I started smoking cigarettes when I was a teenager, back in the 1970s. At sixteen, I didn’t dwell on the potential harm I was doing to my health. Like most teenagers, I believed I was immortal. And besides, I grew up in Virginia where most everybody smoked. Despite the overwhelming evidence, I, and most of my friends, just didn’t see the harm in it. It was more important to be considered part of the group, hanging out, smoking, spitting, and trying to be badass.
It wasn’t until years later when I could feel the cumulative effects of smoking while hiking or engaging in other strenuous activities that I realized the damage I was doing to my body. That’s when I understood how ignorant I was being and quit for good.
We can all agree that smoking is bad for us. But there is another equally unhealthy habit that we may not recognize as harmful at all. With the ease of puffing on a smoke, many of us nonchalantly dehumanize certain people or groups of our fellow humans, categorizing them as somehow less than us. We can be like Virginia teenagers thumbing our noses at the harm we’re inflicting. When we dehumanize another human being, or group, or race, or country, it is an act of violence that is as harmful to us as to the person or group we are doing it too.
We easily dehumanize a person or group by using a contrived label when referring to them, like Feminazi, Deplorable, Snowflake, Thug, or simply immigrant. We create the false and toxic belief that we know everything we need to know about the person based on the simplistic label. “She’s just a damn Feminazi. You don’t want to go out with her, dude.” We have reduced a person or group into a two-dimensional object. This act actually sucks the life out of us.
Social media sites such as Twitter have created virtual communities that can become interactive pools of poop where we can spend many lifeless hours frolicking in the pernicious and stinky brown currents of hate, fear, and bigotry if we wish. There is nothing beautiful in those repulsive, digital pools. It’s where ignorance is revered, and small minds rule the day. And, in case you haven’t noticed, swimming in a poop pool, dehumanizing another, is hazardous to our energetic vitality. It depletes us spiritually.
We can get high, feeling like we are empowering ourselves and our group by hating on others. Though it’s a cheap buzz, like having too much bottom shelf whiskey. But we will never feel enlivened by expressing misguided fear, anger, and hate. A cut-rate drunk does not empower our best self. We are not designed to be simplistic haters. We are designed for greatness.
Because the ill effects of dehumanizing other people are more energetic and relegated to our psyches, it produces a subtler sickness than the physical effects of tobacco use. But that sickness is just as harmful to our spirit as smoking is to our lungs. Like our lungs are designed to freely take in and expel air without impediment, so our spirit is designed to join with different forms of human expression, without the contraction of misguided fear, which easily turns to an ignorance-laced hatred.
Here’s the thing. We are designed for love. We are designed for joining and abiding together in community. Universal Intelligence (a label I use to point to that infinite creative principle that is beyond my understanding) built us to celebrate our human differences with gusto and the passion of exploration and learning. We are expansive beings who don’t do well within false, contracted structures like “us” and “them.” And yet we keep creating these made-up narratives and keep creating heaps of unnecessary suffering.
In ages past, we were naturally nomadic and learned from different cultures just by our normal traveling. But we seemed to have stalled since the Industrial Revolution. Many of us have become stuck in place, rooted in the same general area for much of our lives, surrounded by the same types of people who look like us. We have built walls around our tribes, or at least made sure we understood the boundaries and didn’t venture beyond the railroad tracks, river, or our neighborhood, for fear of the others.
This isolation and lack of exposure to difference have inflicted great harm on us. We have become a nation filled with people afraid of each other and very angry. Mental illness, suicides, and stress-related diseases are at an all-time high. And we try to manage our fear and anger by gathering with the like-minded and labeling those who look and speak differently, or with different views as the enemy, the libtards or Trumpublicans, or Elites or Bible-thumpers.
This minimizing of each other and ourselves is insanity and needs to stop if we want to become a greater people. All of us have much more going for us than any label used by another to try to put us in our place.
This dehumanizing labeling is a neon example of the turning wheel of karma; it just keeps spinning around and around, going nowhere. We are not built for fear, anger, and hatred. They are mind states that are not part of our default settings given to us by that Universal Intelligence. It is clear that humans do much better mentally, emotionally, and physically, when living lives filled with more love than hate and more beauty than poop. Our default is love and joining together. And we only have to look at the world we are creating to see how far from that default we have strayed.
There are huge issues affecting all of us on our shared planet and just as huge disagreements on how to best move our society and our world forward. It is past time for us to come together, to pick up the shared intention of becoming reasonable people, work jointly to bridge our different worldviews, and work together to improve the destiny of all us Earthlings.
Can we decide to pick up the intention to create something great, and beautiful and healing? Can we choose to step off that uselessly spinning wheel to nowhere? Our world and our children are expecting us to do better. And if we can’t find a way to settle down a bit and listen to each other, then I might as well go out and buy a pack of smokes, because the future for everyone will be nothing but pools of poop.
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