For the audio version, click this play button:
“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.” – Mahatma Gandhi
This weekend I spent some time doing one of my favorite things, spending time alone with my thoughts. My wife and I had some friends in from a different city (Edmonton, Alberta) and we wanted to show them the best of what our city had to offer. While you may not realize it, Winnipeg is one of the most eclectic cities in the world. Sure, you might immediately think of the cold winters, and or the hot summers but the city has so much more to offer.
As she and I began to construct a list of things that we could show them, it became apparent that the entirety of the list could not be completed in such a short amount of time. With that realization in mind, we narrowed down our list to only a few items.
Upon picking up our friends from the airport, we headed straight to one of Winnipeg’s signature attractions, the Human Rights Museum. While I knew that our friends would instantly fall in love with the information it housed, selfishly I wanted to see it too.
Human Rights Museum
The drive from the airport to the museum is approximately 30 minutes and in that time, aside from the conversational catch up the four of us engaged in, I found myself thinking about what it was I about to experience. I half expected the visit to be emotionally taxing, exhilarating, and downright educational but I could not have prepared for the actuality of the visit. Not obvious at the time, I experienced a transformation that drastically changed my outlook on life, humanity and the capability of the human species.
The building is a staggering 7 stories tall and is filled with alabaster, volcanic rock, metal, glass, wood, concrete, plastic, and the countless horrors that shaped what you now understand to be the current state of humankind.
Reading that list may make it seem painfully obvious but the museum ushered in a tidal wave of emotions that I wasn’t ready for. In four short hours, it left me in a state of unhappiness, depression, cheerfulness, anger, and fulfillment. If you are looking to experience a rapid change of emotions that you can’t prepare for, this is it.
If the museum were like a roller coaster of happiness and unhappiness, it is the job of the first two floors to drive you to the peak of the ride and prepare you for the experience that you are about to have. These floors are beautiful, tasteful, and lay a strong foundation for the building as a whole. The next few floors will hit you like a UFC fighter in a cage.
So many questions
These floors inadvertently made me question everything about life. From it’s blatant classification of people to the way that we continue to treat each other, no aspect of my ideology went untouched. It injected my mind with a series of questions that I had only briefly considered in the past.
- Am I doing enough to make this world a better place?
- Is there something else I could be doing?
- If history is doomed to repeat itself, is the current state of the world sitting at the base of the roller coaster waiting to embark on a difficult climb back to the top?
- Why does history repeat itself?
- Am I willing to sacrifice everything so that a small number of people living in a world I don’t understand have the chance to a better life?
- Is it futile to hope for a better world that may or may not exist?
- Are humans as a species really as inhumane as history shows?
The more I thought about each of these, the more I entered a deep state of confusion. After all, I pledged my life to the betterment of society not as a segment but as a whole and this visit had me questioning whether or not my motives and methods were enough to sustain this pledge. I looked at myself and wondered if I was doing the job that all human beings must do. Am I doing everything that I can to dust off the world from the inevitable ashes that have been left and will be left behind? Will the result of my efforts be able to ease the feelings of unhappiness that plagues society?
For years I told myself that each of us has our faults and our faults are what makes this world a beautiful place. Now I wonder if even that’s even true.
Tears filled my eyes and my heart began to cry as I read about the holocaust in Germany, the genocide in Rwanda, the 1000 high school students shot to death in Ethiopia, the parents who, in order to have their children back to be buried, were forced to pay for the bullets that slain them, the child soldiers who have been thrust into battles they didn’t start nor understand, the extreme sexism that still runs rampant across the globe, human trafficking, and every other disgusting notion that can be imagined. Ultimately, I questioned the once high regard that I had for the human race.
- How can people hold such hatred in their heart for those they don’t know?
- Why is it so many turn a blind eye to the horrors that have happened and are happening?
- In the sense of ethics and morals, have we as a species really come as far as we think we have?
This trip even had me second-guessing recent articles I have written. I remember creating an argument that a single person cannot change the world. I argued that this couldn’t take place because a single person can only create an idea that a group of people must accept and implement. Therefore, it is the group that affects change and not the person. Sadly, after learning what I have learned, I don’t know if my argument is still valid.
Tragically, lost in all of my questionings is the root cause of the unhappiness and suffering of the world.
Does the world even care?
Do you even care?
Over the last few years, I’ve consistently asked those around me to imagine the world in which everybody cared as much about those they didn’t know as those they do know. How different would the world be? How different would past events have played out? Would today’s events play out differently? Would the world still live in a state of unhappiness?
Although I have no real way of knowing, there is a part of me that believes the past could’ve been altered had the world cared a little more. Perhaps I am an extreme optimist and it is my optimism that makes me believe this. Even still, if this were a reality, how much different would things be?
Sadly, this realm of questioning doesn’t stand a chance as long as we continue to fight amongst each other.
You might be asking yourself how we can end the fighting. For that, I don’t have any one answer. It will take the culmination of a number of different things to happen.
Acceptance of criticism
Openness to other perspectives
Listening rather than speaking
Not pretending that any one way is better than another way
Education in the non-traditional sense
A worldwide want to do more and not a need to do more
The understanding that we are all in this together
And so much more.
As I learned in the museum, far too many people have looked at this list and deemed it unachievable. It is this mindset that forces history to repeat itself.
This list is achievable and it will take the collaborative efforts of you, myself and everyone else on this planet to make it a reality.
The question becomes, what will you do?
Cheers to your success,