Sunday, April 06, 2014

What would I change?

I'm taking an "Intro to Civic Engagement" course this term and had to write a reflective essay about picking one thing to change in our lives, and how we would go about implementing the change. I don't know the teacher yet so I don't know if she'll really enjoy my essay, or feel that I completely missed the mark. In any event, I've posted it below because I enjoyed writing it and thinking about this. 

This picture has nothing to do with my essay. I just thought it was funny!
What a gigantic challenge it is to think of only one thing in my life that I would want to change. Especially when there are no parameters around how big or far reaching of a change. It’s hard to narrow it down; off the top of my head I can think of like 50 things I’d like to change. I’d like for people to not be hungry or obese—balance out the food inequities that are everywhere! I’d also like to make sure that everyone has a safe place to live, or that people who want to go to school have the opportunity to go regardless of ability to afford it. I’d like to change that there are child soldiers in other nations and genocide in Africa. I’d like to eradicate Monsanto and maybe even toss out the whole processed-food thing that’s slowly mutating the human race over time. When given the power to change one thing, my mind is instantly a Technicolor explosion of fragmented and some slightly selfish desires.

One thing that has been bothering me lately is the amount of people I see in traffic who go through red lights. I don’t mean yellow-just-turned-red red, I mean the light has been red for at least a full moment and the other side has a solid green. I’ve also witnessed accidents and have had loved ones victims of accidents where someone sped through a red light. It’s scary and awful, and usually the person who caused the accident is genuinely sorry.

Having said that, I think it’d be great to make a change so people could never run red lights again. I know that sounds like a really trivial thing to change, but the amount of people who blow through red lights is incredibly alarming. If drivers were forced to stop for lights, this action would probably save a lot of lives and reduce a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering. But I have no idea how I’d go about initiating this change and now that I’m really reflecting on this, I don’t think it’s even the best one to pick. The problem with people going through red lights is it is actually a symptom of a much deeper issue; it’s a lack of self-awareness. The people who speed and drive through the red lights are doing so because they don’t want to wait at the intersection for 2 minutes while the traffic signal cycles through. This impatience isn’t just evident when we are commuting, it’s also found all over: in stores while grocery shopping, on phone calls with services trying to fulfill customer service needs, at the airport gate boarding or deboarding, and in many other aspects of our lives.

Circling back to the initial essay topic of “changing one thing,” I think after all of my preceding reflection I would like to change the world, and in a profound, fundamental way. The change I would like to make is to give every human the capacity for self-awareness. I’d like to start with our nation, the USA. The people that I’ve encountered in my life so far certainly could benefit from a little self-awareness. I feel that I have self-awareness but also am aware I exist in my own bubble sometimes. I know I also can benefit from an increase of self-awareness; I am all for self-improvement and lessons on how to be a better human. I don’t have much experience with people from other places in the world, however if they could benefit from this change I’d like to extend it their way too. I think some of the people responsible for war, senseless abuse and slaughter of people should really be candidates for the self-awareness change. The people who perpetuate and contribute to corporate greed should also be at the front of the line for the self-awareness change.

A change of this magnitude will take time, and change would have to be initiated on an individual level. If people in positions of power and authority demonstrated and modeled self-awareness, they would teach those skills to people who look up to them, especially the people next in line for power and authority. A person is faced with numerous choices every moment of every day; practicing self-awareness helps a person determine which choice s/he wants to make and the impacts it will have. The impacts of choice and interaction—both good and bad—have an effect as if one threw a stone into a calm pond. The ripples would radiate outward, increasing in intensity and spreading out to touch the land surrounding it. I think the real challenge is how to get self-awareness buy-in from people in positions of power. Like everything in life, if you have the right person in the right role, the results will be phenomenal.

I think if more people were self-aware, they would think twice before doing something dangerous, selfish, hurtful, or negatively impactful. People who are self-aware also think about the good and positive things they do, and how making a good choice in a moment can have a positive cascade on their environment. Self-awareness reveals how to support others in more productive ways, and can have a tremendous impact on our collective well-being. Happiness, love, safety, security and positivity are really great things to experience in life.  By exercising self-awareness, one is taking a developmental step towards self-actualization and a more satisfying, peaceful life.

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