Do you suffer the delusion of consciousness?
I used to think I understood some of the most pressing issues of our world because I consumed global news and traveled internationally. But I learned nothing could be farther from the truth when I traveled to Caux, Switzerland, to hear stories and dialogue with peace builders from around the world a few weeks ago.
Widely considered one of the most brilliant scientific minds, Albert Einstein believed most people like me suffer from what he called the delusion of consciousness. Knowledge about a person or subject can help us to understand their experience but we remain largely imprisoned by our natural tendency to ground ourselves in our own perceptions and realities. We are most comfortable here and experience the world through our own story constructs.
Einstein goes one step further and believes this practice separates us from the whole of humanity. Only if we learn to navigate beyond our immediate world – our experiences, thoughts, actions and feelings – can we embrace the nature of each other and life’s true beauty.
Einstein was on to something as a passionate humanist. His concerns about social justice, the prevention of war, and enlightening people speak to the strength found in a conquering force called love. Don’t be lulled into thinking this is just philosophical jargon. My trip to Switzerland, where Einstein spent much of his life, transformed my view the world and my fellow human beings.
Conversations and dialogues outside of my experiences helped me to reflect more personally and to question the relevance of this passionate platform, WomanScape.
Could we share true stories of women without really connecting to their experiences and way of life? I met so many different women from all over the world that I wondered how we could help women stand in each others’ shoes?
Like any storytelling platform, WomanScape wants to truly understand the woman behind the story to ensure truth; this, of course, is especially difficult when it’s a woman in history who is no longer alive. But by striving to tell stories with a wider breadth of experiences, from more places and more women around the world, we achieve two things: a higher level of collective consciousness and the elements of peace-building that promotes love and respect.
Caux was an eye-opener. Many of us live with our head in the clouds. We are more alive online, or glued to our cell phones and computers in cyber extensions of real life. Interacting more deliberately on social media platforms prevents us from truly connecting with each other in meaningful ways. It’s a start but it’s impossible to see behind the words or pictures we LIKE versus the feelings and emotions shared in real physical settings.
I can’t feel the pain in someone’s voice who tells me what it’s like to grow up in Uganda and see her entire family murdered in front of her. The multiverse existence that so many of us lead is compartmentalized, digitized, and void of the essence of our true humanity.
The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way.
We don’t have to stay trapped in a Matrix movie or a television episode of Black Mirror, where the balance of life rests in our ability to earn likes and followers from faceless crowds. I have never been so acutely aware of this truth having “seen the mountain” as Martin Luther King said.
As an attendee and presenter at the Caux Initiatives of Change Conference, I stood behind a podium sharing my experiences and stories about women making history. People listened and I felt the a pulse in the room. But as I ended my speech, I looked out at the audience and the streams of light that shone through a semi-circle of vaulted, lead-glass windows off to the far left side of the room.
It sounds strange but the light danced across the crowd and the many different colored faces staring up at me. It moved like flashes of Morse code, rising up from my stomach, telling me that I knew nothing of their experiences. I was born free, with a roof over my head and a clear path to education. I didn’t need to justify the value of my life or fight for the right to be heard.
When I left the podium, I saw myself and the world differently. I made it my responsibility to meet the woman banished from her village for being a victim of rape. I talked to the Ukrainian professor tired of people fighting in the streets and the government propaganda littering young minds. I laughed hearing stories told by the indigenous woman building change for her people. And I leaned closer to hear the man who shared what it was like to live among the untouchables in India’s streets.
We’ve read about these people but do not know them. We cannot understand their thoughts and the nature of their existence. I am acutely conscious of the enormous task and the global understanding that this castle on a Swiss mountain in Geneva has given me. Once a luxury hotel, it crumbled alongside the world’s financial markets in the late 1920’s. But it rose as a re-purposed WWII hospital for patients and later a safe landing for displaced immigrants. Today, it’s a conference center where people come to reconnect with nature and build healing peace.
This castle and these people have shown me the face of a warrior for love. My beautiful artist friend and WS Art Ambassador Arica Hilton, who traveled with me to Caux, has continued to make these same connections. Her art exhibit – painted panels that glittered like beacons of hope in the war against plastic pollution and a dying mother earth, is a testament to the healing power of art. Her work forges the kinds of discussions we need to have while building a safe place for sharing our unique stories.
So while I am still at a loss for how to pen the stories of war in Africa, the political crises and corruption, or the litany of devastating global atrocities that burned in my ears at Caux, I see a light. My mind will continue to sift through the personal accounts of suffering and overwhelming and indelible grief. But the emotional bravery that I witnessed time and again is promising. It crushes my heart but in wanting to understand and connect with this pain, I do; even if only to carry a small share of it.
What I do know is that our individual path to happiness in life is connected to this larger shared world. Whether we explain this using the African word for shared humanity – ubuntu – or the Japanese word – junrui, our striving to build a more peaceful and just world liberates us. When we become warriors of love, we experience greater opportunities for learning, growth and happiness. This brings us back to the mission at WomanScape and ultimately back to a deeper realization of our best self.