Carpe diem: You’re not that small

What is wrong with the human being? What is wrong with our civilization? What is wrong with ourselves, our friends, our parents and teachers? Why do the tragic mistakes of history keep repeating? We’re not learning from our mistakes. Our failure to do so constantly increases our danger as our powers for destruction increase exponentially.
Each day we encounter others and we interact: businessman and bum, businessman and policeman, bum and policeman, businessman and his wife and children.
We are constantly role playing. You’ll see, just watch yourself. Sometimes we lead. Other times we are the followers, submitting to the greater knowledge or authority of another. Other times we are neutral, independent third parties who do not directly participate but are spectators.
This phenomenon is something that really struck me, and I think it approaches the core of our problems. All of these interactions have a cumulative effect on us, which is only natural. We are all human beings, we are all interdependent and must live together on this isolated little rock on the outskirts of the galaxy.
Every time we lovingly tuck our children into bed, or take a relaxing stroll through a green lush park smelling the clean air, an imprint is made. Our experiences leave permanent marks on our minds, our souls.
So anytime you are made to feel small, insignificant, or powerless, or anytime you do the same to another person, there is something wrong. Just as there is something wrong when you feel like you are the greatest thing since ice cream. It is not right for you to rule or think that your natural position is to have power over others because you are better, smarter, stronger, bigger or craftier.
In each of these situations our opinions of ourselves, our feelings of strength or weakness are being determined by the reactions and relationships that we have with other people.
If there is anything constant about human behavior, it’s that we are moody, unreliable creatures liable to change our minds at any time. Because of this, to base our sense of self, self-image and self-respect upon the attitudes and judgments of other people is an extremely risky way of doing things.
So we must all define ourselves by our own terms. We must all live according to our own conscience, our own sense of right and wrong — of honor and integrity.
As long as the positions of the dominator and the dominated persist, as long as we continue to abuse each other, to enslave each other, feelings of hatred and resentment will forever lurk in our hearts and in the dark corners of our minds.
We are all human beings who, at times, are fallible, weak and insecure. So why do we continue to victimize each other — take advantage of another’s moment of weakness? Why do we kick each other when we’re down? Sometimes we call it our “window of opportunity” or some other “nice” term to disguise what we’re doing. But the victim knows what has happened, and in the back of his/her mind, I think the criminal knows as well.
Unfortunately, most of us are so numb to this that we are completely unaware of when we dominate or when we are dominated. We only have this vague need to be on top, to be number one, to be successful and highly regarded. We spend our entire lives at the mercy of the whims of other people, of fashion, of the “in crowd,” of the “popular” and respected elite, of authority figures like parents or religious leaders.
We repress ourselves, our natural interests and inclinations, in favor of what will make us “successful” in the eyes of others. Instead of doing what we want to do, we compromise. We pay our dues, conform to the system and try to do what we really want to do on the side as a hobby. But, the terrible truth of the matter is that in playing the game, in bowing to the immense pressure placed upon us by the powers that be, our spark to live, our passion to create, our ability to love and to think critically is severely dampened, if not destroyed.
I urge you to seize the day: Carpe diem. Don’t wait. Don’t live that life of quiet desperation that Thoreau despaired of. Live and dream. Learn. Expand. Grow. This, I think, is our true calling. It is the biological and sociological function of every living organism to grow. Don’t sell yourself short. And treat others the same.
Michael Mamakos is aDinkytown resident.