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Culture Wars

We, as a society, are pretty messed up. This much I’ve observed this last week.

With the Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street and oh, I don’t know decades of glossy magazine “propaganda,” you’d think I would have realized this sooner. Sometimes though, when you’re in the thick of things, it’s hard to see the forest from the trees.

For those of you who don’t connect with me on Facebook, I described events this week as a shakabuku moment. Made famous by the cult classic (at least in my opinion) Grosse Point Blank, a shakabuku is a Buddhist term aptly described as a “swift spiritual kick to the head that radically alters your views on life.”

What brought this on you ask? Frankly, the details aren’t as relevant as the results but I will say I ended up tripping over (in more ways than one) some deep-seeded issues that are as much about me as they are about society at-large.

Mind you, my realization wasn’t about Democrats vs. Republicans or rich vs. poor. It was about the very nature of the conflict that seems to define us as a modern culture.

You see, ever since I moved back to Atlanta I’ve been trying to prove that it was the right decision. Come to think of it, ever since I decided to veer off the mainstream MBA track and focus on this “soft and fuzzy” discipline known as social media I’ve been trying to prove to myself that it’s the right decision.

That need to be right, that need for validation is so strong that it drives us, externally and internally to do some things that might otherwise be interpreted as virtual insanity. Those things, those actions, those decisions are all what brought me to the brink this week and brought on this realization that quest to validate our lives, to be right is pretty friggin’ dangerous.

In defense of what we think is right, we justify behavior or lash out at those that oppose us.  It usually has nothing to do with the other person but still, in a fit of self-preservation we press forward the idea that we are right no matter the cost.

I could invoke the classic example of perfection often involved with beauty magazines but that’s too easy. Perhaps a better way to bring it to life is by setting, as an example, the more personal and everyday struggle to gain what we call success. Everyone describes it differently yet we often look outside ourselves for validation. Regardless of our situation – we want to validate ourselves as being in the right.

Even as I write this post, my inner elephant wants me to talk about my specific situation and why I think I’m right. It’s a “blogger thing,” what can I say?

Whether I am right or not – and in this situation I was probably more wrong than not – is not the path to resolution. Instead, resolution is found in acknowledging the fact that the desire to be right exists regardless of social, financial or political status and that is truly what drives the culture wars.

If we take a step back to realize that it’s not always about being right, we uncover a lot of things we may not have even known are there. We see things for what they really are, and frankly many times why we carry on with actions that make up imperfect arguments for why we are right.

It’s a big step – noting that in any situation you can end up being both right and wrong at the same time. It’s an even bigger step to realize it doesn’t matter.

The only thing that does matter, particularly in this age of cultural and socio-economic conflict, is the pursuit of truth. Not the acquisition of truth, mind you, but the pursuit of it. The more time we take to learn about what drives us and treat our interactions more like the exploration of that truth, the more we abandon being right and focus on being our better selves.

Putting it another way; anyone that tells you they know the whole truth, or knows the ultimate outcome and is kidding themselves. The physics of life are too dynamic to claim that there are certain rules that apply to everyone or that just because you believe one hard and fast thing there isn’t room for any other truth.

As I said, I’ve had a pretty rough week and coming to this realization hasn’t been just psychologically impacting. In fact, I was running a 10K on Saturday as a part of my final week of training for a half marathon next week. Around mile four my foot did a weird rolling thing and I ended up in a nice little barrel roll off the race path. Sustaining minor scrapes on my knee and palms, I was too embarrassed to stop so I just got back up and continued running.

My pace slowed at the realization that the half marathon was probably out of the question. I wallowed in my situation for about another mile and then something snapped. I had been through a hell of a lot and the scars were going to be there one way or another so might as well have something to show for it. Despite the bloody knee I ended up picking up the pace and beating my best time by more than 3 minutes.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from this last week is that it’s a long journey going from the pursuit of being right to the pursuit of truth. The path of the latter requires a lot more acceptance and, as I discovered, probably a few more scars.

Regardless, there is beauty in that journey and there is a supreme contentment in knowing you can be both right and wrong at the same time as long as you realize you never stop searching for truth, for success or happiness. That, friends, is not just refreshing and releasing, it’s just friggin’ peachy.

Photo Courtesy of Christopher Woo 

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