I spent this past Saturday at the U.S. National Whitewater Center with Kayla and our dog Benson, hiking steep, winding trails, all three of us pretending that we weren’t short of breath after the first ten minutes. It was beautiful out, the sun shining warmly, which seemed only fitting as it was Earth Day. My sensory overload kicked in almost as soon as we arrived — an outdoor market was in progress in one corner, a rock climbing competition directly across from it, picnic blankets spread out on the grassy space in between. Families, friends, and wagging pooches meandered about, watching the river rafters rush by, stopping to taste locally brewed beer on the patio where an alternative band played.
By the time we found our trail head, I was ready for a slice of solitude. We made our way into the cool woods, naturally forming a single file line on the narrow bike path. Kayla led the way, Benson remained squarely in the middle, and I brought up the rear. As we moved, I focused on the earth beneath my feet. How long had it been there? How many pairs of feet had traversed this same area over the years? How long would it continue to provide traction for us as we hurtle towards the future, often with little regard for its well being? Aren’t these all things that we should wonder more frequently than once a year?
Stopping for a water break after a mile or so, we found ourselves overlooking the Catawba River. It occurred to me then, while we were totally alone, that there is an utterly unique truth that belongs only to uninhabited places: Land knows no nation. Out here in the vast emptiness, removed from the people and constructs that separate us, we are all the same. We are all united because we have not yet discovered the things which should divide us. What a wonderfully simple and timely secret to stumble upon.
2017 has been a year marked by continued American extremism. If you are not of the far left, then you are of the far right. If you do not totally agree, then you vigorously disagree. If all of your requirements are not met, then none of them are. There is no need to find a reasonable middle ground because nothing currently resides there. But what a shame it is to waste such valuable space.
According to the most recent poll conducted by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, the majority of the country is at least in agreement that our current leadership is not leading us anywhere but astray. Not even 100 days into the DJT presidency, it’s vital to recognize what we can do as a society to preserve an America that has worked tirelessly to earn a reputation of collaboration, growth, and opportunity.
Take a moment to imagine the world that we could build together, should we set aside our prideful nature and cross all of the lines in the sand that we have drawn ourselves, actively reaching out to our neighbors and hearing their voices. If we chose to dissolve the labels that we generate (i.e. Democrat, Republican, woman, man, gay, straight) and combine our forces to create a greater good, there is little that we could not accomplish. This is, after all, a nation of the people, for the people, and by the people. Or have the actions of a concentrated group of governmental tyrants caused us to forget?
Fortunately, the decision to practice this kind of moderation rests within each of us. At any point, we can consciously break free of our own limitations and set an example for others. I encourage you to do so. Go global. Connect. Be the change. Start the civilized conversation. If you’re still not convinced, then try these reasons why you should exist as more than the boxes you check on a census form.
- For You – Choosing to define who you are and what you believe, based on pre-fabricated boundaries, can only serve to confine you. You are an infinite light, why contain your shine? Allow yourself the gift of self-expression, through both introspection and exploration.
- For Those You Love – By rigidly adhering to thoughts and ideas that didn’t originate inside of your own beautiful, capable brain, you risk carelessly alienating the people you are about. Study their perspectives and they’ll likely reciprocate.
- For Those You Have Yet To Meet – This one is perhaps the most important. We should aim to leave behind a legacy that will benefit our daughters and sons, our nieces and nephews, our grandchildren. A lengthy history of infighting and unraveling progress, if that progress is achieved by our rival, is most assuredly not that.
When in doubt, strive to be like the Earth: timeless, resilient, forgiving, and belonging only to yourself.
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