away as the night finished settling in. A dreamy lull hovered in the air. The bus would stop here and there. One by one the passengers trickled into the city streets. My thoughts returned to the girl in front of me. She was looking out the window, keeping her hands warm in her coat pockets. Her hair covered her ears and continued until an inch or two below her neck. Her eyes reflected her mind deep in thought. Here we were on the same bus, going the same direction. But only our bodies were here, our hearts and minds were in different places, far removed from each other. I searched for words to bridge the gap, but was left at a complete loss.
A wistful “How romantic…” was said by one of the girls looking out the window a few seats forward. I, a bit selfishly, thought, “How lonely…”. Both might have been perfectly fitting descriptions of the scene. Intimacy and loneliness are the same glass cup. Only, one is full and the other empty.
Either way, I didn’t want the bus to stop driving. It wasn’t the first time I felt this way. I wanted the bus to drive and drive and drive. I didn’t want to get to where I was going. Not yet at least. Four of our friends got off, which meant that we had only a couple of stops to go before the bus ride was over. I continued again to search for something to say or do and thought maybe this time things would be different.
The bus gently approached the curb. It was our stop. We both got up, stepped off the bus and went our separate ways. The cold air instantly absorbing our polite good byes.
I used to think it was only time and distance that separated people, but I realize now that even someone right next to you can be as far away as the setting sun or the stars in the sky.