it’s all about me/it’s all about we

Hot summer, sitting with a dear friend at a street-side table of a hoppin’ restaurant in Uptown Minneapolis. It’s 1997 and I’ve just found out it’s possible to be cool and do cool things while not drinking alcohol. My cool friend and I are talking about our cool dreams and cool ideal futures, especially about our super-cool dream jobs. I’ve begun calling myself “a writer” and have been posting “web essays” (aka, these days, blog posts) every week.

Back then, I took my web essays so seriously I would stay up all night to be sure something worthwhile was published by Thursday morning each week. My topics varied from “What’s happening in Rwanda?” to “How I survived the beach in my bikini” and “All Whites are Racist.” Mostly, though, I wrote about me, myself, and I. As my friend and I laughed about ourselves while basking in our wonderfulness, we came up with the name for my web essays. I began calling my website, “It’s all about me! (the column).” The name was meant to be self-deprecating; poking some loving fun at my self-centeredness.

In the 90s, the most fascinating thing in my life was me. I was newly recovered from alcoholism. I was in my late 20s (becoming an adult). And I had left a relatively long-term relationship just a year or so before. “Who am I” was everything to me at that time. So, my friend Lisa and I were laughing about how self-centered we were. We knew even then, however, our self-centeredness and deep interest in “navel-gazing” wasn’t really about ourselves. We wanted to understand how we related to the world around us.

Who am I in relation to the world? What do I think of… racism, sexism, politics, art, relationships, social justice, sex, or anything that happened to cross my mind at the moment. What were my opinions? What role did I have in everything? And, most relevant to today’s “Blog Action Day,” what are my responsibilities to, for, and with the world outside of me?

During my earliest days of posting web essays, a fellow writer in the newsgroup where I hung out online, really let me have it about how vapid my perspective on life was. She counted the number of times I used the word “I” (14 times) in one of my essays. She railed against the uninteresting content of essays that were about me and only me, as she saw it.

It’s true there have been periods of my life where what I share online has been so much about my intimate self-discovery I’ve found it surprising other people have had any interest. But, many still seemed to enjoy my writing.

I no longer spend much time publicizing my now-it’s-called-a-blog. I also don’t write as regularly. I don’t spend hours researching so I can put together informative and in-depth essays about current events or important social issues. I write about thoughts I have that interest me. I write about experiences I have or about things that I’ve read. I write about me, myself, and I in relation to the greater world whether directly or indirectly.

Some people find their energy being with people. Their “power of we” comes from physically being with other human beings doing something social, political, creative, or otherwise. My “power of we” comes from within my own mind and from the connections I make with individuals, almost always one person at a time. My connection with other human beings, my true “power of we,” tends to be infrequent and almost always quite intimate and even intense.

It’s only through a fuller understanding of myself that I am able to engage in relationships with others. I still find me fascinating. I understand, now, that counting the number of times I write “I” doesn’t mean I think I am the only interesting topic. It doesn’t mean I think I am the only thing that matters. In fact, the reason I want to continue discovering myself is so I am better able to be in the world. Being alive in the present moment, fully connecting with myself and who I am, allows me the freedom to care for others close to me. It also creates in me a desire to make the world a better, more loving and just place for all of us.

My self-centered and self-discovery focused expositions are in a sense about me. But, ultimately, they are about the intersection of individuals with each other and in relation to each other. The mindfulness I practice helps me be fully alive and most able to be present, to care for and love others.

My blog’s name is no longer “It’s all about me! (the column).” Since around 2005 or 2006, this blog has been called, “It’s all about we!”

It’s through me, myself, and I that I uncover the “power of we.”

For these are my own particular opinions and fancies, and I deliver them as only what I myself believe, and not for what is to be believed by others. I have no other end in this writing, but only to discover myself, who, also shall, peradventure, be another thing to-morrow, if I chance to meet any new instruction to change me. — The Complete Essays of Michel de Montaigne, Volume 1, page 187

governmental protection, water, and taxes: freedom

Reading Children Just Like Me with my daughters this morning I was struck by how many children mentioned clean water, not liking the smell of dirty water, or wanting there always to be water available for everyone in the world. Our privileged, entitled, and spoiled citizenry (in particular the “taxes are bad!” “fewer taxes is the solution!” radical right wing or Tea Party versions) so easily forgets it’s our government, using the common wealth (taxes), that makes sure we have clean water available almost everywhere in our nation.

Most of us don’t think about it. Some of us who luxuriously take time for such things might look into issues about our water not being clean enough. I’ve got friends who use ceramic pots to filter their drinking water and I’ve got friends who won’t use tap water unless its boiled. Everything is relative, though. We have a government, made up of citizens (too embroiled in corporate wealth, to be sure, but still elected citizens), who raise the funds necessary to run the Environmental Protection Agency. The bits of concern some people have about our own water quality are nothing compared to the daily survival concerns around the world. When I get a glass of water from any sink anywhere in this country, the odds are I’m not going to ingest internal parasites or microbes that make me seriously ill. On this day, blog action day, when so many are writing about the crisis internationally about the need for clean water, I’m just going to stick to this point: If we didn’t pay the taxes we pay, we would likely not have dependable clean water to drink.

Just a little international flavor from wikipedia, a sampling of what we don’t have to cope with on a daily basis because the big ol’ mean ol’ greedy politicians are stealing our money:

“According to the World Health Organization, diarrheal disease accounts for an estimated 4.1% of the total DALY global burden of disease and is responsible for the deaths of 1.8 million people every year. It was estimated that 88% of that burden is attributable to unsafe water supply, sanitation and hygiene, and is mostly concentrated in children in developing countries.[1]”

Taxes are our contribution to the common good, and the common welfare of our nation. Our nation was founded to increase freedom. We do that by fulfilling our responsibilities as citizens: investing in the systems that keep us free. We are free when we are safe. We are safe when we are protected. We are protected when we know our water is clean enough to drink and that it will not kill us if we do. Taxes increase our freedom. In fact, they are the only reason we are free at all.