This is not a John Lennon reference.
More a phrase that came to my mind in response to a well-meaning lecture a young frustrated friend gave me on the state and rules of “the world”.
Sure, I get it, and I know most of that stuff (or all of it and more; I definitely know, on an intellectual level, more about the evils of the world than is good for anyone’s sanity — back from the phase when I was into social justice).
Thank God I don’t know such a great amount of it first-hand, although I have recently been realising that despite being white and having lived most of my life in developed countries, I do know a bit. By virtue of being queer (very and visibly), by virtue of my parents being immigrants from a country that underwent (may still be undergoing) social, political, economic turmoil, by virtue of presumably being on the autism spectrum (an explanatory factor in many social and professional failures) … and just by having seen good people close to me suffer pointlessly from unjust things (later I learnt these were systemic injustices) they had no control over.
Thank God that was moderate. The rest I got from books. Movies. Media. News.
(Ecological disasters, humanitarian disasters, “politics”, etc.)
Other people’s stories (e.g. during my time in Palestine; when talking to transpeople of various stripes; when just talking to varieties of people).
My mum’s watching Holocaust movies, re-discovering aspects of her country’s past — that had been censored during her youth — through Western media. (Unfortunately my child self along her — but it’s really hard not to get exposed to that stuff where I grew up.)
As a super-sensitive empath, and apparently synaesthete (someone who often feels what they see; I’d sometimes see another person’s injuries or other sensations and then feel a phantom version of them in my body) that sufficed to make me grow up in a state of emergency.
I know it doesn’t suffice for everyone.
Some (or most) people just see others’ injuries and pains, and have to make a conscious effort to imagine what they feel like, rather than just being flooded by the relevant sensations (or, so I’ve been told and read).
Not everyone senses the difference between a brimming (with vitality) ecosystem and a degraded one viscerally. Not everyone has their insides howl like a lonely dog from sensing, everywhere, increasing inhospitality to life — various species of it — and soul (yes, soul) in the name of “development” (in countries that are “economically” “developing” — eastern Europe isn’t officially in that category, but has some such features).
I needed to numb myself out for years just from that.
(Not to mention from being unknowingly transgender, queer, in an ethnic minority, mildly autistic while yearning for connection deeply, and just hypersensitive off-the-bell-curve to most things.)
This isn’t to pity myself. I don’t feel bad about any of that at the moment, and know that there are far more difficult life situations. Sometimes I still think I’m one of the luckiest people I know, perhaps mostly because I feel I have received a somewhat functional, “straight”, honourable moral and spiritual compass from my family, and many people have helped me in my life, for nothing in return pretty much.
I’m just saying this to say, look, yes I know stuff can suck, and the “system” is a machine that is eating many people alive (actually probably many more than are aware that that’s happening to them). Some system or other. I tend to think that in most part of the world and of history there is something or other that has been eating people alive.
(Even the ancient scriptures describe that. That’s what sometimes keeps me afloat. Buddha and Zarathustra and even some Old Testament prophets said about their time what we are saying about ours. In a way. The Hindus have the term Kali Yuga, and the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. It keeps me afloat because — hey, this is terrifying and unimaginable, but … despite all … I’m not the person to decide how the cosmic clockwork runs. I’m not the one to know what this is about. … And perhaps living on the crazy brink of something isn’t a “bug in the matrix”, maybe in some sense it has been part of the matrix of life since time immemorial, and our cores know it — or the cores of some of us. Just a way of thinking that can easily be misunderstood and misinterpreted, and I wouldn’t push it on anyone. It seems to help me live though.)
(Specifically, the above doesn’t mean humans shouldn’t try to stop madness and improve things. Definitely should, if that is in our nature, too. Because … that is part of us and of this cosmic cycle, too, it seems to be that way. And we — some of us — know this has to be done.)
That is what I meant when I thought that we are the world, though.
I am the world;
you are the world.
Our friends are the world.
If you are honest, there is honestly in the world.
If you are loving, part of the world is loving.
If we care and are responsible, part of the world cares and is responsible.
If you are selfless (in a good way), means the nature of the cosmos and “the world” is that way, in part.
But we aren’t less — less real, less worthy, less right, less legitimate, less part of this world — than all that hypnotising, depressing, anxiety-generating stuff in the media, in the rat race, in “mainstream” social discourse (whichever political/ideological/religious variety of it you happen to be subjected to); in this hypnotising madness that is generated all around us for us to believe, to worship as “reality”.
Sure, it’s real, it’s so real it can kill you.
I do think part of the way “out” is to not get hypnotised by it though.
(Hypnotised out of your mind, your sanity, faith, and out of your body.)
It isn’t more real than you and me.
Not less, either.
But after all we can just be.
And know that we, too, are “the world”.
In some circumstances, some of us gain — and give — more by being, than by fighting. At least by doing this first, where possible.