Imagine all the people, living life in peace… – John Lennon
Recently a couple of casual observations got me to thinking about the state of affairs in which we find ourselves these days. The first observation came as my husband and I pulled into a parking lot at a local shopping center. Pulling in next to us was a fancy convertible and the driver initiated the process of putting the top up on the car. I watched, fascinated, as this process unfolded (no pun intended). Without moving out of the front seat, at the push of a button, the trunk opened and one part of the roof emerged and from somewhere I couldn’t quite see another piece emerged and as they moved over the car they neatly connected to form a roof. It was just like the transformer robots my grandson plays with.. All in a matter of seconds. I remember a time when a driver of a convertible had to pull over and manually raise the roof, as an unexpected shower soaked everything.
The second observation occurred while my daughter-in-law was driving behind a garbage truck. The kids in the back seat were fascinated by the robot arms which came out of the side of the truck, picked up the can, dumped it, and placed it back on the ground in an upright position. We had to drive slowly behind the garbage truck so they could watch the robot at work. When i was their age, a man would ride on the truck, hanging off the back, and jump off, dump the can, and fling it somewhere on our property. We had tin cans in those days and they were always dented.
Ingenuity, I thought. I am amazed by the ingenuity human beings are capable of. From the dawn of time to the present, there have been those whose ingenuity has impacted our lives. Some names we know, like Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Sir Isaac Newton. But there are so many others we do not know by name, yet everyday we benefit from their innovations and discoveries. For instance, the person, team or company that invented the dishwasher, the garage door opener, air conditioners, television sets – everything from indoor plumbing to laptop computers.
I am particularly amazed and grateful for the researchers whose brilliant minds and dedicated work has led to the development of the drugs that keep us functioning and extend our lives. I don’t know who formulated Sinemet, Mirapex and Azelect, but these are the three drugs that have made the difference in my life. I probably wouldn’t be writing this post without them. So to these dedicated people, I offer heartfelt gratitude.
But what of the researchers working today? Those dedicated to finding a cure for cancer, heart disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Diabetes? Do we give them the support they need? Are our children being encouraged to become inventors, scientists or researchers? With a public school system in dire need of refocus and reorganization, it seems unlikely. And it’s a shame that just when we seem on the cusp of so many breakthroughs in science and medicine and other areas due to human ingenuity, human shortsightedness blocks the way.
Where exactly are our priorities? How much further advanced could we be at this point, if we could put on special glasses that would let us see what is really there. If we could only work together, instead of wasting time tearing each other apart, Given our ingenuity, anything could be possible.
Instead, members of Congress fail to work as one body, spends its time putting the blame on the other guy, and we watch as our economy staggers, our health care crisis continues and Social Security remains in jeopardy. We wonder what has happened to our country, and if we can’t work together to solve domestic problems, how do we continue to play a positive role in the international community?
I think there is a basic answer to this – we have lost sight of the meaning behind two important pronouns –“we” and “us”. Not we as in “we Americans” or “we British” or “we straights” or “we gays” or “we blacks” or “we whites” – just we. People. Human Beings. Us. Because, if you strip away the labels that categorize and separate us, look beyond cultural, philosophical and religious differences, what you have left is just us. All of us.
In nature, we have no problem loving dogs of different sizes, cats of either sex, butterflies of different shapes, horses of a different color. We don’ t dislike the robin because of its song, or the shape of its nest, or the way it flies. Why can we accept all of this so freely in nature and fail to apply the same to other people – to us. We can allow for differences if we can focus on the similarities first.
Somewhere in our evolution, or maybe it’s a problem with the hard wiring in the brain, but instead of similarities, we prefer to see differences. Instead of working together toward goals, we try to trip the other guy up. Instead of seeing ourselves as one people, we see ourselves divided, intent on trying to prove we are the best, have all the answers, positively know that our beliefs are the right ones and everyone else is wrong. This leads only to a breakdown in communication, distrust, animosity, even hatred, which then leads to struggles for power and control, which leads to war, which fuels the hate, and so it goes, generation after generation.
And what a loss it brings to each generation. In conflicts and wars over the years, how many bright minds have been lost before they had a chance to contribute? To add to the ingenuity out there. To make discoveries, invent and create To make life better for all of us. Sadly, we cannot calculate the loss..
But we can open our eyes and our minds to the possibility of changing the direction we are going. WE can start by focusing on US — all of us. Focus on the “we” not the”I”. Drop the “them” and “they”. Look beyond the labels and the things that stand between us and really see each other — recognize the similarities and build a bridge from there. Insist our elected officials work together and get something positive done. The words republican, democrat, independent or libertarian represent a philosophy or point of view. As such, they can be changed, adjusted and open to cooperation and compromise. But not if they are interpreted as a mindset closed to any other point of view. That attitude leads to a stalemate, inhibits cooperation and positive action. It goes nowhere. The same goes for international relations. We must be willing to listen, to see past the differences, to cooperate and adjust. If we shelve the participation in activities that divide and chose instead to work, to build – together – there will be a better future for us all.
One of my favorite singers was John Denver. In his later years, John really worked at trying to bring the world, as a whole, together. In his song Let Us Begin, he asks:
How can it be we’re still fighting each other
What does it take for a people to learn
if our song is not sung as a chorus
we surely will burn…
All of us form the chorus for we are the people. Each of us can make a difference. With a little ingenuity, we can all learn to sing our song as a chorus.