Written Monday, November 9, 2020

As often happens when I sit down to write, I am not entirely certain what it is I need to say here tonight.

This isn't to say I'm not sure what to talk about - I simply haven't transferred the imagery in my mind and heart into words yet. It's part of the way thinking works for me. All I know for sure, right now, is there is a lot to be said.

My heart is both tired and very alive. There is much work to be done, in this world, but I feel that we have a chance to get that work done. The election in the United States this past week was draining and - in many ways - a deeply unsettling experience. To know that so many still see the world in certain ways, that so many are still profoundly mired in damaging ideas and attitudes, that divisiveness remains such an effective weapon of oppression even just within this country is difficult to watch.

In a sense, though, it is a source of a kind of dark hope, for me.

My profession involves engineering. To solve a problem, you have to know what you're trying to solve. The scale of troubles afflicting the world today is immense - but at least we have a sense of what needs to change. The clearer our understanding of what is still broken, the more effectively we can go about fixing it.

Human connection has always been the strongest antidote to any form of evil: neglect, oppression, abuse, mistrust, abandonment... connection is what gives us, as a species, the resilience we've needed in order to survive. Connection is what helps specific people feel valued, supported, loved - it gives us purpose and meaning.

This past year has afforded me many chances for deep contemplation. The more I ponder, the more I am struck by the contrast between some of the more timeless wisdom of our species, and the attitudes that are prevalent in the world today.

There is dark hope in this, too.

The importance of connectivity is far from lost. Our truest, deepest reality - that we all share a single ball of rock in space - is increasingly impossible to ignore. The very engines of capitalist, expansionist, colonialist horror that led to the current "global economy" and planet-scale interaction of people in general have given us no choice but to acknowledge that we're all in this together - just as we always were.

We can no longer, collectively, hide from our truths - neither the pleasant ones, nor the ones that give rise to our greatest fears.

It very well may be that this world will eventually be undone by our greed, our unchecked obsession with "individuality" and personal aggrandizement, our self-centered and short-sighted refusal to consider anything but ourselves and our in-groups.

Or this may simply be the exact level of dire warning we all need to hear in order to actually listen.

I hear the retorts - echoed to me in actual conversations I've been involved in, and parroted by millions of concerned people in similar discussions across the globe: "But there is too much to change; too many things going wrong and too much momentum; too many people and not enough time..."

Interesting, if true, but I fail to see how that could possibly matter.

Change does not happen suddenly, nor easily - this is true of every part of our universe. To transform solid metal into a liquid can be done... with the investment of immense energy. To transform a minuscule seed into a towering tree can be done... with the investment of many, many years. To heal a culture, mend a species, guide an entire planet into an unprecedented level of flourishing is certainly not out of reach; it simply requires sufficient effort.

So how do we get that effort to happen?

Ice doesn't melt all at once. The surface thaws first - the area closest to a warmer temperature. If the temperature difference is high enough, the transformation is quick - but proximity is important. The sun is millions of times hotter than it would need to be to melt ice, and yet we experience winters on this planet wherein ice and frozen water persist for weeks or months at a time... all because of a small shift in proximity to the sun itself, brought about by the tilt of our planet's axis.

On a human level, much as in physics, proximity can lead to friction. It can also be a deeply necessary ingredient for connection. But for people, proximity doesn't need to mean being in the same place: technology can give us closeness in ways that were impossible even a decade ago, to people thousands of miles away. Few things have underscored the possibilities of this like the past year of global pandemic effects.

I will not change the attitudes of bigots via the words in this blog. I will not undo the horrors of racism, of ableism, of sexism, of binarist gender oppression, or much of anything else, really - not by myself, and not by what I write here.

So what's the point?

The point is that I have chosen my fuel, and I have chosen to use that fuel where I can. I won't change the world, here, and I don't have to.

All this project needs to do is give someone hope. All this writing needs to accomplish is to help someone think of something they haven't quite thought of before. All I need for my vulnerability, my angst, my public exposure to lead to is someone having permission to be themselves in a way they couldn't before they arrived here. All this ever was meant to accomplish was for someone to read something here, and decide to keep on going with whatever it was they're meant to be doing - or perhaps to change gears and do something else that they should be doing instead.

Every tiny nudge, every tweak in the right direction, moves us all closer to where we all desperately want to go - a world where we can all live safely, happily, and where we can thrive together.

Any time the words here bring someone a little bit of energy, or joy, or a new perspective, or reassurance, or hope, or motivation, or comfort - that's success.

Any time someone leaves these entries thinking a little harder, looking for ways to do something of their own, even if it feels tiny and insignificant - that's success.

A solitary molecule of water has no hope of doing much of anything on the scale of an entire world; and yet linked together, those same molecules make up a massively vital component of all life here. The difference is a matter of connection.

On my own, I'd never dream to change much of anything. Our world is conditioned to believe the lie of the lone heroic figure, the genius in the garage, the writer with a vision, the solitary inspiration. Against that overwhelming deluge of mistruth, it would be easy to lose all hope of accomplishing anything meaningful in life.

I'm here to tell you to disbelieve that story. Nothing happens in a vacuum. Nobody ever acts truly alone. There is no such thing as isolation. There is no such thing as an individual - we are all intertwined in each others' worlds in ways far more numerous than the world around us is set up to let us see.

You're reading this - which means you have access to some kind of technology, either directly or because someone transferred these words from the internet into a format you could access. People made that happen. Someone helped make the wires, the electronic devices, the software that allowed it all to exist. Someone grew the food that helped those people do their jobs. All those people were once children - a process that, by the very nature of our species, requires still more people to have been connected.

Nothing we do occurs in isolation; and so if we use our connectivity to our advantage, we can gradually stop being disconnected, disaffected, ineffectual molecules of water floating around as a vaporous gas. We can condense, coalesce, join a larger body of connection and become a surging, roaring tide.

It's raining outside, right now, as I write. That water didn't just happen to show up in the puddles on the ground, or the streams and rivers and lakes nearby, or the oceans a ways beyond that. Pick a molecule in any of those puddles: an hour ago, it was in a cloud.

What got it down here was connecting - to a dust particle, to other water, anything and everything sufficient to cause it to condense into a droplet and begin to plummet. It fell into that puddle because of gravity: the natural force of everything attempting to connect to everything else.

Gravity can be taken for granted, invisible in more than just a literal way. It can be inconvenient. It can even be terrifying.

It can also be used to amazing, profound, and hard-to-believe effect, if you know how. Knowledge of gravity got people onto our planet's moon, and our inventions billions of miles into space.

What would happen to rain, if the molecules of water one day decided they were too scared to drop down to earth?

What would happen to our species, if we all decide that we can't possibly fix any of this?

Maybe the formula, the cliche, is to ask the inverse question; to try to inspire by asking everyone to do some small part.

But even that isn't really the answer, as far as I can tell.

I see a different path for this world: some of us will respond, will take action, will readjust, will engage, will persist. It isn't the goal for any one specific person or even group of people to change it all, or even fix a large part of anything.

Any change has an edge: a frontier, a zone where things are likely to happen. We can see the edges of frontiers all around us, every day, if we choose to look. On those frontiers, the tiniest bits of effort are what causes a change to perpetuate. One bit of ice melts; the warmer water that it becomes can then start melting the next bit of ice, and so on. One melted drop doesn't have to do much else. It can pass along the heat it is able to transmit, and then simply rest - the edge, the frontier, has advanced. Give it enough time, and a lake will thaw.

Tremendous change - the kind of planetary-scale changes we need in this day and age - does not happen easily. It does not happen because of the dramatic actions of a tiny number of people with a lot of luck and brilliance and dedicated energy.

It happens because, over time, one person allows themselves to use their own connections to impact a few more people around them. Sometimes those impacts are large, but mostly they are tiny - maybe even invisible, perhaps impossible to even recognize by themselves. But they add up.

You may not be near the edge right now; but someday, that is likely to change. You may not have the energy to do much with the edges you are near, right now - but someone else does. Connections allow that energy to flow, and change to propagate. The edges will inevitably move.

The more of us who can use our connections to spread hope, to spread compassionate empathy, to provide safety and acceptance, the more people will be able to find inspiration, to relay insight, to discover strength and vision to move forward in larger and larger ways.

There is no such thing as too small. There is no such thing as not enough.

This is your nudge, your dare to go ahead and do the thing you've always wanted to try.

This is your permission slip. If anyone questions who said you could, tell 'em I said so.

This is your admission ticket to a place where you belong. If you don't feel like you belong to anywhere else, join everyone else who doesn't belong.

This is your invitation - to the dance of life, to the story we all write together, to simply be who you already are and allow yourself to exist in connection with the rest of us, and to cherish that connection.

If you accept this invitation, it will add up. It will make a difference - no matter how imperceptible or unimportant it might seem, it all contributes.

There is no such thing as too small. There is no such thing as not enough.

You are hereby invited.

Your response is up to you.