This was the first weekend on the road without screenings and these are the first nights I haven't been able to sleep.
Not so odd really. For most of my life, I've had trouble sleeping at night. Night is when I get to thinking. There's something about being the only one conscious that allows me to process my thoughts, which is never easy, because as I learn more each day, my thinking get's increasingly complicated and difficult. There's a wider range of topics and more factors to take into account. My knowledge is expanding faster than my organizational skills.
Lately, the world has become increasingly real to me. For instance, the first time I went to Haiti, I legitimately couldn't picture anything about the country beyond what I saw. Haiti to me, started as an airplane view of shacks and mountains and a dirt street full of donkeys and black people. Day by day that image increased, but even so, it was more mystical than a part of my living world. I was 15 and it was my first time out of the U.S., my first time in a 3rd world nation and my first time seeing real poverty. There we're a lot of firsts on that trip. Maybe not more than I experience everyday, just more noticeable. More extreme.
The point of that story is to illustrate how I've always felt about most of the world. Africa, the Middle East, Asia. It's all been stories, all beliefs, but not truths. I believed in wasps long before I was stung. I believed in evil before I felt it...
Since becoming a roadie, I've made it a practice to read the news everyday and then look at the atlas on my iTouch to get a better idea of where things are happening and how they relate to nearby issues. I scan primarily through the BBC, New York Times, MSNBC, Global Post, ABC, World News, and Discovery. That's a lot and I don't remember everything I read, but I think understanding the connectedness of everything in the world (especially with historical context) has helped me to realize the actual existence behind my ideas about the world.
And with regards to people-You can't get in another's head, you can't have their experience, but as humans we share common feelings, and therefore we can empathize. Thoughts belong to the individual, but feelings are transcendent an communicable. I don't know what runs through any given persons head as they're trying to figure out how not to starve to death. Those thoughts are shaped by their past, personality, situation, etc. But I understand hunger and I understand fear, so I can empathize. I realize empathy does not mean full understanding, but it's as close as it gets.
Traveling with James and Robert has played a major role in this mental shift of mine. Working so directly to a conflict during which horrible acts have taken place is intense. More so when the people those acts have been committed against are your friends. As I get to know James and Robert more deeply, I'm am able see the realities of what they've been through for what they are. Realities. I'm still trying to understand the whole concept of human nature, but I've figured at least one thing out-Humans are pretty crazy. People really kill people. They hate and rape and mutilate each other, and those that don't are fully capable.
I don't want to sound pessimistic. I'm not. For all the evil I've seen, I've seen some amazing examples of kindness, self-sacrifice and what I would generally call goodness. Just the hospitality of our hosts and others I've met the past few weeks alone has blown my mind and humbled me to ashes. I would not do what I do if I thought the situation was hopeless. So please believe, change is real. Goodness is real. Truth is real. And all are being fought for.
"There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered." -Nelson Mandela