“All creatures love life. All tremble before violence. All fear death. See yourself in others, then who can you harm?” Siddharta Gautama
When I was seventeen years old, I had the exquisite good fortune to spend my Spring Break holiday in a cabin nestled deep in the forest of the idyllic and picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains. The highlight of the trip, for me, was the time I got to spend speaking with a tour guide in nearby Cherokee, NC. He introduced himself to me and my family as Talking Bear. After a discreet appraisal of my mother’s light brown skin, straight hair, and smallish stature, he respectfully asked whether we shared a heritage with Indigenous Americans.
As with many people of color living in the US, we have our suspicions and family folk tales, but we told Talking Bear that no, our immediate ancestors hailed from the motherland, namely, Africa. To my surprise, our guide’s eyes lit up and he launched into an anecdote, recalling an experience that he’d had on a trip to West Africa a few years before. He said that he was astounded to learn that the greeting that the Africans used, while differing in language, had the same meaning as the traditional Cherokee greeting he had spoken all his life. The translation of the greeting was, roughly, “Salutations, fellow human being.”
His words both intrigued me and warmed my heart. We chatted at length about the similarities to be found between our cultures. It is an experience that resonates with me even until this day. In today’s world, especially here in the West, individualism, greed, and materialism reign supreme. It is nothing short of baffling for most modern Americans to consider the level of collective effort and cooperation which would have been required to successfully construct such ancient wonders as the Pyramids, Stonehenge, or the moai of Easter Island. It is easy to forget that we all breathe the same air, drink the same water, and look up to the same sky in wonder, or maybe even prayer.
In 1987, then President Ronald Reagan said “Sometimes I think of how quickly we would put our differences aside if we were facing an alien threat from outside Earth.” Now, Reagan isn’t necessarily someone I would consider one of my heroes or even a role model, but his statement to the United Nations on the subject endures as one of the most profound that I have heard regarding the nature of human conflicts. To be quite honest, I often find myself wishing that something would happen equivalent to pushing a global “reset button” where all social, economic, and hereditary hierarchies are done away with. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to come up with a scenario that doesn’t spell catastrophe for all of humanity that could effectively make that happen.
But why should that be the case? I try to avoid viewing history through too romantic a lens, but it certainly seems that there was a certain level of honor and accountability underlying most social interactions in the (not so distant) past that no longer exists, or is at least highly uncommon in the western world now. I personally try to live my life with an open heart and a sincere expression of unconditional love for fellow living beings. Unfortunately, I have found that many of my human brothers and sisters seemed to have missed the lesson on the Golden Rule. However, I refuse to let others’ negativity dampen my resolve. It’s ironic that while we live in an era where the world is more connected and populous than it has ever been before, people seem to be becoming ever more isolated from each other.
When the SWAG boutique released its 100% Human Tee, I legitimately shouted “Hell Yeah!” when I read its message. Never before had I seen what could easily be called my life’s credo so simply yet eloquently expressed. I’ve always worn my heart on my sleeve, sometimes to my great peril, but I am determined not to let the world’s ugliness undermine my innate feelings of connection to and affection for (well, almost) all forms of life. I think the image of me wearing the T-shirt, along with my ankh and proud afro puff show the world a perfect snapshot of the person I am becoming and I hope, perfecting.
One of my favorite things about the SWAG boutique is that there is a deeper meaning to be found behind each of the products offered. In these times, when profits are paramount, it’s good to know that businesses still exist whose owners are sensitive not only to the needs of the flesh but the spirit as well. I’ll step off my soapbox for now, lest this post become too preachy or lengthy. Salutations, fellow human beings!
PS: you can get your own totally awesome 100% Human Tee here. Show everyone in the world how much you love ‘em! Namaste.