Post by Jacob Sapon, CC Storyteller
As isolated incidents, each of our encounters on the road is merely a collection of events. A description of foods, colors, conversations, people, names, places, smells, sounds.
When put together in order, these encounters begin to form a more full picture-- like microscopic dots of paint that, when examined from a distance, become a painting. This painting of places and people, told through words, is a story with a particular interpretation—an interpretation where people are, again and again and again and again, generous and kind. A story in which the world we live in is fundamentally characterized by a longing-- pulsing within all of our flaws and vulnerabilities--- to connect.
It’s a story about the United States. A United States where no matter where people are on the map, they share a desire to be hospitable, to love. Where there are as many ideas about God and religion as there are people, but where everyone from Sydney in Baltimore to David in Durham to the man who prayed for us in Philadelphia feels a connection with something greater, and seeks to express it.
This interpretation is a product of the chemical reaction between my particular perspective and the people and places I encounter. I wonder to what degree my own openness to this experience has allowed me to feel this intense love for the world, this feeling of interconnection. I recognize that when I shut down, when I close off my own generosity or my own creative expression, I don’t experience the world, people, the United States in the same way. I recognize that when I experience trauma or betrayal, that this beautiful interpretation of the world can turn upside down. When my apartment was broken into twice during my senior year of college, I remember, when walking, feeling a threat around every corner, an inchoate evil determined to do me harm everywhere I went.
If I look for the mold in people’s houses, trash on the streets, it’s mold and trash that I will find. If I look for the mold and trash in people’s hearts, it’s mold and trash that I will find.
I spent much of the winter reading articles about politics in the United States, following the current election cycle. Most of these articles did not share the rosy interpretation I just shared with you, telling instead an equally valid story of frustration, polarization, anger.
If I look for the beauty on the streets Philadelphia, a city I have long been too close with to see clearly, it’s beauty that I will find. If I look for God in all things, in all people, in all beliefs, than God is what I will find. If I look for the beauty in people’s hearts, it’s beauty that I will find.
The stories being told, the stories we tell ourselves-- about our country, our planet, ourselves-- are important. They have the power to shape how we interpret our world.
This is where creativity meets compassion.
And so, I ask myself:
How can I constantly remember that the interpretations I choose make a difference? That my own openness, generosity, or love has the power to bring out the same in others? That choosing to view the world, humanity, the country in a compassionate way can be its own form of politics? That love can, indeed, be contagious?
How does your life experience shape the way that you interpret the world?