Ignorance is Dying

Yesterday, while I was procrastinating on Facebook a news article crossed my feed about a mother in Tennessee. This mother is upset that her 7th Grade child is learning about Islam (she doesn’t appear to be upset that her child is learning about Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism as well) and decided to voice her concerns to the local school board. She feels that her child’s “personal religious beliefs were violated” by being provided an education about different spiritual beliefs and they are proud of the zeroes received on the corresponding tests.

It is easy to get angry or stereotype Tennessee as a backwards place, but there is actually one line in the article that makes me incredibly optimistic.

“Edmisten was the only parent to speak about the issue.”

One parent. We are at the point where this type of craziness in a conservative state is down to one person who is outraged enough to cause a fuss. This woman clearly does not represent most of the school district. It is angry people who take the time out of their day to scream at bureaucrats and elected officials, and most of the people in this town aren’t angry about the school curriculum, and it appears the school board is going to kind of brush this woman off (as they probably should).

In some ways, I grew up in an “ignorance is a virtue” form of Christianity. I was taught explicitly anti-science things and my house were filled almost solely with books and music by Christian authors. I even remember writing a long paragraph protesting that my science class in seventh grade had a question about evolution on it and how it was “only a theory*”. That upbringing was self-defeating, though. Science easily won out when ignorance was encouraged and I was only given a strawman defense against scientific theories. For example, I heard many times “if humans evolved from monkeys, then why are there still monkeys?”. This seemed like an airtight argument until I actually learned about evolution. When I found out that scientists don’t say that at all, what they say is that humans and monkey share a common ancestor (just like my siblings and I share a common ancestor) it shattered my beliefs on the subject and encouraged me to re-evaluate everything that I’d been told.

In addition, my “God of the gaps” (if humans don’t know the answer then the answer must be God) got smaller and smaller as those gaps were filled by scientific inquiry. Quickly I came to the conclusion that if a God exists then his followers should be focusing solely on the spiritual and not the physical. The study of “earthly things” like history, science, and economics should not be viewed through a theological lens because religion doesn’t have the tools to adequately study them. When Christian “science” and secular science conflict only one will be left standing because only one actually relies on logic and inquiry and is self-correcting.

This parent is doing her children a disservice and someday they may come to see it as brainwashing, and possibly resent her for it even if she is doing what she thinks is right. In today’s connected age you can’t fight information unless you go to dictatorial extremes. Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin may be able to shut off information to their citizens, but parents in the United States cannot. If people really want their children to grow up as healthy adults they need to be open and honest about the world and not try to isolate them from dissenting opinions. If your views can’t survive exposed to light and the marketplace of ideas, then your views should probably die.

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Childless Among Children

Well, I stepped in a big pile of online poop a few days ago. I posted a question online and it touched a few nerves. I shouldn’t be surprised, the subjects involved were two things that seem to create the post passionate responses: veganism and child rearing.

My inquiry was relatively simple, I was curious how I (as a childless person) should answer children when they ask why I am a vegan. How honest should I be? Do kids know that meat comes from live animals? Should I discuss how a plant-based diet is healthier? Should I talk about how I think it is wrong to kill animals for human pleasure? Basically, how do I handle questions from kids about my alternative lifestyles when I don’t want to piss off parents.

I received some good advice. Several parents gave examples of how they would like that situation handled and some language that would be appropriate for children. In general, I am probably overthinking much of this but I am fascinated by child-rearing (and terrified of pissing off parents who are my friends). Most parents even said they would have no problem with me explaining my beliefs, even though those beliefs contradicted their own.

There were some people who were more passionate though, some who did not like the idea of sharing ideas with their kids that ran counter to their own. How children are raised is a grey area in all societies, and one in which there doesn’t seem to be a perfect answer. Most people don’t see their children as property that can be treated as they see fit, parental rights don’t extend to abuse or neglect. But we also don’t like the idea of non-parents stepping in to tell parents how to raise their kids, and rightfully so. Parents, in theory anyway, have the best intentions for their children and have the most localized knowledge. That means they should be the ones in the best position to raise the children, but we don’t always agree on what counts as abuse or neglect.

Some would see permanently removing a part of an unwilling infant’s genitalia as part of an ancient religious ceremony as harming a child and violating that child’s autonomy, while others think male circumcision is fine. Others would say using religion to try and heal a child from a disease is appropriate, while others see that as neglect. Some see raising a child along a certain religious or ethical path as the parent’s rights, while others think that closing your children off to differing opinions is brainwashing and damages their ability to function in the adult world later on.

Parenting is hard, and it shouldn’t be entered into lightly. It might be one of the most important things a person can do with their life and, as such, I think people should be educated about the best practices to raising children. We also shouldn’t shame or stigmatize people who decide not to have children, instead we should use childless people as a resource to provide a more well-rounded education to children and provide support. I don’t want kids of my own, but I will gladly help my childbearing friends by living in a communal system with them, babysitting so that they can get a date in with their spouse and bump uglies for a night, have conversations with them that the parents are uncomfortable with, or take them on an adventure over the summer that will open their minds to new experiences.

I’m not sure that I am comfortable lying to children though, or even really sugar-coating things (though, I will be tactful and attempt to use appropriate language for their age). I guess this is a warning, if you have kids and don’t want certain subjects discussed please let me know ahead of time. If I’m not warned then I will openly answer questions about veganism (or atheism, anarchism, sexuality, non-traditional relationships, vagabond life, or anything else that comes up). I’ll honor the parental request about keeping silent on these issues, but to be honest, I won’t be comfortable with it, and I’ll probably ask about it later when the children aren’t around. On the flip side, if parents are uncomfortable talking about things with their children (I’m sure this is true for some subjects, particularly sexuality which should really be discussed in an appropriate form very early on) feel free to make me the eccentric uncle that they can turn to with their questions. I’m always open to explaining things to all ages and am available via email, text, etc.

Side note: The discussion on my Facebook wall made me realize that being vegan is kind of a privileged position in the United States. In order to go without eating animal products you either need extra money or extra time. Most parents, particularly parents of multiple kids, don’t have either. If your meals are primarily fast food because your weekly schedule doesn’t allow for any breaks too cook then it can be incredibly burdensome to have a child with ethical problems with meat consumption.Vegan fast food tends to be more expensive and cooking meals for a large family is very time consuming. I can sympathize with that.

Jesus Christ

Recently, an old college friend of mine asked me what my thoughts were on Jesus Christ. I know she is Christian, but I don’t know the details of her religious practice. She said she is “a believer” but that is all I really know. I could make some assumptions based on our previous interactions and her location in South Carolina, but that isn’t really relevant to my view point.

I answered her openly and honestly, as I try to do in all my interactions. It was an interesting experiment writing my thoughts on Christ down so I figured I’d share them with my blog audience. (I’ve made some minor edits to my original message for clarification and ease of reading).

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I think that there are two likely scenarios with regards to Jesus Christ. One is Mythology and one Universalism. I’m not sure which is “true” but I lean towards the former.

First, mythology. Jesus (like many deities before and after him) is primarily a work of fiction that are used by people in power to control others or as a way of explaining/dealing with the world. There is not much real evidence for the miracles mentioned in the Bible. The copies of the New Testament that we have were all written 100+ of years after the events supposedly happened and came from oral tradition. It seems likely that the stories could have evolved from real events but had supernatural elements added. There may have been a man named Jesus who lived in that time and preached to the masses, but the walking on water, water into wine, loaves and fishes stuff was added later to show divinity and convert people, or to provide hope for believers.

There is also the problem that comes from humans translating and removing books over the last two thousand years. If a book is truly divine then I don’t know how to explain all the editing and changing that has gone on over the millenia. Even within modern Christianity there is no agreement on which books belong in the Bible. So, it seems possible that Jesus is primarily a work of fiction. This would mean that there is no real afterlife or supernatural world.

Now, Universalism. If there is actually a supernatural world then I think there is another explanation of Jesus. He could be one of many prophets who have appeared to spread knowledge and morality. It seems that if there is a god that wants humans to know him then he would send many messengers at different times to different people. If you look at the spiritual leaders from the dawn of history you see a lot of similarities. There are common threads, teachings, and stories that run through lots of spiritual practices.

So, I don’t know if he was the son of god. If he was the son then I doubt that he was the only one and I don’t think it is likely that allegiance to him is the only way to heaven. To be honest, if god would send a good person to hell because they didn’t believe in Christ then I think god is a terrible being and not worthy of our praise or obedience (it is even worse if you believe that god will send aborted children to hell). I don’t think it is some sort of hoax, I think it is likely either a myth or it is only part of the story.

I consider myself a follower of many of Jesus’ teachings because I think they are a decent guide to living a good life. But I don’t think you need to believe in the supernatural to see the value in his teachings.

The Scientific Method

One of the things that pushed me away from the religion I grew up with was the intrusion into the scientific realms. My religion tried to explain the dinosaurs, genetic diversity, the planets, geology, etc. But, when I encountered the scientific reasoning for the theories and the evidence my religion couldn’t hold up. Faith couldn’t trump evidence for these things. I’m not saying that science has all the answers at this point, and they may not ever have all the answers. There may always be a need for spirituality or religion, but more and more people are going to turn away from churches if they spend their time and energy trying to contradict science.

Anyway, I’ve occasionally heard that my feelings about science are really just “faith” in science instead of faith in god. This is a misunderstanding of what the scientific method is. I don’t read an article about evolution and have faith in the author, it is that I trust that the scientific method is the best way that we’ve come up with to understand the natural world. The scientific method has natural checks and balances that push towards truth. There are plenty of dead-ends and misunderstandings, but the general direction of scientific inquiry is towards truth.

The same can’t be said of religion where new information is not analyzed critically, instead it is suspect. Tradition and a few ancient texts are said to be the final word on truth. New understandings of the world are rejected and considered an enemy to the divine truth. When new scientific discoveries are made this is often portrayed as proof that science doesn’t know what it is doing, or that it can’t be true because things keep changing.

It isn’t the natural world that is really changing, it is our understanding of it. Take, for example, the 1977 issue of Time Magazine that discusses “Global Cooling”. This issue is often shown as “proof” that climate change is some sort of a conspiracy. Why would we call it global cooling one decade, global warming the next, and then climate change after that? Isn’t that proof that there is a secret cabal of communist scientists who want to hijack the world and establish a Marxist utopia all under the guise of saving the planet?

Well, no.

The global cooling, global warming, and climate change labels are an example of the strengths of scientific inquiry. It is science’s ability to change as new information and research becomes available. This isn’t flip-flopping, it is learning.

Now, maybe someday soon, scientific research will see that the climate change we are experiencing is a weird natural cycle that has nothing to do with humans. Or maybe research will show that it is partly to do with humans. I really don’t know, it isn’t my area of expertise (though, I tend to think it is likely that humans are having an impact on our environment). One thing science doesn’t really do is tell us what the best policy positions are to alter our environment or if we should do that even if we have the capability.

Anyway, I love science. I love that our understanding of the world changes with new information. I love that nothing is really off limits for science, at least in an ideal world. Scientists are humans and many of them are resistant to new paradigms that would overturn their life’s work. The Scientific Method is generally able to push past human desires, it eventually evolves new theories and hypothesis to explain the world, even if individual humans resist. Religion can’t do that, and it should really stop trying to push it’s method for discovering truth into the world dominated by science.

That Old Time Religion

I saw a man walking across the country carrying a cross yesterday.

Well, he wasn’t exactly carrying it, it was attached to a trailer with wheels, I guess he was technically dragging it. I am sure it was heavy though. I didn’t stop and talk to him, that type of overt religiosity makes me uncomfortable, but in some ways it makes me nostalgic as well.

I was raised in a really conservative, non-denominational Protestant, “god and country” home. The only music allowed in our house was Christian and country. In fact, I still listen to dc Talk occasionally (“Jesus Freak” still gets my feet moving and I sing along out loud). They also make me nostalgic, it reminds me of a time when my life was simpler and truth seemed clear. My ignorance didn’t survive two combat deployments and college. Overall, I am glad it didn’t survive, but it was still a time in my life that I can look fondly upon, even if the results of that time are less than ideal. The depression and loneliness I felt because of my sexuality and interests, the feeling of shame and understanding that I was going to be tortured for eternity, these were not pleasant outcomes for a belief system that is supposed to be about love and forgiveness.

I am open to religion, but the bar is really high. Any religion that I investigate needs to fill the gaps that my past Christianity couldn’t fill… primarily answering questions. In my upbringing, questions were often answered with “just have faith” or “the Lord works in mysterious ways”. These clichés were able to satisfy me as a child but couldn’t hold my attention as an adult. Also, when a religion views only one piece of literature as the only legitimate source for answers it forces them to twist the words to mean things that don’t make sense, or to rely on the above clichés when people question the authenticity. Why should I believe the miracles of the Old Testament in the Bible really happened but not the story of Beowulf or The Iliad?

Also, my upbringing put religion in places it didn’t belong. It tried to explain biology, geology, history, astronomy, physics, and every other field of study solely through the lens of the Bible. When you are faced with a Biblical interpretation of life on earth (it all fit on the ark and magically reproduced to its current levels of population and diversity in 5,000 years) and compare it to the scientific explanations it takes blind faith to believe the former. Instead of the church I grew up in admitting that some of the stories may be symbolic, I was told to just “have faith” or that there was a grand conspiracy of scientists led by Satan that were trying to trick everyone. It was ridiculous.

My religion couldn’t last, at least not in the form it started in. I’m still open to it, but I need to have answers and intellectual discussions encouraged. I don’t need a religion to have all the answers, but I do need it to be open and honest when questioned.

My Emotionally Abusive Relationship

A couple of days ago I shared an article on Facebook about abusive relationships (see: here) and I received a lot of comments and support. The article really spoke to me and I shared a bit about my own experience in this area, which caused several people to share their stories with me as well. Because of the response I’ve decided to elaborate on my experience a bit in hopes it might help someone else. Abusive relationships are a part of us until the day we die, but healing does come slowly and it is something we can thrive after. Breaking up with her was the second most difficult break-up I’ve ever had. The most difficult break up with a very different situation, the two of us were okay together but not long-term compatible. We didn’t see eye-to-eye on the long-term future but neither of us had a catalyst to break up, we just kind of drifted along for longer than we should have because everything was fine. We knew we shouldn’t be together but there was no good reason NOT to be together… but that is a story for another time I think.

Anyway, on to the story.

My first real, adult relationship was with Lyla*. We met when I was in the Army and we hit it off pretty quickly. She was a southern girl, very athletic, and a lot of fun to be around. In the beginning things were great, we lived a couple of hours apart but we made it work pretty well. She was my first sexual partner, and because of this I figured we would be together forever. In fact, I felt that God required it. My upbringing taught me that sex was only between married couples. Because Lyla and I had sex we had to get married, and if we got married God would bless our relationship and everything would work out perfectly. It turns out the fairy-tale I was taught was wrong.

The real problems didn’t start to develop until Lyla and I moved in with each other. When we lived apart she was cheating on me, but I didn’t know it. Ignorance was bliss. But when we started to live together it became harder and harder for her to cover her tracks. I could tell early on that something wasn’t right, but I buried my head in the sand for a long time. I made excuses for her and held her up on a pedestal. “She would never do that to me, she loves me!” I would tell myself.

As time went on she began to accuse me of cheating and began to control my life more and more. It started with small things, like telling me that a female classmate made her a little uncomfortable. She would ask me not to hang out with that person one-on-one… which seemed fine, she was only a classmate, afterall. She never had a real reason for her feelings, and she didn’t expressly forbid me from doing it, but I thought it was the right thing to do to make her more comfortable. Soon, those little requests evolved into more and more controlling behavior.

Her request that I not hang out with a specific woman turned into not talking to any female classmates via email or online at all. She would look over my shoulder while I was at the computer or snoop through my messages. “It isn’t that I don’t trust you, it is that I don’t trust them!” she would say. That wasn’t the truth though, she didn’t trust me. She knew she had no reason not to trust me, but she didn’t. I think she was projecting her own cheating on to me.

Eventually, she had me cut off from all my female friends. It happened so slowly and her reasoning seemed so valid that I didn’t see it for the controlling behavior that it was. After all, we were a couple and couples should really only do things together or with other couples, right? It even got to the point where strangers became arguments. I specifically remember one incident where I was driving our car while she was in the passenger seat. I looked left to check for traffic and there happened to be a woman in the car to our left, Lyla started yelling at me for “checking out” the woman next to us. I hadn’t checked her out, but just looking in the direction of another woman was enough to set her off and create a fight. It became easier to just keep my eyes down when with Lyla. I took the blame for anything other’s did as well… a classmate emails me class she missed and it was my fault, a stranger asks me for directions (happens all the time in a tourist town) and it is my fault, Lyla sees a girl looking at me and it is my fault.

She made excuses why the same rules didn’t apply to her. She was free to hang out with her ex-boyfriends because they were old friends. If I questioned this or expressed discomfort she would ridicule me, call me crazy, or paranoid. And I believed her. I thought I was being paranoid. Everything she said and did made sense to me, and my discomfort with it was my own fault.

During this time I was finishing up my Associate’s Degree and looking at four-year universities to transfer to. My top choices were Duke and Pepperdine, I knew they were tough to get into but I wanted to try. Lyla didn’t want me to try, so I didn’t. She didn’t want to leave the area we lived in and told me that I wasn’t allowed to either. She wanted to be close to her friends and family, the places she was comfortable with, even if that meant I worked as a security guard for the rest of my life. The only reason I was able to go to a four-year college at all was because I got my application in to College of Charleston during one of our break ups.

At this time I was really interested in politics and was doing a lot of reading and research on current events. She would become insanely jealous or angry if I would watch the news or read books that weren’t necessary for class. Everything was a challenge to her primacy in my life and she expected me to neglect my interests for her.

Our sex life continued to get more and more unhealthy. She would shame me for my sexual interests and my sex drive. I was working a lot, in school, and stressed out so my sex drive plummeted. She didn’t want much sex either from me, but my lowered libido was proof something was wrong with me. She often said that she thought I was “a faggot”. My reaction to that type of comment would be different today, but as a young Christian from a conservative background (but knowing my sexuality was more fluid than straight) that was a devastating comment and blow to my psyche. It didn’t help that I enjoyed (and still enjoy) sex doggie-style, which she also saw as “faggy”.

The few times when I openly expressed some of my sexual fantasies or interests she told me I was perverted and a freak. And I felt like I was, I felt alone and sure that she was the only person that would love me or put up with me. I now know that my fantasies and interests were fine and pretty vanilla, but I had no sexual role-models and I had no idea where to get real information. All I had was Christian books like “I Kissed Dating Good Bye” which made me feel like a dirty, failing sinner who deserved hell (and would get hell if I didn’t hurry up and get married).

We weren’t making much money at this time. We both had part-time jobs and I had GI Bill money coming in, but our finances were a mess. She kept all of her paycheck for spending money (because  she earned it) but all my income went to rent, bills, food, and other expenses. I rarely had any money for little things like a quick meal or a beer, much less money for books and tuition. I took out loans for school (despite the GI Bill) because the one time I asked her if we could divide the finances more evenly she freaked out and told me to sleep on the couch. She locked me out of our bedroom. This was a common tactic anytime I would bring up a concern of mine… any fight was my fault and I had to sleep on the couch. None of my concerns were ever addressed, I was simply the bad guy for bringing them up.

Over several months we would break up and get back together. I would find proof she was cheating and end things. Then, she would call me crying and I would take her back. We would have some really amazing sex and I would think “this time we will get things right”. This went on for months. I wish I could say I was eventually strong enough to keep things separated, but I wasn’t. I was weak and gave in to her body or emotions every time.

Eventually, she started dating someone else and had no reason to come back to me anymore. Time went on and I turned my heart off for a while. I got cold inside, I did all I could to stop emotions. I embraced logic above all else, read a bunch of Ayn Rand, and studied economics. I don’t regret studying economics, I love economics, but I wonder if I would have gone into that field if I wasn’t introduced to it during this dark time. I spent about five years in this darkness, I contemplated suicide many times, and my “relationships” were almost entirely sexual. But, eventually it passed. Sun began to enter my heart again and I started to feel love for others. I saw beauty in the world and others. Things got better.

The scars are still there, but they are small now. Occasionally, the damage done by Lyla sneaks up on me but I can easily see it for what it is and brush it aside. Even to this day it is hard for me to be mad at her, I love my current life so damn much and I wouldn’t be here right now if I hadn’t gone through that experience with Lyla. That isn’t to excuse her behavior, but I do recognize that in the end I am in a good place with a wonderful partner on an amazing adventure and I can’t imagine being happier.

If you are dealing with an abusive relationship of some sort and need help please feel free to reach out to me. I know they take different forms, and experiences get much worse than mine. I don’t know where to draw the line on what counts as abusive, but if your partner snoops on your phone or computer, isolates you from friends based on gender or prevents you from having new friends, blames you for other’s actions, finds excuses for why you can’t pursue the life you want, is unwilling to communicate or makes you feel like your concerns are never valid, shames you for your sexual interests, sexual orientation, or relationship orientation, or ever, ever physically harms you, then that is abuse. Love does not control, belittle, or harm.

* fake name

The film “Circle”

**SPOILER ALERT – I am going to discuss the film “Circle”. I don’t plan on discussing major plot points but there might be some spoilers in it. If you hate spoilers then maybe don’t read this, you should watch the movie on Netflix though. If you are like me and actually find spoilers to make the viewing experience even better than feel free to read on (I’m not alone), or if you don’t plan on seeing the film but are curious what the premise said about society keep reading. Really, do whatever the hell you want, I just wanted to give a warning so that people don’t screech at me.

Two nights ago my partner and I watched the movie “Circle” on Netflix. I really enjoyed the film and I highly recommend it, particularly if you enjoyed “Last Man on Earth”. The two have a similar method of getting you to think and analyze the way we live our lives. Anyway, the whole story takes place in a single room. In this room there are about 50 people who have no idea how they got into the room. I thought at first this was going to be some sort of Saw rip-off. That is kind of why I picked the film, I love the Saw movies and the underlying philosophical questions they can raise, but this was a bit different.

In the center of the room is a machine that kills a person if they try to move away from the platform they woke up on or touch someone else. Every few minutes a countdown begins and at the end of the countdown the machine kills a seemingly random person. It turns out that each person has an implant in their hand and can anonymously vote for who will be killed next, the person with the most votes get killed at the end of the countdown.

Basically, all the people in the room must choose to vote for the death of other people in order to survive and as the participants start talking to each other we start to see some insight into how people value other humans. The participants are all a bit stereotypical, which generally wouldn’t make a great film but it works in this situation. You aren’t supposed to really feel attached to complex characters, it is more of a reflection of how we operate in the real world. We always group people together based on preconceived notions and stereotypes. This is a battle between which archetypes our society values the most.

Some of the group members include a Gordon Gecko style Republican businessman, a lesbian woman who is married and has a daughter, a pregnant woman, a Marine in uniform, a Latino male who can’t speak English, an elderly African-American man, an overweight white police officers, a pastor, a 16-year old frumpy nerdy guy, a young Asian male, and a 10-year old girl. Some of the racial and economic stereotypes seem over the top at first (and they would definitely be over the top in a standard film) but it works in this case. I think those stereotypes are necessary in this case, and in some ways are the point of the film.

So, as the characters get a grasp on the situation they are in they start trying to decide who to vote for to buy time. The plan is to kill of people who “deserve it” the most and hopefully they can escape. Do you kill off older people first because they have lived the longest? How about criminals or people who are “bad”? Do parent’s count more than people without kids? Does a 10-year old count more than a pregnant woman? Does the pregnant woman count as less because she is unmarried? Do certain people have an obligation to sacrifice themselves for others because of their gender or job? Does someone who is living a “sinful” life like the lesbian woman count as less? Is a banker worth more than someone who works at a non-profit? Should Americans count as more than non-Americans? How would you vote if your life was on the line? Or would you vote at all? How would you make that decision when others are pressuring? How does the pack affect individuals?

While the situation is sensational I don’t think the ethical questions it raises are that far-fetched. When we support a specific policy, whether it be war, immigration restrictions, or welfare expansion, we are making a statement on the value of one person’s life over another based on very little information about that individual. When we make economic decisions based on whether a product was made in America we are prioritizing the prosperity and life of one group of people over another.

These decisions are inevitable, and in some ways every decision we make in life has at least a small effect on someone else. I don’t think many people give much thought to this, though as an economist I have thought about some sides of this (which is why I support free markets). Humans are not islands and our decisions effect real people who have families and passions and dreams, and too often I think we make decisions with only the stereotypes in mind. We prioritize those like us, we see them as having more value because of some “us vs them” tribalism… they have the same race as me, the same nationality, the same religion, the same politics, the same lifestyle, etc. We dehumanize people just a little bit if they are different than us. It isn’t conscious for most people, but it happens all the time. We go on auto-pilot without analyzing our choices or views, particularly when politics are involved. Maybe, just maybe we should give more thought to our actions and recognize the humanity in us all.

The worst, of course, is when we participate in politics. Each person, usually based on Republican or Democratic, sees the other side as the enemy; stupid and/or evil. We forget that each side is filled with people who are doing their best in this world and haven’t had the same experiences that we have. They haven’t read the same books, had the same types of mentors, seen the same things, but that doesn’t make them the enemy. We are all a team on this planet and maybe if we remembered the humanity instead of reducing each other to stereotypes we would get out of this all alive.

Sonder n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.