Like all good stories, let’s start at the beginning.
It was a Saturday morning in September (2015) where some semblance of fall was beginning to shape the weather. We found ourselves lounging on the patio, sweater-clad and clinging to over-sized cups of coffee as we embarked upon yet another one of our philosophical discussions/hypothetical debates.
Earlier in the week, I had read that ISIS launched a campaign of destruction at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Palmyra. My mom had always encouraged my love of antiquities and art from the time I was a girl. She loved people and felt that art was their ultimate reflection. Having just graduated a few years earlier with an Art History degree, the destruction of artifacts and the execution of Curator Khalid al-Asaad, who had bravely refused to reveal where many treasures had been safe-guarded, represented a massive loss for humanity.
Amidst the pointless destruction, the surge of violence and the war crimes that were disenfranchising millions of Syrians, the prevailing narrative remained the same: swarms of foreigners were crossing into the west and with them brought danger, the threat of collapse.
During our conversation, my mom sensed the presence of Khaled, one of our more ‘colorful’ friends. He is very wise [don’t tell him we said that!] and his knowledge of world affairs has always been incredibly nuanced, which is why he was particularly interested in our conversation.
So we decided to invite him to be the first member of our board, our own privy council if you will. We met with him on the board that day to get his perspective about this topic.
We asked him, “Do you see a solution?”
“He thought a moment. With the wind caressing the chimes in the backyard and the distant sound of sirens fading into stillness, he said, “Solutions will come about when people are ready to heal and let go of their imaginary differences. Too much arrogance and pride in the game of humanity’s social and religious and political mechanisms.”
Dear K always had a talent of distilling a six month poly-sci seminar topic into one sentence without batting an eye.
We continued to discuss the complexity of these social constructs that have evolved over millennia. These things don’t just resolve over night.
“That’s all well and good,” I found myself saying, “but my question is: me, twenty-four and not Warren Buffet…what can I do? What can we do?”
My mom jumped in, “How can we be a part of this solution?”
“By speaking of a higher way of being and living and experiencing. Sharing [this higher way of being] with humanity can begin a social movement and inspiration for others [and ] to you; and to join in the conversation from man to man, and from man to woman, and from man to spirit, and facilitating the exchange.”
His conviction was as strong as his confidence that we had some part to play in this situation.
“What do you mean?” My mom said and sipped her now third cup of coffee, “We’re just a mother and daughter living in Los Angeles. We’re not members of the U.N. We’re not in any kind of political position.”
And in the food-chain of Angelinos with any kind of public visibility, we could not be farther down the ladder.
“Better,” Khaled said, “You have nothing to gain politically. Not like men who pursue.”
The question still remained: how can any one really make a difference?
“A pebble in a still lake will create ripples no matter how small it is.” He continued, “Or a better way to think [about it]:
A single grain of sand seems insignificant in the entirety of the ocean, but get it in your eye and you are unable to ignore it. Be the grain of sand in the eye of inhumanity and injustice and ignorance. You do this by just being as a grain of sand is: just a single grain in a large ocean and that ocean is one of many oceans constantly flowing and merging.”
I’d never considered before what it meant to be as insignificant as one person is in the entirety of the human race that has ever existed. I’m an arrangement of DNA evolving and decaying, after all.
And yet, I’d also never considered what it truly meant to be a single person perceiving and interacting with a time and space that would never again occur in this randomized outcome of brilliant probability. I had never considered the power of my choice to be, as an individual. That choice would forever be my own, tied to my own manifestation of evolving DNA.
This was a different way of seeing things, seeing each other and ourselves. This went beyond just the Middle East.
“Perhaps if it interests you,” Khaled added, “we can meet to discuss possible solutions with myself and other spiritual aid workers.” A term he humorously coined for any philosophical or spiritually focused humanitarian.
He’d hardly dotted his I’s and crossed his T’s before my mom went into full on marketing mode. We both found ourselves laughing. As Khaled was making his grand exit, he had a final word of wisdom—something I’ll never forget:
“The mechanics and strategies can be worked out later. Begin now.”
Maybe it’s the magic of late Saturday mornings.
Or chock it up to the affects of a caffeine-binge.
But in that moment, my mom and I could feel a shift happening. Something small, something delicate. A single rivulet of smoke nursed by the smallest embers of an idea.
It was the beginnings of our Saturday “think tank.”
A board composed of our various forward thinking, high-minded friends from diverse backgrounds who we invite regularly to join us for thoughtful—sometimes playful—discourse about everything from personal to world affairs, to individual and human evolution.
And so, with little forethought, we welcome any and all to join in our wondrous journey down the proverbial rabbit hole with the hope that what we share here may inspire some and give hope to others.
That we all can make a difference…though together we be an ocean, we can each be that grain of sand.