“In the spirit of full disclosure, I am here to recruit you,”
Y’all. The world is going through some shit right now– this can not be overstated enough. People are reduced to numbers, commodities and dollar signs in all reaches of the globe. “Leaders” are failing us in big and small ways. This great karmic shitstorm (we possibly-very-likely-maybe deserve) is upon us all– pronounced most in the West but it’s messy everywhere. These days no one is really safe, and some of us are in much graver danger than others.
But perhaps worse than all of the systems of oppression, needless deaths and international drama unfolding is the absolute A P A T H Y most people have fallen under in order to survive. And it makes perfect fucking sense– apathy is an easy coping mechanism. I use that shit on the regular– feels good! It is overwhelming, after all, when I look at the big picture– better stay insular, quiet, alive-but-shielded. Better give the world two middle fingers and say, “Fuuuuuuuck it.” The Nihilist in everyone knows what I’m talking about.
Yet I’m living in Thailand and I’ve just started teaching small humans and I’ve gotta say, my apathy is hard to sustain when I’m surrounded by children. When I’m alone in a village of 300 people who speak a dialect I didn’t learn in my fancy Peace Corps training. When people bring me food and blankets and conversation without me ever asking. When smiling and eating with others is my damn job description.
People here are nurturing my tiny, malnourished heart and I feel like the goddamn Grinch most days– you know that line about the dude’s heart growing three sizes or whatever? Thaaaat’s the one. That’s me every day here, I swear-to-Science.
In light of all of this magical-healing-shit I’m experiencing, I would like to share my top two tips for those of you also slumped into the comfy seat of apathy who wanna sit up a little and maybe even stand up for something. Anything. These lessons are helping me grow in to the kind of person who may one day be brave enough to help fix this world:
- Admit what character you play in the broader problem you are feeling apathetic about. As for me, I’m the pontificating liberal who loves a good circle-jerk with like-minded folks but hardly ever engages with people who think differently. I am part of the reason the 2016 election was so tragic. I am part of systems that ignore disenfranchised people and elevate educated, wealthy people. I’ve burned bridges instead of challenging and educating my fellow white friends and family because it’s easy easy easy. I hate admitting all this but it’s true. And if I wish to see a different future for my country, I need to be honest about what areas I need to grow in still. When we admit who we are in the problem we can begin to care more– after all, when we see ourselves in a situation, suddenly we have skin in the game. My tiny heart beats on, its blood slightly less soured.
- Embrace your empathy as the tour de force that it is. The love and connection and ability to see myself in other people that I am experiencing here in Thailand is slowly but surely undermining my apathetic ways. We all have this magical capacity to be empathetic and we must silence the voice that tells us that empathy is weakness. Nooo, motherfucker, empathy is the greatest gift we can share as humans. Everyone wins when we imagine other’s struggles and pain (and joy!) as our own. The world we are living in is terrifying for so many people right now. Yet I cannot see how silly, copious amounts of love and understanding would hurt anyone– I am convinced instead that it will heal us all.
The world is so fucked. But it doesn’t have to be. I have to believe that it doesn’t have to be.