“…if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet. The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together…”
President Barack Obama, August 2012
I’m a writer, a novelist, an activist, artist and playwright. I’ve been to war, traveled extensively and have a supreme desire to better the world I was born into before I leave it, not commercially, but socially and humanely. A nurtured and near obsessive penchant for communicating that desire for a better world is my greatest tool, but it is nothing without the good people who perform and come to my plays, buy my books, read this blog and also those who argue vehemently with my assertions of sublime wisdom.
In the Balkans during the break up of Yugoslavia, organizing relief for Rwandan Genocide victims, and struggling to understand bigotry and racial divides in this country, I came to a simple, single theme; that it is all based upon skewed and inflated perceptions of our own egos. There is a tendency in a world in which we are small and overwhelmed all too often to sub-divide the world down to smaller and smaller parcels to understand and pretend our own preeminence. We may define ourselves, for examples, Christians, and then Catholics when the other Christians piss us off, then Americans, midwesterners, from Illinois, then from Chicago, white or black, northside or westside, from a certain neighborhood, attending such and such school, disagreeable to neighbors and so forth until we are left alone in our own misgivings about the world around us.
It is natural, as we are driven by our egos, needs and desires. But to accede to that solely is a capitulation to our base, anti-social, selfish natures. There must be a balance. We must balance ego with the understanding that we can all exist as nominal allies in this struggle to live and love and face the realities of the world and our own mortality. Rather than subdivide the world down to confirm our own self-importance, a negative, community means erasing a bit of ourself, multiplying ourselves out into the community where we face those inevitable realities in the embrace and nearness of others.
I could write in a cave, those thoughts and perspectives unchallenged as they echo back in some self-validating echo chamber. The illusion or hypocrisy is that the echo is there to assuage my loneliness in that cave. Rather, it is the community and all of you, dear readers, that gives any of this meaning, and for that I am deeply and unalterably in your debt. I did build that, but not alone.