“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” — Leo Tolstoy
Note: I wrote this as a random scattering of thoughts following a tumultuous June. Mass shootings, the end of Roe v. Wade, January 6th Hearings – a United States in crisis. It was therapeutic to write… if not projecting any solutions other than continuing to work on myself. I can change nothing but myself. If you want to change the world, change yourself. I learned this from a very intelligent source.
I had a whole bunch of new blog post ideas that I was working on. I was reaching out to folks to discuss their ideas, work on some collaborations, and tease out some really cool posts.
All that just seems… I am unsure… pointless? That isn’t the right word. It’s too strong. I will eventually write about the ideas I had. But for now, there seems to be bigger things going on in the world, and I lack motivation… that’s a me issue, though.
I am an amateur historian. I majored in it in college; and though I didn’t pursue it in grad school, history has always remained with me in spirit. If one studies it intently and purposefully, you will realize there is nothing new under the sun.
Marcus Aurelius reminded himself:
“To bear in mind constantly that all of this has happened before. And will happen again—the same plot from beginning to end, the identical staging.”
As far as American History is concerned, we never were one country. The divide we now see has been with us since 1776 – probably longer. It’s just been masked at different times, subdued during different eras, magnified in others.
South of the Mason-Dixon Line, this territory has always been what it is today – conservative, slow going, religious. Racism has existed here since the advent of chaining Black folks into Constitutional bondage simply because they were Black.
North of the Mason-Dixon Line isn’t “pure,” however. Slavery existed there, too, sometimes well past the time it was abolished. Chicago, for example, is considered one of the most segregated cities in the US, north or south. One of the worst race riots in history happened in East St. Louis, Illinois in 1917.
If you look at the political lines today, they almost mirror the political lines from the Civil War. America was never a country of E Pluribus Unum. Likely, E Pluribus Divisa makes more sense, or turbat societatem – “uneasy alliance.” Like Aurelius had wrote, more eloquently, America today is the same shit, just different century. Our tumultuous time isn’t new. It isn’t a changing America. This is and always has been America.
This recent article by the Atlantic does a superbly better job than I could at outlining this Country’s complex (and sometimes overlooked) history.
Our world continues to appear shattered at the seams, but I am not so certain it was ever tightly woven to begin with. I don’t have answers. All I have is my actions, how I behave. I’m not perfect, but I continue to try as hard as I can to behave with compassion, courage, kindness towards our fellow communities.
Ultimately, I circle back to myself. Where am I? How am I? What am I doing to make myself better, and thus the world around me better? I try to have a micro-focus as anything I do will not change the world. Anything I do will not end racism. Anything I do will not end hatred. Anything I do is ultimately nothing but dust in a universe that is large, unforgiving, and careless.
However, I focus on the micro because I may not end racism, but I can end racism around me – my world. I don’t have to tolerate it, and thus it becomes weakened in my presence. The same for hatred.
“I am convinced that people are much better off when their whole city is flourishing than when certain citizens prosper but the community has gone off course. When a man is doing well for himself but his country is falling to pieces he goes to pieces along with it, but a struggling individual has much better hopes if his country is thriving.” — Pericles, Athens 431 BC.
I believe this quote by Pericles. It seems like this is where we are now, and it’s a place many of us have forgotten. I want only me me me me, and I want it at the expense of everyone else. When the bee suffers, the hive suffers. When the hive suffers, so does the bee. Humanity has seemingly lost sight of this fact. Some men just want to watch the world burn.
I cannot change the world, but I can change myself. I can’t stop the world form burning, but I don’t have to spread the flames. And sometimes, maybe through my actions, I can help put out a little bit of the flame.
Maybe I can start by pushing through and writing those other collaborative pieces I discussed earlier on.
“Be good to each other, that was the prevailing belief of Marcus’s life. A disease like the plague, “can only threaten your life,” he said in Meditations, but evil, selfishness, pride, hypocrisy, fear—these things “attack our humanity.”
“Which is why we must use this terrible crisis as an opportunity to learn, to remember the core virtues that Marcus Aurelius tried to live by: Humility. Kindness. Service. Wisdom. We can’t waste time. We can’t take people or things or our health for granted.
“Even if we may now lack the kind of sacrificial leadership who can show us the way by example—we can turn to the past to tell us what that leadership looks like and to teach us about all these things we must cherish.”
In other words, be good to one another. We’re all we really have – for now….
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