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Hindsight blog

Muse on participatory democracy and the roles of all citizens including students, artists, the media, and of course, politicians. Presented by the Weisman Art Museum with the exhibition "Hindsight is Always 20/20".

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A Crisis in What?

It seems everywhere I go someone is talking about crisis. Turn on the news, pick up a newspaper, or listen to conversations in a coffee shop and you’ll hear constant chatter about the economic crisis. If you listen for a little longer, you might hear about the Georgia crisis. Religious and spiritual people are talking about a crisis in meaning. Al Gore and now the rest of the country are talking about an environmental crisis. All this talk about crisis is leaving me wondering: as we approach this election, are we headed toward the apocalypse—crisis like humankind has never before seen—or are we just getting a little excitable about some serious, but manageable problems? We’ve thought the world was going to end at least once before (the Cold War comes to mind), but we’ve made it this far. Then again, with the economy in the gutter, the environment headed toward doomsday, Russia and the “West? acting a little bit too much like they are headed toward Cold War Round II, and a complete lack of meaning in our lives, maybe we ought to be as worried as we are.

If there weren’t enough things out there to be worried about, I want to throw another one into the mix. Maybe it even has something to do with the rest of these issues, but few people are talking about it. Have you ever had a conversation with the person sitting next to you on the bus? Rarely. Do you know your neighbors? Rarely. When’s the last time you had a good, long conversation about something that really mattered to you? When’s the last time you’ve felt truly listened to, truly heard? When’s the last time you’ve felt truly free to speak what’s on your mind? How often do you feel present—that is, how often are you completely focused on where you are and what you are doing, without the push and pull of other tasks or better places?

I’m worried because I think we’ve become so busy, so individualistic, and so separated off from each other that we’ve forgotten an important part of what makes us human. We live in a fast food world where we can go through the drive-through and never have to interact with a human being except over a microphone and through a tiny window. We go to college where we spend money in exchange for a diploma, but not an education. We’ve got so much to do in our never-ending quest to “get ahead? that we not only miss smelling the roses, but miss spending time with our friends and family too (except when we drink on the weekends to unwind from all that hustling and bustling).

I’m worried because I think we’ve forgotten that what matters (and what will make us happy) in life is not the number of things we own, the number of degrees we have up on the wall, or how much we’ve “accomplished?. If you think I’m wrong, try this slightly morbid exercise: Ask yourself what you want people to say about you when you die. I bet you won’t answer “She was really wealthy? or “Man, did he own a big TV!? Maybe instead you’ll want someone to say something like, “She loved the people in her life with all her heart.?

What I’m trying to say is that I think we’ve forgotten a lot of what it means to be human. Sure, it’s important to have a career, work at your goals, and “make it? somewhere in life. I just think we can do that and more if we acknowledge that a part of what makes us human is a feeling of connectedness to other people; deep, meaningful, caring relationships that not only enable us to be ourselves, but to be more than ourselves. Together we make a sum greater than the total of our individual selves. Apart and uncaring, we forget that other people are human too and subprime mortgages start to sound like a good way to make some money.

My first question to you is not about how to solve all of the crises we are facing as a nation and a world. Instead, I want to ask: how do we start to solve this crisis of separation in our own lives? How do we take a step back from the whirlwind that is most of our lives and examine what it is to be human; to care and be cared for; to love and be loved; to listen and to be heard?

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