Neglecting the Whole

I’m not even going to pretend what I have to say here is in any way groundbreaking, or a must-read, or that what I say in the next few paragraphs will blow your mind. My heart and soul hurt, and I just need to write something. Maybe it will help.

And yes, these feelings are absolutely in response to the tragedies of #Ferguson, #MikeBrown, #EzellFord, and every other crime against humanity going on in the world today.

I like metaphors. I think they are crucial in understanding and speaking about concepts that are beyond our finite minds. There’s a danger of generalization sometimes, sure. But if it helps get an idea across, I think it’s worth it.

I’ve been thinking about the human body. Every inch of our bodies is intimately interconnected with every other inch. If you get shot in the foot, you don’t just worry about your foot. There are going to be consequences throughout your entire body. You feel it. Even something as tiny as a paper cut. Your whole body reacts. It has to. It understands innately that unity and cooperation are necessary to wipe out the problem. And it doesn’t stop working until the problem is fixed – say, forming a scab and rebuilding the skin – or until it dies trying. I think a lot of times, the systems of medicine and healthcare, in an attempt to help us, can actually discourage us from viewing our bodies in this way, with specializations that often treat different parts of the organic system of the body in isolation of each other. You go to a heart doctor, a foot doctor, a skin doctor, a brain doctor, an eye doctor, a tooth doctor, etc., each of whom checks, treats, and medicates that particular body part with little regard to the others. But your body knows. It tries to tell you the things it needs for its own good all the time. A stomachache when you eat something means stop eating that thing. A sudden pain in the knee when you start to run means stop running. And I firmly believe that with practice, critical self-reflection, and systematic concerted action, it is possible for us to be more attentive to the natural cries of our body and the actions necessary to make it better.

I think the body of humanity experiences things in a similar way. Every single one of us is intimately interconnected with each other. If a young man is shot dead, you don’t just worry about that man. There are going to be consequences throughout the entire body of mankind. You feel it. Your whole soul reacts. It has to. It understands innately that unity and cooperation are necessary to wipe out the problem. And it shouldn’t let you stop working until the problem is fixed, or at least compensated for in some way – say, by engaging in some form of community-building that works to eradicate those deep-rooted problems in your neighborhood – or until your body dies…hopefully while trying to make a change for the better in this world. I think a lot of times, the news, media, traditions, blind imitations of our ancestors, and social/political/cultural pressures, in an attempt to help us, can actually discourage us from listening to our souls’ cry for change, encouraging us to instead focus on our own individual selfish needs and desires. You turn on the news, check your social media, talk to friends, and community figures who tell you explicitly and implicitly that there’s nothing wrong with what you see. But your soul knows. It tries to help you distinguish between right and wrong all the time. That feeling in your gut when you see a stranger cussing out the cashier in anger means stand up for the insulted. The social discomfort you feel when someone disrespects another human being in public means stop what you’re doing and stand up for justice. And I firmly believe that with practice, critical self-reflection, and systematic concerted action, it is possible for us to be more attentive to the natural cries of our souls and, by extension, the needs of humanity and the actions necessary to make it better.

I’ve been thinking about this quote a lot:

“Every imperfect soul is self-centered and thinketh only of his own good. But as his thoughts expand a little he will begin to think of the welfare and comfort of his family. If his ideas still more widen, his concern will be the felicity of his fellow citizens; and if still they widen, he will be thinking of the glory of his land and of his race. But when ideas and views reach the utmost degree of expansion and attain the stage of perfection, then will he be interested in the exaltation of humankind. He will then be the well-wisher of all men and the seeker of the weal and prosperity of all lands. This is indicative of perfection….

Love ye all religions and all races with a love that is true and sincere and show that love through deeds and not through the tongue; for the latter hath no importance, as the majority of men are, in speech, well-wishers, while action is the best.”

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, 68-69

Tragedies like these tend to make it difficult for us to ignore the harsh unjust realities of our time. “Never forget” shouldn’t just mean remember something terrible happened so we don’t let it happen again. It should mean make a conscious effort EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. to take actions, however small, that will make the world a better place. The cumulative effect on even a local level would be staggering, much less a global one. I hope some good can come out of these recent tragedies. That at the very least more and more people begin to truly and sincerely care about more and more people. I think it’s already happening.

Here’s hoping the new awareness translates into some concrete, community-building, injustice-conquering actions.

I love you all.

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