By Asher Matthews
It’s important to remember that humans are but a blip on the universe’s radar. However, we have been designed with a perspective, programmed to see and take in the world through our own context, trained and taught to believe that we are a self, a single solitary individual that the world happens to.
It’s an isolating thought, left alone on paper, but think about it. We admonish people by saying they are self-centered, but of course they are. They’re human beings. We are all self-centered until we realize that we are more than just ourselves or until we become physically a part of something bigger than ourselves – a family, a team, an organization, a belief – or until we do what is both the simplest and most difficult thing possible: accept that we are merely a part of something else.
We are single solitary notes in the concerto that is the universe. One note on its own, repeated, is monotony, and hardly even music. But a note intermingled with other notes, played perfectly in time and left silent when necessary, is beauty. Because it is bigger than just itself; it is a part of something more.
The moment you accept that there is more to life than what you see in front of you is the moment peace can enter, like an old friend, the kind you don’t need to see for weeks or years, but every coffee date, every beer shared between you feels the same: wonderful, restful, energizing, like you belonged nowhere else but here. Peace is that kind of friend. We push it away often, as we do all good things, because discomfort is so, so scary. Our brains literally cannot decipher between good and bad discomfort. We just feel discomfort, or the anticipation of it. It’s why so many of us sat on the bleachers at school dances and why so many of us come up with ‘other plans’ when there is a networking event that night at work. It could go terribly. It could be uncomfortable. It’s hard to believe in the other side that says it could be wonderful; it could even be the best night ever.
We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to perform at optimum human level at all times. And, if we operate under the guise that the universe is happening to our selves only, that we are individuals, alone, and everything that we experience is just that, an experience, than it is easy to see why an event with other people could go horribly. Because what if we’re not funny enough, what if we’re not charming, what if we’re not liked? Instead, think about the fact that every human being has those thoughts and those fears to some capacity. Now remember that you are all on the same team, you are all fighting for the same things. We all want the same things: happiness. Acceptance. Peace. Now, how much less pressure is that? Does it feel lighter? Does it feel bigger and smaller at the same time?
The more I learn and the more I grow, the more I see that the best way to get through tough situations is to surrender to them, which is to say the best conflict management tool is acceptance, followed by curiosity and optimism, tied for second.
You’re stuck in traffic after work, and if you’ve got the most gorgeous human being you’ve ever seen waiting for you at a restaurant for a happy hour date. You’ve got to get there as fast as possible, so this traffic is about the worst thing that’s ever happened. You punch your steering wheel, you mutter, you curse, you Tweet about how much everyone sucks, and then after so much anger and speeding up and slowing down, you get to the restaurant and all you can talk about is this traffic jam and the idiotic bumper stickers on the car in front of you. A UNC Chapel Hill Sticker, a “Go Vegan or Go Home” magnet and a huge “HOPE” campaign sticker from 2008 – all of your stickers were redundant, sir, we GET it. And that gorgeous human being is kind enough to listen, but you feel yourself losing them, you feel the moment going stale and sour and it’s all you can do to not wail in public.
You’re in a traffic jam after work, on your way to go see the most gorgeous human being you’ve ever seen for happy hour drinks and a date. You give them a quick call to let them know about traffic, you’ll be there when you get there, and then you accept the moment. “I am in traffic,” you say out loud. You put on your tunes, you take a deep breath, and you drive calmly. You surrender to the fact that this is what is going to happen right now, but how many things can you think of to be grateful for? There’s a million. How beautiful is it outside, right? You open a window. You catch a stranger in the car diagonally in front of you dancing, you make eye contact, laugh together, and dance back, a sign of support and encouragement. You get the restaurant in the same amount of time, and accept that now you’re here. This is the moment you’re going to live in now, as well as the moment everyone else will live in. You’re a part of this, but not the entire part. That is important. And you are so grateful. That gorgeous human being sees you smiling and smiles back.
Does it feel bigger and smaller at the same time? That’s the point.