This might just end up being the most serious post of I Will Thrive that I ever write. With all of the insanity of 2020 melting over my brain like hot butter on delicious freshly cooked pancake (sorry I’m not eating carbs right now so my first goto for analogies is straight to donuts, waffles, and other bread products), I can’t help but discuss some of my thoughts. Also I’ll tell you about the Church of Empathy and Respect.
It’s Not Just Me, Right?
I can’t speak for any other world views, but from my viewpoint, it sure seems like everyday there’s some new reason for people to hate each other. It’s like there’s a real nasty pants mastermind out there inventing ways to spread hatred around the world. For the religious out there, it’s a real thing, and he’s called Satan, among other things.
Doesn’t it also seem like people are spending higher amounts of their time trying to tear down and belittle the things they don’t agree with? It would take all of ten seconds scrolling through Facebook to find a thread where I’d feel the need to share my favorite Mother Teresa quote, as it would apply perfectly to the tone of the conversation:
“I will never attend an anti-war rally. But as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, invite me.”
I have in fact shared that quote a several times on social media, but I think it usually fell on rigid ears. I shouldn’t have to explain that marvelous thought, but it seems as though it’s needed in today’s environment. So here it is. Why would you waste your precious time and life breeding negativity in an effort to tear down what other people believe, when you could spend your life building up what you care about and believe in? It’s an ever so subtle adjustment, but the lifelong effects to those that understand this shift and implement it, will clearly have more happiness and peace in this life.
I’ve talked about The Secret before, in particular how the film is a little over the top with the drama, but some of it makes plain and simple sense. If you spend your time putting negativity out in to the world, that is going to be the world you live in! You will build it around you. You’ll attract more people that spend their time putting negative vibes out into the world, and before you know it your entire life will be nothing but negative.
I live in a highly religious community where I often hear about someone leaving their old religious views to a new and better lifestyle. Once they’ve made this leap, many of them then spend a good portion of their time attacking their old beliefs. I have to wonder how different the world would be if everyone Mother Teresa’ed it up in moments like this.
What if instead of tearing down their old religion, they all praised and built up the new life they love? What if instead of attacking the political party we don’t agree with, we searched for some common ground and vowed to find ways to work together? It would be an exceptionally different world. It would be a world where more people are focused on trying to be positive, and thus our lives and the world around us would follow suit.
I have a dear friend that was raised with a mother who belonged to the Mormon faith, or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and his father was a Muslim. I deeply respect this friend and his unique perspective on all topics, but especially his perspective on religious beliefs. We can talk for hours about what we see in the world and how it relates to religion. He ultimately followed in his fathers footsteps, and he’s one of the most morally sound human beings I know.
An Important Life Lesson
One lesson I hope my children will learn someday is that there is no organization in the world that holds a monopoly on goodness. And most organizations hold no supremacy of evil either. There are exceptions like sex trafficking circles and the mafias of the world where “evil” is the only word to describe it. Even Mother Teresa with all her pro-peace vibes, wouldn’t be opposed to saving children from deplorable circumstances. In order to build up what we love, sometimes we need real life superheroes willing to fight evil head on and stamp it out.
Putting that exception of evil groups aside, so often today people take polarizing stances that lead to hatred. As if their political party or their religion is the only group privy to goodness or even reason. This negative stance and inability to see all humankind as something to be respected is the foundation of how history’s most evil regimes started.
I want my children to see people for who they are as people and not focus on the differences they think exist. Often, there are more commonalities than you could imagine. Now, I’m not Muslim, but if I would have been so blind as to refuse conversation from someone different from me, I would have missed out on many lessons and crazy fun times with my dear friend.
Well, I have a story about a taxi drive I once took that fits so well into this discussion, it’s time to share. But first, I need to back it up a little bit and explain my worldview and background.
Who Is This Chanker?
At a very early age it became clear I only had two clear passions and paths I could take in my life. Only two roads I could take to be happy while also feeling like I’d have a chance at making a difference in the world. The trick is finding a way to stay on that path while soaking in the capitalist bath of America with greed bubbles and personal achievement essential oils.
We all have to walk the fine line of making a living and hopefully not hating every day of our work. Even if having to make money wasn’t a thing, there are still very few things I would truly be happy doing everyday for the rest of my life. The ever ringing call in my soul to create art in the form of music/writing/film is the first path. Counseling and Non-profit work to directly help people is the second.
I was force fed all the same things all young college students are fed. Which trust me, anything we’re force fed is never as black and white as it’s made to seem. There are always other options that could work, more variables, other paths we could take. So when the time came to decide my focus in school, the natural choice was to study counseling. You of course can’t make a living being a creative person, says the stupid universe.
Actually you can, and I have many friends that do. Did we learn nothing from Dead Poets Society?! Either way – I figured I could always do creative stuff on the side in the hope that something would take off and in the meantime I could focus on working toward helping people. As far as school goes, I’m content with my decision to study counseling.
A Drive To Remember
I love building relationships with people, and I’m grateful that in many circumstances, it seems people are able to open up to me quickly. Such was the case awhile back with a taxi cab driver in San Francisco. Creating a warm and trusting relationship is often one of the key factors in whether or not counseling will have positive outcomes. Now obviously I can’t claim to know if this taxi bloke is always so forthright with all of his passengers, but based on the discussion it doesn’t seem to be the case.
First, because many of his clients don’t talk to him at all, and second those that do are not always very respectful. I asked him from whence he hailed (I find speaking like a Brit from the 16th century goes a long way, especially if you want people to think you’re an idiot), he came from a province called Ethiopia – yea verily – a distant land. I started to ask him more questions about his life, and I showed real sincere interest. I know nothing about Ethiopia and what would lead someone to come to the United States and finally to San Francisco. Was he hoping to meet Jesse from Full House? Nope. Our conversation turned onto some big topics such as religion, poverty, politics, immigration, and tolerance.
The Church Of Empathy And Respect
Our discussion around religion is the reason I’m sharing this story. See Mr. Ethiopian Taxi Cab Driver, is an atheist. “Religion is a man made institution to help people cope with the troubles of this world,” he stated. I myself am not an atheist. But, aside from other beliefs I belong to “The Church of Show Everyone Empathy and Respect”.
It’s not an actual church, but it needs to be something. Maybe it’s like a video game expansion pack, or a little cute add on to any and all belief systems. Atheist? Cool, you should be empathic and respectful to everyone. Christian, Jewish, Muslim? Uh duh. If you lack basic empathy and respect, pretty sure you’re missing some of the fundamentals of your beliefs. My life and studies have lead me to believe that all people have inherent worth. Even the most horrible person in the world didn’t start out that way.
This goes right back to this strange entitled sense some folks can get that their group or their belief is the only source of truth and goodness. Maybe some of us just need a little logic smack upside the head? Terrible things have occurred under the banner of most religions and political parties. And there are always good and seemingly awful people in every group.
As much as I was enjoying my discussion with this nice taxi feller, something was really off, and it wasn’t the funky burger joint that left me feeling like Roseanne Barr was in my stomach cackling (wouldn’t that be awful?). Crap! Am I tearing down Roseanne Barr? That ruins my vibe! I don’t know you Roseanne, but I’m sure you have many beautiful qualities. Ok, anyway. Haha. The issue was the very Christian cross hanging in this guys taxi.
I couldn’t stop myself “You don’t believe in God, so what’s up with the cross??!” And then his troubling response.
“To be quite frank, the cross is P.R., there have been many occasions where I have been discriminated, and even feared that I would be killed or hurt. People assume I’m a Muslim or a terrorist, and they treat me terribly. Since the day I put up that cross, no questions asked, no discrimination, I’ve had more work, and I feel much safer.”
Naturally a Keanu Reeves “woah” followed. The moment left a lasting impression on me, and I don’t love the feeling it creates. The symbol of Christianity hanging in an atheists taxi cab is a clear representation of where we are today as a people. And people, we have some work to do!
Sadly the kind of people that treated my new taxi cab homie horribly might not be the caliber of folks to read this message. But, just in case, here you go. Whether you’re into religion, an atheist, or adamantly believe that someday you’ll be reincarnated as a purple unicorn, you are going to die.
I hope for your sake on that day you’re not filled with regret from with a life filled with hate and discrimination. There are real problems in the world, and real evil people behind it. Again, it’s even a straight up noble effort to try hunt these evil groups like some organizations do. We should all be advocates and donate to groups like Operation Underground Railroad.
However using evil people as a crutch to generalize and treat others like crap because of your assumptions is just wrong, and that’s it. What if the taxi cab driver really is a terrorist? Chances are he’s not, and if you really suspect that he is, then guess what? You can still treat him with Empathy and Respect! Notify the police about your growing fear of taxi cab terrorists. In the meantime, you’ll find it hard to find any source of happiness in your life if you’re always looking over your shoulder for the next person to assume crap about.
We’ll never make any progress to rid the world of racism if we can’t turn off our terrible internal assumption machines. No matter how good of a detective you think you are, you’re not that good. You don’t know anything about anyone for sure. The color of their skin, their religion, or their political stance is not enough evidence for any kind of claim. We’re all far too complex and beautifully varied to be completely defined by any of the labels we’re so accustomed to hearing.
Those of you that have been married for a fews years can attest to this. Oftentimes couples that get married and make lifelong commitments to each other share at least a few basic beliefs about life. Yet, even the couples that share almost every belief still vary in many ways, which can lead to arguments and ultimately divorce if the differences aren’t dealt with effectively.
“But, Wes you idiot faced chanker head, what about the real threats of terror that exist?” To that dear friend, I’d say If you live your life in fear of the next attack and assume that every Middle Eastern you meet is a terrorist, then you are the exact product the terrorists want to create. They own you. They want you to live in fear.
“But Wes, aren’t you being a hypocritical dog rocker right now? Aren’t you doing the opposite of that Mother Teresa quote you love so much?” Um, man stop putting me on that spot like that. No, I don’t think I am. I’m not saying I hate anyone. I would say I even straight up love you and I and even love the people that treated my taxi cab brother like garbage. Who I am to judge? I would just love for everyone to join the fake but also real Church Of Empathy and Respect. I’d love for them to be a little happier. I’d love to see more positivity in everyone’s life. Especially right now.
If we step into any situation of meeting someone, if we lead with negative assumptions, that is exactly what you’ll find, and you’ll find it even in the most wonderful person. Let’s start leading with positivity, empathy and respect. A place good start is joining my new church expansion pack thing. Haha. But seriously, if you feel you have room to be more kind, more loving, and more respectful, don’t wait until the end to make a change. You know, because it’s called the end for a reason.
I personally believe this life is just one stepping point in an eternal journey. But, “the end” still works for me, because when we depart this life, it is the end of this phase of eternity. But even if you think nothingness is all we have ahead, living a life with more empathy and respect will be a life that brings happiness and joy into the world, which could permeate forever in the lives of those that remain after you.
So, wanna join my new church? It’s only $49.95 to join and you’ll get a sweet Empathy and Respect sticker. Haha. Oh, and sorry to Roseanne again. I feel marginally bad about that. I would love you to cackle in my tummy. Wow, that is a terrible ending.
VIDEO version of this episode HERE
PODCAST version of this episode HERE