The pixels were inspired by Lupe’s line “proceed to the next level” and arcade game sounds - a great metaphor for evolution. I also like that every level has a boss you have to defeat - a great metaphor for our inner demons (which ironically, can make us act like outer demons).
The message is: the amount of inner peace we cultivate in ourselves, is the amount of outer peace that exists in the world.
Each of us responsible for adding or subtracting. For me, it symbolized a shift from either/or thinking. For example, either I’m blaming someone else, or it’s on me for why things are fucked up. While the truth is, it’s both in different ways. And it helped me accept personal responsibility for how I show up in the world, but also discern when that responsibility falls on someone else.
Do I want to create real peace? What does that look like? Because I learned the hard way that there’s a difference between pleasing people just to avoid conflict = false peace, and actually addressing something with the intention of resolving it = real peace.
But how we go about resolving anything, can be the difference between love and war.
Historically speaking, when it comes to conflict, we know how to do war. We know less how to do love.
In my teenage years and early twenties, I talked about love in the fluffy sense. It was this idealistic, blanket statement I sprinkled on every complex human problem, thinking “there, I solved it”. I really believed The Beatles’ line “all you need is love”. So of course, life taught me it’s not that simple. Turns out, love is hard to do in the moments we feel justified to hate. In those moments, we feel right to act in whatever way we learned to survive life. Fight, flight, freeze, or fawn. None of which resolve much, except help us survive a moment.
This would be a good place to say that I don’t want to discount how necessary survival tactics are in specific situations. For example, in abusive situations (personal or systemic), it is not on the person receiving the abuse to be more loving (another post for another day).
But outside of those necessary moments, let’s consider that we don’t want to just survive in life. We want to thrive! Free to savor its joy and beauty. We want a world with less harm in it. A world where we dehumanize less and less, and adopt nonviolent communication. A world where we grow up with less trauma inflicted on our minds and bodies. Where we feel seen and accepted, more often, for all of who we are.
I believe the first step is to care about the quality of our lives, the quality of other lives, and the beautiful planet we live on. Then act accordingly. I also believe, those actions look different for everyone, depending on where we are in the world, and how we experience life. Although done individually, these actions add up to a collective shift. Maybe this month I focus on taking a course on organizational change and see what I can apply at work, next month I focus on learning how to set healthier boundaries for myself.
Forever moving between inner and outer actions.
And there's no strict timeline. I used a month as an example, but maybe a focus can take up years so we can heal through trauma and learn healthier coping mechanisms. Whether it's days, months, years, or lifetimes, is up to each of us and our guiding wisdom.
Here’s where more nuance comes in.
Right now, for me - this heart stands for a blindspot I see in myself, those around me, and the human systems we create (business organizations, government bodies, etc). The blindspot is around the values we hold, and how we actually think and act, from moment to moment.
I've seen companies get founded on progressive ideals, only to devolve into a business-as-usual, top-down hierarchy of toxicity. I've been called out for my own shitty behavior, and my first instinct was to defend it and explain it away, even though I preached love and kindness. We see countries give speech after speech about God's love and family values, while bombing families elsewhere (I'm looking at you, ‘Merica). You get the point. And also, welcome to the human experience.
This is COMMON. This is our status quo.
And because it’s our status quo, I’m interested in seeing it, and naming it together, so we can bring in a new level of honesty and discernment in our thoughts and actions. I’d rather know our messy process of trying to be better human beings, than regurgitate what values are the marketing buzzwords right now.
The truth is painful - we’re not always “good”, and our egos hate that.
It’s the death of an identity we had about ourselves. But we can mourn, and own that. Because only then, can we honestly work on it, and see what the work is for each of us. Otherwise we’re walking around with blindspots, unaware of the harm we cause or how much beauty and joy we can create around us.
To quote Carl Jung, “I’d rather be whole, than good.”
So, I want to hear from you! What’s one thing you’re working on in yourself?
I want to add a caveat to everything I wrote: I realize this is not a complete picture of our complexity, and all that love is and isn’t. It’s part of my truth as far as I’ve done my own work, knowing that more answers will come, and this definition and symbol will keep evolving with me.