Knock on your neighbors’ doors. Look them in the eyes. Draw living water from the deep well of love inside of you, and offer them this incantation:

“I am here. I am your neighbor.”

These are uncertain times. We are weathering a once in a lifetime storm, and it is unclear what will be left standing when the wind settles and the dutiful sun reemerges. It’s okay to feel afraid; of all that we’ve been taught to prepare for, a public health and economic disruption of this magnitude was not forewarned.

If you are the type to act as leader, now’s the time to step forward. If you’re not of that type, now’s the time to step up. People are afraid. Let’s all do our part to assuage that fear. People are sick. Let’s do what we can to help them get better. People are lonely. Let us pull them in closer, and embrace them with love. I am your neighbor. I am here. Say it with me: I am your neighbor. I am here.

Our limits are being tested. But we’re okay, fundamentally. Human beings are resilient creatures, by nature. In the vast lineage of the human story, we have weathered far worse. My God, look how far we’ve come from our tree-dwelling ancestors leaving the canopy’s shelter. It must have been a terrifying prospect venturing onto the plains, and to be sure we had a firm fatherly push from behind in the form of scant resources and rapidly changing climate. But we ventured. Into the unknown, because lives depended on it—the lives of our mothers and sisters—and because we are explorers. By nature. We venture. We are brave. When circumstances call for it, we are fearless. Well, these are those circumstances; this is their call.

It is time to open our eyes. To awaken from our hypnotic slumber. Together. As one. Embittered humanity, now is our time. To break through the thick frost of cynicism, defeatism, and it’s-somebody-else’s-problem-whataboutism that has crusted us over by virtue of living in a consumerist, object-fetishizing, “content”-obsessed culture. That’s over. It’s done. It has to be. Just think for one second what we’ve become, collectively, because of what’s been thrust upon us. Think about the consumptive, switched-off beasts we’ve become. Think about what we accede to and propagate with every decision made in the name of convenient distraction. It’s a sorry sight to behold. It’s a sad realization to have of oneself. And, to be sure, it is not us!

This state of humanity is the result of a sick cocktail of a greed-addled, nearsighted set of ancestral particle physics that has cast a too-long shadow and well overstayed its welcome; in other words, decisions made in humanity’s past, no matter how well-intentioned or naive, and often far worse than either, have cornered us in a culture that has the feature of alienating us from our true humanness—the brave, adventuring, creative beings that we glimpse in ourselves in states of alignment and flow.

Can’t you feel it? In your lungs, with every heavy breath? The hole in your heavy heart, weeping to be filled? Can’t you see it? In the rising tide of depression and anxiety that has become the default mode of living for so many? The air is thick with toxicity, and it has taken an infinitesimal, invisible virus to awaken us to the fact that we’ve been breathing in nothing but stale, over-packaged, and completely-devoid of nutritional value, “white bread” atmosphere, for decades. It’s time to stop.

Our culture has collectively placed us in front of the television and patted us on the head while it gambles and self-intoxicates to try to forget what it’s done. And we sit alone, confused children, aching to be played with, to be read to, to be shown how to be self-sufficient and artful and just. And blame can’t be placed on any one person or group or decision, nor should it be—blame presumes full understanding of the circumstances, which we do not have. We are victims on a runaway train, the same as our parents and their parents before them. Can we not also be pioneers of a new, better course?

I believe we can. Not only can we, it is our single-pointed duty to do so. And finally we have been granted the quietude to muse on our situation with proper intensity and thereby recognize the truth.

The profound blessing—quietly hidden amidst all of this mayhem and uncertainty we’re faced with—is that we can finally awaken to the truth that we’ve been slumbering in the motherly, boundlessly loving, endlessly patient face of for all this time…

I am here. I am your neighbor. I am here.

Now is our time to prove our capability to create a more beautiful situation by teaching the culture, which is our shadow and reflection both, that we care enough to save the melancholy world.

We have an unprecedented opportunity—where the whirring of the cultural cogs has slowed enough for us to espy where the teeth of the gears bite together, to see in slow motion what is really going on.

As culture teaches, so does it learn. To teach is an exquisite responsibility, because it requires the teacher to know what is to be taught, to know what is right. I believe we all know in our hearts what is right, and this makes us perfect teachers if we can humble ourselves to listen. It is why the stories of the caretakers risking their own well-being for the well-being of humanity touch us so. It is why the connections we’re making with the loved ones we’ve gone too long without acknowledging feel so right. It is why the solidarity we’re finding among strangers feels so natural.

Now is our time to prove our capability to create a more beautiful situation by teaching the culture, which is our shadow and reflection both, that we care enough to save the melancholy world. Every right choice we make from this point forward will get us there. Every choice we make from the principle of being neighbors will be the right one.

We can choose to renounce the political finger-pointing and shaming that corrupts so much of our discourse. And I know the Other has hurt us, and misunderstood and maligned us. But they were once children of pure light as we once were. And a hand held out is worth more than a million fingers wagged. We can choose instead to recruit the Other—the confused, the lonely, the hateful, the hurting, the misaligned—and invite them into our heart, where they have a home, because it is where they have belonged the whole time.

We can choose to not escape further into the wasteland of endless media offerings, which is the path of lethargic inattentiveness that has cemented us here. And I know it is ever-tempting, and I know we deserve a reprieve from the madness of our circumstance and the chaotic nature of life. But the path of autoplayed episodes and infinite scrolling is not the way. Attention is the only cure for distraction; creation the antidote to mindless consumption. We can choose to forge a new, better culture through our creative genius, which is our most human and powerful gift to the world.

The time is now, while we are cooped up and feeling lost, to lay the first bricks of the better world. Pick up the dusty hammer, the disregarded pen and paper, the closet-bound brushes and paint, the guitar in the shadowy corner, all of the forlorn instruments of our creative potential that we’ve been making the choice to consume over tending to.

Now is the time to create, and put the full force of your stray human warrior spirit inside of it, you artists, artisans, engineers, tinkerers, healers and lovers. And let’s emerge from the other side of this crisis, hand in hand, as neighbors, ready with the materials we’ll need to build the beautiful new world that our children will thank us with tears in their eyes to receive.

Keith Gilmore

Keith Gilmore

Keith Gilmore is a writer, speaker, and coach. He is co-founder of Texture Life Coaching, a life coaching platform serving clients in Portland, OR and throughout the country, and The Integrated Man, a program for reconnecting men with their purpose.

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