Pain. It’s the one thing that all humans have in common irrespective of our differences. From prince to pauper and all in between, the one prerequisite to life is experiencing the gut-wrenching sorrows that come for us all. It’s not just death and taxes that are inescapable; adversities and the anguishes they deliver are sure to visit us eventually and leave us marooned on the island of ennui at various stages of our life.
This fact has become even more immutable in our time as depression, anxieties and the pervasive feeling of loneliness have become the zeitgeist of our era. This national mood of angst seems in a way counterintuitive, previous generations faced world wars, massive economic displacement and unthinkable suffering yet it feels like we are enduring unrivaled levels of collective rage and despondence.
But it makes sense once the source of our dissonance is understood. Our ancestors had one thing that kept them hopeful despite their tribulations that we are losing by the day. Community. Hardships were shared and tears were shed together, this sense of wovenness has always been an integral part of the human experience. The only way we survived in much harsher and more rudimentary conditions is because we struggled through solidarity and we lived communally.
Sadly, this vital component of our social contract has been frittered away over time. The more we “advanced” technologically, the more we withdrew into ourselves. What started with the advent of cities where we abandoned our connection with nature only increased our estrangement over time. The more we sought riches in metropolises, the more we were impoverished spiritually. With each bite of the apple, we increased knowledge only to lose happiness. Modernity came at the cost of our common humanity.
With each successive leap in technology, we kept losing our transcendental identity. Where once villages raised children, we found ourselves in fancier homes only to find lonelier abodes. Phones replaced visits, emails supplanted face-to-face meetings and social media undermined socializing, industrial advances kept pulling us apart and segregated us behind routers and firewalls. Alas, we find ourselves chasing likes only to lose the kind of love that can only be gained through shared experiences.
Covid-19 only exacerbated this air of alienation as two years of isolation and fearing an undetectable virus conditioned us to fear the very same community we need to thrive. Compounding this existential threat to our commonality is a politics of destructive division that is programming us to believe that our fellow men and women are not allies in the struggle but foes who need to be conquered. While a select few are living lavishly, the majority are laboring in distress while the rest are swallowed up by poverty.
We keep waiting for redemption from the rich and famous while treating others who don’t share our identity or ideologies with utter contempt. Justice now has a litmus test as we seek redress for only those who look or think just like us. In this way, we are seeking deliverance while actively working to abort the one thing that could liberate us—love. Only by joining hands and acting collectively can we free ourselves from the chains of greed and indifference that have indentured humanity but we insist on a “go at it” approach and receiving more abuses for our troubles.
Martin Luther King once said, “darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that”. This same axiom is found in the Torah, Bible, Quran and almost all books of spiritual enlightenment. This much is true, bitterness leads to seclusion but empathy and kindness are the gateways to betterment. I know this from personal experience, the only way I was able to escape the abyss of homelessness is because I put aside my need for vindication, stowed my grievances and instead held tight to thankfulness and compassion. Gratitude in the face of crucibles led to a restoration I thought would never come.
Being reminded of the redemptive power of love is the reason I feel compelled to write this missive this sabbath day. I write this as much for the author as I am for the reader for I struggle with the same pull of the flesh that I am speaking against. It is only human to react with anger and when we are wronged yet vindictiveness is the surest way to remain a victim long after the act of transgression was committed against us. Forgiveness takes time, but it is essential to our souls to rise above rancor in times of injustice lest wrath consumes our joys.
Love empowers but ego destroys. Those who thrive through the status quo and sow afflictions throughout the world know this to be true. That is why we are inundated on a daily basis with demagogues who are being paid by the very same powers they supposedly speak against to pit us against one another. We must resist the allure of antipathy and instead rise to our better angels. The biggest crisis facing humanity is not climate change but the climate of acrimony and violence that has seeped into our spirits, let us give love a chance.
It might not make sense while we are going through it but in time we realize that understanding and appreciation are birthed through woes. I am reminded by one of my favorite observations from a Greek philosopher who perfectly captured the meaning and purpose of pains in our lives:
“He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.” ~ Aeschylus
If we are to turn the corner from the strife that is consuming society, we can only hope to do so by appreciating our shared journey of adversities in order to arrive at an inclusive ends of justice. It is for this reason that I am hopeful in this time of unending difficulties, the same way that the darkest of nights give way to the sun, in time we too will emerge from the shadows and bathe in the light of love.
I am running for Congress by planting my flag in this very love that is universal and spans the divides that keep us apart. I have zero interest in being a politician for politics is the art of dividing people. My sincerest desire is to be a servant in its most authentic sense and inspire with compassion and kindness. In the process, I will fight with every fiber of my body to restore our sense of community and to speak up for our common humanity. If I have to choose between winning through incitement and making a difference through grace, I will choose the latter because love matters to me more than the lust for power.