Sacred Soil

My Advice to Experts: Stop
April 28, 2014, 7:45 pm
Filed under: Weeds

I’d love to give you a list of the 15, or even the 115 things that you should start doing right now to save the world. I’d even do the research to give the list a snazzy title that might inspire a bit of click-bait. But, I’m a realist, and perhaps a bit of a cynic. Because, if you sent me just such a list, I’d respond by picking it apart and daring, “Why don’t you make me?” But that’s my issue, I’m not very compliant when I’m told what to do.

Though, I’m pretty sure I’m not the only obstinate person in the room. I think most of us fall into that category, exhausted from the steady tide of people declaring what we should and shouldn’t do. In response, most of us either opt out, or strive to be deemed an Expert so that we can do the declaring.

On one extreme is the comfy position of non-expert, plaintively tossing one’s hands in the air. “There’s nothing that I can do that’ll really matter,” they say.  “I don’t know enough, or even where to begin.”

The expert then rises to the challenge at that other extreme– she writes that article: 15 things you can do right now to save the world and stop killing us all. Sometimes the expert will acquire degrees, or claim to have read 20x more books than others. But, that’s not required. All that expert status requires is a bit of gumption and the capacity to make declarative sentences with conviction. Someone must take a stand! And so, the expert, made bold by the need, rises up to take on the world.

Neither extreme is terribly helpful. Though, I’m not going to argue for a position in the middle. I’m not sure what that would even be, other than annoying. Rather, I’ll argue for a different paradigm altogether.

And it begins with my plaintive cry into the whirlwind: Stop acting as if you are doing this alone.

Please. Stop. You who throw up your hands in despair at your inability. Yes, if you were doing it on your own, of course, you’d never be able to figure it all out. And certainly, you’d never really be able to accomplish much.

And you, you who claim to be an “expert” or even if you pretend to be one, stop. Please. You may be right. Your analysis may be perfect. But, if you’re doing this on your own, if you are the most right person in the room, or if you disdain everyone else who hasn’t come around to your analysis…. well, then it doesn’t matter how right you are. You cannot, by your own force of will, change the world with the volume of your opinions.

But the problem with both of you is that you seem to have forgotten, we’re in this together. We are not a bunch of mere individuals acting in private spheres. We are intimately connected. So, let’s move forward as if we believed that were true. Because I do believe, if we did, we’d get so much more done.

So here’s my advice for the experts and non-experts of the world. I’ll limit it to three–though you know I could go on.

1).  Listen with compassion to the people around you. Even when they annoy you. Listen for what breaks their heart. Listen for what brings them joy. Listen for the places of hope, the places of despair. Treat these stories like they matter. Then ask, how do their stories connect to your own? Can you work together on that?

2). Believe in the extraordinary wisdom of a group of people who feel they are heard. The most sacred spaces I have known have been the places where a people have come together because they have truly heard each other. This hearing connects people, leads them away from isolation, and ignites a passion to make true and meaningful change in the world. There is no stopping a group of people who truly feel heard.

3). It’s not about you. Please, get over yourself. You are important, loved, and special. You’re just not more important than everyone else in the room. It is about us, about our shared humanity. Please share. Please trust the humanity of all of us. Let us do it together.

Indeed, let’s do this together, because there is too much heartbreak in the world, too much pain. And none of us should try to bear that alone.

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