As children, we are lead to believe that we’re the only ones who don’t have the answers. Adults, they can solve any worldly problem. Broken bicycle. Upset stomach. Impending economic doom. They had it figured out.
There comes a point in life when it hits you. Most people are posturing as if they are sure of the world around them.
Sometimes it takes an event greater than tax season to snap us out of that haze.
Do you remember the first time that you realized that your parents are adults like you? Only with more time spent on this earth?
This is not to diminish any of the magic that comes from one’s own parents. There are few things greater than their support. The knowledge that you can fall back on them for answers, shelter, or a caring hug.
Yet, we do realize at some point that we are exactly where they once were in life. Contemplating what you know, acting on it to the best of your ability, and realizing that you don’t know everything.
That’s one of the essential building blocks of a “coming-of-age story” after all.
The revelation that all people are humans trying to figure it out can be calming. It can also be terrifying, as some humans hold more power than others. And they might still be unsure if toilets flush the opposite direction in the southern hemisphere.
“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.” ― Michel Legrand
The reality is the no one really knows anything.
We’re all figuring this out as we go, using the experiences of others before us as guidelines.
While this may spark some level of concern, I’m here to tell you that it shouldn’t. Within the hurricane of troubling thoughts this year, there are a few silver linings.
The Softest Voices
Thanks to social media, we are constantly bombarded with voices and opinions. Celebrities and politicians. Friends and coworkers. I bet you know more about what Taylor Swift thinks of Donald Trump than you do your extended family.
When someone tells you that “most people think” a certain way, it’s likely based on a few people on Twitter. Maybe someone overheard at the bar.
The majority of voices are usually the ones not yelling into the void. More to the point, the people with the worst intentions are often the ones with the loudest voices.
They must be heard.
In reality, the ones trying to make this world a better place aren’t screaming on Twitter at all hours of the day. They’re getting things done.
The real majority of people are likely in favor of what is best for humanity.
This is all to say that the loudest voices, causing the most problems, remain the minority. And while none of us have it figured out, there is something comforting in that perspective.
The Human Scale
We base so much of what we know on our own measure of time. Forget history books, the bible, and the most recent archaeological discovery.
It all comes down to the human lifespan.
What seems like an excruciating amount of time or a brief moment, all boils down to relativity and perspective.
We measure most pandemics in years. Not a couple of months.
A papercut hurts for a couple of hours. It feels like days.
The reality is that we’ve settled into a culture where everything happens quickly. Our attention spans have shrunk. Our memory of anything analog has disappeared with the desire to collect CDs and DVDs. We forget that major changes in society, major accomplishments, and solutions take time.
Technology can’t speed up everything.
We’ve accepted the view that life is short, and everything must happen sooner than later. The truth is that life is long and there are a lot of experiences to be packed into yours and mine. While the sad contradiction is that we have no idea if we’ll pull the wild card.
Time has a funny way of proving our assumptions wrong.
We love distracting ourselves from reality. Escapism is by definition, “the avoidance of reality by absorption of the mind in entertainment or in an imaginative situation.”
You may need that more than ever this year. Embrace it. But when you come back to reality, remember that the world’s challenges are not your burden to bear.
Under normal circumstances, most people don’t have 98.5% of the answers. We hope we do. It’s comforting. During the tumultuous year that is 2020, I’ll be the first to say that I have no clue what’s coming next.
The most conservative estimates reflect the fall of Rome taking around 76 years. And guess what? It took around 1000 years to build it.