Sidewalk Ghosts / Interview 474: Will We Become Stronger?

“We are on one path. We cannot live without everyone because we are human. Passions and emotions… we are the same.” —Chuanhao

_64A0333We are the same, and even though we struggle a little to understand each other’s dialect, today’s “Stranger” now “Friend,” Chuanhao connects with us in a universal language. A language that could be greater than even the language of love that at times we often take lightly in the form of jest or satire. Trust me, I am not about to go on a flowery 60s-like essay worthy of compliment from even the most retired hippy. Although, for someone that just missed the flower-power days, I still might have a bit of the love-bug alive in my heart.

In saying this, I’m reminded of that historical Bernie Boston photo of a flower-power protestor—a carnation in the rifle barrel of a national guardsman; a single frame that impacted millions to think about their perspective regarding war and peace­; an instant in time that left us to ponder, “who was the braver?” Was it the courage of the guardsman or of the protestor, and who is to be hailed to the level of The Brave? The irony, both had an equal stake in not only being citizens of the same country, but greater, as living beings looking into the face of each other in a nanosecond of powerful emotion, a sobering reminder that conflict is ceaseless and that the idea of utopia is most likely unreachable.

300px-Flower_Power_by_Bernie_BostonTwo men staring directly into each other’s eyes, both with an equal share of their perspective to an incredibly explosive human issue: The right to live or die for a cause. A cause that affected nations and lives, freedoms and futures of not only American youth, but of millions around the globe. Two men, faced off, one patriotic moment. Palpable beyond much of the trivial conflict that so many self-create on a day-to-day basis. A reminder how easy it is to find ourselves at opposite ends of the fence and a motivation to reflect upon as we view our own selves in determining how we will classify our fellow humans—let alone navigate the bombardment of political, religious and social issues that blaze into our lives at an astounding pace and ferocity.

The issues never change, but the messenger is somewhat more sophisticated in this day of virtual debates and the resulting shrinking of the globe. There will always be talks of rebellion and of revolution; some just, and some a manipulation of all that is of value to mankind. But as evident in the great Mr. Boston’s photograph, a thought to ponder is served. Are we lacking face-to-face contact? Are we training a new world order that has forgotten the resolve that comes from the combined senses of sight, sound, taste and smell? Are we fully encapsulated in feeling the reality of being human?

I ask Chuanhao about the future. With a pause, we stand quietly for a minute or two. “Hard question,” he returns to his smiling and fidgety silence. Seemingly checking his words from his native Chinese. “It’s a huge question actually.” He holds quite as I, too, begin to fidget, not wanting him to feel pressured or uncomfortable. Chuanhao picked up on my wanting to listen to whatever he has to say and with calmness he gathers his composure.

“So forward…” one last pause, “…I think we need patience. I think we can do more. We have a responsibility for the environment and to be nice to everybody. To make less violence for this world.”

The language barrier is down and all of a sudden Chuanhao and I are seeing each other. Obviously not to the same intensity as the above mentions anti-war sentiment, yet, none-the-less, we are united in the fact that both of our blood runs the same red.

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Be nice to everybody and make less violence, Chuanhao says. Empathetic ideas that we hear over and over again from the 100s of strangers we have met during the years of Operation-365. An evangelistic phrase that is constantly pounded into our heads by not only the altruistic media, but by the young and old generations, the people who have not yet lived their lives and the people who are perceived too old, not able to relate to what life is really like now. But what if we are listening to the wrong voices? What if the very ones who keep reminding us of this simple statement are to ones with the greater wisdom? Is what they are saying even possible or sustainable?

I’ve often quoted myself as a hopeless romantic. A claim that will ever be worn on my coat sleeves with an endless optimism. However, know that I’m not blindly following this outlook. Life experience has humbly governed me far too many times to be that rosy eyed, and after approaching 1000s of strangers I’ve felt the joy of unity as well the painful darts that provokingly attack with little cause. All experiences that render me realistic that such a stance of world harmony is an impossibility to obtain. As sweet and hopeful as the concept is, history and current events have proven that such as dream is ludicrous. So, from the dreamer’s lips, I bow to the fact that there is far too much conflict in the world to attain such a goal as world peace.

I share a few notes with Chuanhao about the last 3 years of Operation-365. Of the roughly 3000 people I’ve had conversations with, as well as the now almost 1000 individuals I’ve interviewed. Of just how scary it is to walk up to and engage with people who don’t know me from Adam. We chat and a conclusion is revealed; A result that is manifest in an answer derived from risking to raise my chin to the world. A finding that expands on a daily basis as we continue our growth in 365; it’s simply this: More people want to talk to one another than those who don’t.

Not a rocket science verdict by any means and one that can easily be summed up in Chuanhao’s reassurance as I confessed my fear in approaching him today. Humbly stated, he looks me in the eyes, “That quite right. I’m feeling your feeling.” He struggles to find the right words.

“If we don’t know each other, and we feel too scared… I don’t know how to explain it. I have this feeling. We need to live like one world. We need to connect with each other. We cannot fight with each other.

“Maybe in 100 years we will be more responsible. Maybe we will come together and build together. We will become stronger.”

Thank you Chuanhao for taking the time to speak with us today. Your words leave a chilling, and at the same time uplifting, note in our ears. Will we become stronger?

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