The Project

They think they know me; they don’t even see me. They look at me, yet don’t see me. They talk with me, yet don’t hear my voice. They laugh and cry with me, but do not know my soul. If you ask them, “Do you know her?”, they will say, “Yes!, We are friends.” If you ask me, I will tell you, “They think they know me but they have never seen me.” 

How many times a day do you send an email, ring someone on the phone, meet a partner at the gym, or sit next to a colleague in the office and wonder, who is this person really? My guess is almost never. If I were to ask you, “How many friends do you have?”  What might your answer be? If I were a betting person, thankfully I am not, I would bet your answer would include a lot fewer people if I asked you to only select those who met the minimum qualifications of a friend, based on the actual definition.  

We are all guilty of being the “fair-weathered friend” to many but the “true friend” too few. Why is this? Why do we qualify who is worthy of our genuine regard, more importantly, how do we qualify who will receive the best of us? I have a theory but it is so simple in context it's almost shameful to call a theory. Wait for it…here is my well thought out, well researched, intricately developed, theory,

Fear…we fear that which is unfamiliar to us be it people, places, or things. Fear is what determines how much of us we will share with another human being. 

My ultimate purpose of Change me 365 is to explore the answer to the question “Is fear at the heart of hate?”   

Have you ever considered that the 3 most universally powerful words consist of only 4 letters?  Love, Fear, Hate….these are the words that drive our every decision, thought, feeling, step forward or step backward. In the countless array of world languages, imagine just how many beautiful words exist to impart poetic feelings of adoration or immense disdain for our neighbor.  They are all mere adjectives to describe the action of Love, Fear, or Hate. Yet, these 3, 4-lettered words require no oral speech to communicate and are without a doubt 100% universally understandable, regardless of cultural or language barriers. Sadly, they are also the words we most abuse. We say, “I love it,” “I hate it,” “I’m afraid of it,” with a casualness that refers to something as insignificant as the items on a menu or a place or an activity. We offer a passive, nonchalant “I love you,” to a complete stranger because they got our Starbucks Cafe right or let us cut in line at the supermarket.  What of the person who startled us as we walked into the room; to them we say “I hate you,” or for those who encroach on our hearts, we may reserve the sentiment, “You scare me.” Human beings give more thought into what outfit they will wear on vacation than to whom they will offer the 3 most powerful words in the universe. Just consider that for a moment; are not love, fear, and hate the precise emotions that guide our behavior? Yet in the same thought we will withhold saying “I love you” to those closest to us, like our mom or brother or best friend; telling ourselves “Oh they know, I don’t need to say it.” Why are human beings completely unintentional when it comes to love, fear, and hate? We fear that which is different or unknown. We hate that which is different or unknown.  We claim to be loving yet will withhold eye contact or a warm smile or heaven forbid say, “good morning" to a passerby. 

I find it intriguing that the word fear is nestled between love and hate. Humans are ultra quick to fear and even quicker to afford themselves the emotion of hate. Interestingly enough, both of the latter require tremendous energy to sustain. Given we are creatures whose tendency is to opt for the path of least resistance, would it not then stand to reason that love would be the first thing we give away simply because it's easier? It requires little to no energy to be kind. Love, sadly, is the last thing we give and the first thing we take away in our human interpersonal relationships.  How many people have you seen use love as a tool to maneuver people? When was the last time you yourself cared for a stranger’s soul? What I am referring to is of course not the romantic view of the word love, but an authentic regard for another human being; a kindness for another's soul that is given without expectation of a return on your investment. I believe that 2 things must happen for hate to flourish. The first occurs when we see love as something we choose to give. The second follows the first when we then turn our energy and focus to what we fear. It is our fear which fuels the propensity for hate. At the same time, I believe that in order for us to be creatures who are in fact loving, we must learn to truly "see" people. The only way to truly "see" someone is to come to know what lives in their soul. This can never happen if we never take the time to have a deep meaningful conversation? I adhere to the truth that understanding is key acceptance and compassion. We can not possibly understand one another if we do not care enough to see one another.  What if we all taught our children that love is really human kindness that is given without fear or expectation. Perhaps it is not fear that is at the heart of hate, but a convoluted definition of love. 

I have another theory; this one slightly more complex, yet elementary in concept. 

“The world we currently find ourselves living in is emotionally and relationally bankrupt because we do not conscientiously or scrupulously give prudent thought to how we allow these 3, 4-lettered words, to define who we are or how we treat others.”  

I will further expand on this theory to include what I believe to be the single most powerful word that exists.  A mere 3 letter word that 100% dictates how we define the application of those other 4- lettered words. It is a word that, dependent on the application of it, will elicit love, fear, or hate to or for your neighbor. It is a word that people across the globe understand, accept, reject, use, abuse, hide behind, and ultimately live for. The word is GOD! God has countless names, shapes, and forms. But one thing is certain, humanity does not exist without God. Before you jump to the wrong conclusion, hear me out!   For some, God is called by another name; Science, Creator, Mother Nature, King, Light, Abba, Jehovah, Yahweh, Lord, El-Shaddai, Elohim, Brahman, Buddha, Allah, etc. Regardless of how God is called upon or described, a single universal truth is that we all believe something, other than man, is responsible for our coming into existence and we all define our truths based on that belief.  Too, those beliefs define our application of Love, Fear, and Hate. At the root of all things is a Creator. Our understanding of what that Creator demands of us, combined with our willingness to submit to those demands, is what shapes and molds the reflection of our soul we allow others see.  Our application of the word GOD determines our own unique humanity.  Absolutely every intention, especially those of love, fear, and hate, can be linked to directly to one's attachment to religion. Religion, as defined by is:

Religion: a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

I hear people say, “I am more spiritual than religious.” I myself have said it. What the hell does that mean anyway? It’s like saying the water is kind of cold. It’s either cold or it isn’t. The tea isn't a little sweet, it either sweet or it is not. People are not a little loving and kind, you either are or you aren’t! 

Spirit is defined as a supernatural, incorporeal being, especially one inhabiting a place, object, etc., or having a particular character. 

Spiritual is defined as a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

To extinguish all ambiguity, religious and spiritual are completely interchangeable schools of thought.  So now that we have cleared that confusion, let us call a spade a spade; at the end of the day, believer and non-believer alike can all be lumped into the religious bucket. We all believe in something, that can’t fully be explained, and/or leaves us with a single baffling, unanswerable question..…HOW?  “I don’t know the answer, but when I find out, I’ll let you know.” is inevitably the only clear response when asked this question, although it is generally accompanied by countless lofty educated examples that are intended to convince our audience of all the reasons our sense of assuredness, is the only “right” path to the ultimate truth.  

Just a moment, let’s assume that my sense of assuredness is in fact accurate. What would this mean for the human race?  What if it meant, that we were all created, from a single entity, that demands every human being created, live with the sole purpose of bringing joy to whom we were created for.  Would this not mean that we all have the same purpose for being? Is this a reasonable conclusion?  Have you ever considered why little children are so transparent or why they are so open to others? Imagine this for a moment. Is unconditional love not the first thing newborn children encounters? Have you ever heard a person or heard of a person say, "Oh Flipping Awesome, another damn baby in the world?" I hardly think so. Our response to a newborn is one of hope, softness, and immeasurable compassion. (yes I know there are exceptions to this rule, try to stay with me) Is love not the first thing a newborn child offers unto the world? It's in their gaze, their snuggle, in the way their hand reaches for and holds onto our finger. A newborn does not know distrust or fear or hate, all they know to give is love. This is why I subscribe to the belief that the author of the human race is in fact loving and intends for every life to be lived from a place of love.  Love is stolen from the innocent when we teach children to be afraid. It is in fear where hate can breathe its first breath.  We teach our children to hate in the reflection of our own behavior, whether we care to hear that ugly truth or not. 

Allow me to circle back around to the premise for my questions and ultimately for the purpose for my writing this book.  People watching is one of my most favorite things to do. While I am most often fascinated, amazed, humbled, inspired, and encouraged by human interaction, I am becoming increasingly outraged by the sheer enormity of pure hatred which seems to be more prevalent among people today.  Those to whom I seek wisdom, have taught me if you are not a part of the solution, you are in fact a part of the problem. I asked myself, what in the world, literally, can I do to affect change? What a daunting question that is!  Change? Can we really change? Is change what we need to seek? Perhaps all any of us really need to do is stop living in fear. After all, fear is the only thing that stands between the choice to love or the choice to hate. Fear is nothing more than an uncertainty of the unknown and is something that comes to reside in us based exclusively on own paradigms.  In considering all of the things that generate fear in people, I felt it best to look internally.  Human disappointment is at the very heart of what I most fear. My greatest fear, when speaking of things for which I have control over, is my personal success. In speaking of that which I can not control, my only fear is so great, I will not give life to it by penning it.  Throughout the course of my childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, I have experienced tremendous disappointments by way of deception, addiction, selfishness, and abandonment.  After years of suffering, I learned to survive life's inevitable heartaches in 2 ways; the 1st was to focus on the potential for problems in every situation.  If could foresee the potential problems, then I could cultivate a plan and head them off. My thought was, I would never be blindsided if I simply planned for the worst case scenario. I can assure you, this is not a plan you will find in a self-help book under the heading of "Best Practices!"  The second way was to detach from my own heart. I learned to flip the "love switch!" I became and master of emotional control. This didn't mean I no longer cared for others or failed to live a life of servitude. No, it meant that YOU nor ANOTHER, would ever "see" me. You may know my stories, but you would not know my soul. What I hadn't considered, is perhaps, I would no longer be acquainted with my soul.  I found myself being almost robotic in nature, life was merely a series of things I had to do with people I had to do them with. Living like this for so long did reduce the heartache but it also resulted in a life that was both exhaustive and exclusive of relationships that were truly relational. At some point, I guess I made a conscious decision to eliminate anyone that introduced dysfunction or discord into my life because one day I was simply done living the life I had come to accept for myself. You can imagine how few people must exist within my world now.  People are either in or out, there is simply no middle ground. In developing my master plan for my own life's peace, I failed to factor in a few key components, like running a business requires interaction with people or that we attract that which we focus our attention on. Most importantly, I lost sight that we are made to be relational.  Consequently, I spent so much of my energy, focused building my armored life, that inadvertently I ended up living a life that gave way to fear instead of love. Yet, I was made to love, to serve, to help, to show compassion, to overcome, to teach, to share. It dawned on me one day, perhaps the trials of my journey were not bad luck or detrimental, but blessings, emotional gifts, intended to prepare me to live with the purpose for which my life was intended.   How can any of us find joy in our lives when we chose to live counter to what we were made for? Thus the birth of Change Me 365. My objective is to meet 1 new random person everyday for 365 days, interview them using the same 10 questions, capture a portrait, and then write about the experience. I believe that the only way to snuff of the flames of fear is to stare them dead on and walk through them. By forcing myself to interact with strangers on a deeper more meaningful level, my feeling is the intrinsic beliefs I once held, that people really are all basically good, will once again be realized and perhaps I will no longer fear disappointment. My second goal is to share the human condition with others to demonstrate that we really aren't all that different. Regardless of age, sex, religion, ethnicity, or financial status we share the same worries, the same concerns, the same pains. What I know beyond all doubt to be true, is that at the end our lives, the only thing we have concern for is love, those we love, those we loved and lost, those we wish we had loved more, those we could have loved but didn't. Our only regret, in the end, is that we may not have loved as much as we could have.  Perhaps what we will together discover, is that all we need is a little less fear and a little more love to stop the hate from raging forth.