I am here for you
“I am here for you” is the message of mindfulness teacher Thích Nhất Hạnh’s Buddhist practice. He begins by describing it in the following way:
We have to be here for ourselves; we have to be here for the people we love; we have to be here for life with all its wonders.
Your True Home, 14
The fact that we are alive reveals the truth here; no person is born into a vacuum. As Marcus Aurelius says “People exist for one another” (Meditations, 8.59). No person is self-made. No person is truly independent— human beings are born into a state of interdependence.
This is the truth of the human experience: we are all wandering together. As we look inward, according to mindful practice, we see each other. We see the interconnectedness of the universe. Even in the air we breathe, we can draw the line of connection: we have clean air to breathe thanks to the trees and plants that inhabit the Earth with us. We have those because of the dirt in the ground and the water that falls from the sky. The existence of air to breathe it its own miracle of interconnectivity.
How much more, then, are we made for each other?
The universe observes itself through us. Humans have the unique skills that consciousness provides, for better or for worse. We are able to reflect and plan, to analyze and organize. The pinnacle of this is our ability to work together. To share a common goal. To make progress by sharing thoughts, ideas, and technology.
It is easy to think that division is the natural state of humanity. Messages of gender vs. gender, class vs. class, race vs. race and so many other classifications are constantly fed to us through every avenue in media, perpetuating this mindset. If someone else has, you are told, it takes away from what is yours.
These divisions are kept in place deliberately, precisely because of the power of interdependence. If we forget that we exist for each other, that we are here for each other, it is easy to overpower and overwhelm us. We become isolated and can be manipulated to fear and to hate.
Part of the loss of this connection to each other makes us lose connection to ourselves. We forget that we have to be here for ourselves, or else the rest of it falls apart. We fail to do what we were born to do: uphold the tradition of humanity, and work together to make progress. Real, human progress.
Subdued by a radical sense of independence, we lose what we crave. We lose gratitude and belonging, we lose contentment, we lose help and never satisfy our drive to support others. To fill the void, contempt and arrogance rise up. Instead of helping those in need, we vilify them. Something is wrong or evil or bad about them, so they deserve to suffer.
The truth, though, is that we hold them in contempt because “they” are us. And we are doing nothing to help them. We are holding ourselves in contempt, furiously pointing the finger at everyone else. Maintaining the divide in an attempt to placate the feeling of aimlessness and fear that comes from being outside of community— the community of humanity, where people evolved to help each other.
The only path forward, out of division, out of hate and ignorance, is for people to band together again. For that to be the given, not the exception. To overcome the petty differences between one another and exist for one another. To realize that whatever harms one of us, harms all of us.
To see people who look, think, act, or feel differently than us and say “I am here for you.”
Edited by Abigail McKay Cherry
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