I cry whenever I watch this.
Even though this video is new, I feel like I’ve heard the audio before but I can’t place it. This Is Water has been making its rounds on the internet, and it has over 3 million views on YouTube. As with everything in life, people take what they need from it, and I’m definitely not excluded from that. I’ve read comments varying from ‘thank you for the motivation,’ to ‘this has changed my life forever.’ The main thing I picked up from the speech is that we need collective love and community support. The grocery store scene in the video and speech is a big deal for me, and I can relate a ton to what David Foster Wallace was saying about being a part of the bigger picture, imagining what other people could be going through and perhaps forgetting about your own problems for a few minutes. Sometimes, while I’m in the grocery store, or driving on the highway, or any other jumble of life scenarios, I turn my personal life off and I wonder how other people are doing. In those few moments life just comes at you in a weird way— cold chills, writing ideas, life goals.. it all comes rushing out at me. Feeling like we’re all in this together, and realizing that we should support each other are vast goals, I know.. but they are doable in small steps.
This past week, about 4 hours away from me in Cleveland, Ohio, 3 kidnapped women and one of their children were rescued by a selfless neighbor. This neighbor’s news interview went viral online, not because of his heroic acts but because he was some funny black guy on tv. People ended up searching his criminal record and found that he was involved in a domestic violence case and now he’s being interviewed about how those experiences shaped who he is today.
That aside, I think Charles Ramsey is the perfect example of what community support can do. What if he hadn’t walked by that day? What if he assumed everything was okay, and that someone else would help the woman crying for help? They’d probably still be kidnapped. For 10 years, a fucking decade, these women were tortured in this house. A very normal looking house on a very normal looking street. No one knew what was going on. No one noticed (besides the people saying they phoned the police, that’s still in the air). The news stations were aflutter with conversations about how ironic it was that these women were right there.. right there and no one knew. Anchors went on to talk about how it’s so weird and that none of us really know what our neighbors are up to and they could easily have some horrible psychopathic secret in their basements as well. My mom started talking about how when she was a kid, they would play outside for hours in the dark, and they’d never really have to lock their doors. Nowadays, if you don’t do that, you’re either killed, robbed, or whatever other horrible thing a stranger can do to you. Mom’s thought process was that there are so many more bad people in the world now, and that people just don’t care about each other anymore.
That last piece is what I think our deal is. I think we are all so desperately consumed in our own lives that we can’t for one second imagine what our neighbors are doing, especially if we can’t even take the time to ask them how they are and really mean it. If we don’t know the people around us, how are we going to trust them? We’re so concerned with ourselves that we lock ourselves into our houses, we walk past people with the speed you have when you really have to go to the bathroom, and we look down the entire time. We don’t have time to listen or talk to other people, we have things to do!
Last week, I was walking in my complex’s parking lot toward my car, and this woman stopped me and simply said ‘Hi’. I kindly said ‘Hello! How are you?’ and the conversation went on to how she just moved in the building and that’s her balcony right there, and I said I live on the other side and welcome to the building and nice to meet you have a nice day! I got in my car confused and felt embarrassed and sweaty feeling. It weirded me out. Why did that weird me out? Because we never do it! This woman (who is my age, too!) could have just moved into Cincinnati, she could be lonely, she could be needing friends, and that could be why she reached out. Instead of thinking that, I thought about myself. I thought, why is she talking to me? Do I have a booger?
We don’t care about each other like we used to. I think that’s our problem as a society. At my old job, communication was difficult and made things tough. I really cared for people I was working with, and I really wanted to make things work, but people didn’t want to talk about personal things because it was WORK. You don’t talk about your personal life at work, those are two very separate things you know—because your personal life doesn’t at ALL have an effect on your work life. That’s silly! Everything’s connected, and if you’re going to work all day while thinking about a relationship, your health, money, or any other collection of things, it’s obviously going to affect how you work and the quality of the work you do. Instead of hiding it, couldn’t we be more open and gain support from each other? I think that would make our work more meaningful, more powerful, and I think that the feeling you get from working in a team is so important. Even if what you’re doing is something no one else can do, even if you did it all by yourself, talking and gaining support and ideas from an outsider can truly help the outcome of your work. Instead, everyone is secluded and magnetized to their office chairs and computers, hoping that no one asks you what you’re doing. Is that healthy?
I’ve had many instances where I ask someone how they are and I don’t care. I’m sure we all have. We’re conditioned to assume that our lives are the most important, most difficult, and no one else really matters. I have one friend who posts things about their life on their Facebook page, reaching out for help with a tough suicidal-thought-ridden life. I have a few other friends who have reached out to this person, and when I heard that was happening I smiled. Someone fucking cares. I didn’t fucking do anything. I assumed someone else would, and they did. Thank god. Someone is there for them. I have another friend who doesn’t remember shit. No matter how many times I say what I’m doing or what my plans are for the week, or what’s going on in my life, they will never remember and I’m always left repeating myself or turning down invites because I already had plans that they just weren’t paying attention to. They don’t know important things about your life that you’ve talked about a ton. And you know what? That makes you feel like shit, especially when you’re a person who truly tries to remember what others say. Most of my closest friends don’t even read this blog. Something I’ve put so much work into. Nah.
We need collective love and support. Simply.
We need to stop being so selfish every second of every day and think about the strangers around us. I definitely don’t see selfishness as a negative trait and I’m selfish a good amount of time, dedicating time to painting my nails, reading, laying in the bath, or whatever else. In our society, selfishness is seen as a negative, shameful thing, but we all participate in it to the extreme. We do the normal motions when we see someone, hello how are you oh that’s good I’m fine thanks bye. People are made fun of and seen as weirdos if they actually ask more questions—don’t you think that’s sad?
I’m not encouraging everyone to be buddy buddy with every single person in the world, and I’m not encouraging anyone to give up their feelings when it comes to other people. I’ve completely cut off contact with someone I was very close to, because the relationship we had was toxic and they didn’t want to recognize that. I did, and I realized that I couldn’t do it anymore. Not even that I couldn’t do it anymore, but that I didn’t HAVE to. I could be selfish and know that I mattered. It didn’t matter if their feelings were hurt, because I was hurting. I could know that my feelings mattered, my sanity mattered, and cut the relationship off. It’s been one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. So obviously I’m not saying that we should forget about ourselves at all, we are a crucial part of this movement.
If we can take some time to think about the people around us and work together to spread love— help a homeless person eat, confront those bullies being mean to that kid on the corner, really mean it when you ask someone how their day is, or any other act that society deems as cliche— imagine how our world could be. Maybe another group of kidnapped people could be found. Maybe someone’s day could be brightened. Maybe someone’s life could be saved. Maybe someone could end up not feeling so alone.
I send my love to you all.