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Robert Strock: The Healing Confluence of Civility, Compassion, and Collaboration

In the final guest installment in our Inspiration series, Robert Strock — psychotherapist, author of Awareness That Heals, and Co-President of The Global Bridge Foundation — responds to themes in Free Trip to Egypt by drawing on his professional experience to explore how we can overcome fear and prejudice to achieve unity.

In a compellingly personal way, against a backdrop of global disorientation, fear, and distrust, Tarek Mounib and his vision for Free Trip to Egypt invite us to see, hear, and tangibly feel that we human beings are the same in our hearts, needs, emotions, in our yearning for happiness. After all, what is the world but its people and the contribution each of us can make to the creation of a global society that provides the fundamental needs of all beings and expresses the highest possibilities of the human spirit?

The proverbial hero’s journey taken by the courageous individuals in Free Trip to Egypt shine a spotlight on these words of unity and collaboration spoken by the Greek storyteller Aesop, "United we stand, divided we fall" — words which have been quoted by notable individuals from Patrick Henry, J.K. Rowling, to Pink Floyd in their song "Hey You".

Can Civility, Deep Listening and Authentic Conversation Create Democracy?

The traditional etymology of the word "democracy" derives from two Greek words—demos, translated as "the common people", and kratos, meaning "rule" — in other words, "people-power." The world we see today is a result of the collective intentions and actions of humanity, which is to say that it is people-power that creates the causes and resulting conditions we experience. The question then becomes, how are we to apply this collective people-power in a way that gives birth to world governments that succeed not by force but instead by the agreement of its citizens to create a true democracy?

The next question we must more frequently ask ourselves as individuals and as a nation is, "How can we give ourselves the best chance to survive while causing a minimum of global suffering?" Sadly, from generation to generation, countries have been stuck in holding their neighbors — meaning those who are considered "enemy nations" — responsible for the conditions in which they find themselves. This, with very little or no consideration of the likelihood that prior generations also made human errors and self-serving decisions. There are no saints when it comes to national policy or political history, including in our contemporary times.

The legacy of our societal, cultural, familial, and political conditioning, our cherished beliefs and opinions — and perhaps even our DNA — are adhered to as though they comprise an infallible religion are prejudiced toward our family, our country, our culture, our religion. This belligerent pattern causes individuals to give the benefit of the doubt to their country, to believe in the innocence of their country and the guilt of others, which creates an endless cycle of exaggerated fear of outside nations and groups. How is it that we cannot see that the source of wars is a projection of our own innocence and the guilt of others? As I write these words in May of 2019, the daily news is announcing that the possibility of America going to war with Iran is back on the table, making it obvious we have forgotten these wise words of General Douglas MacArthur:

"I know war as few other men now living know it, and nothing to me is more revolting. I have long advocated its complete abolition, as its very destructiveness on both friend and foe has rendered it useless as a method of settling international disputes."

The three pillars of the #PledgetoListen — Civility, Deep Listening, and Authentic Conversation — are gateways to an individual and collective understanding of peace and expansion of our recognition of the dignity and worth of all beings. Each of us needs to ask and honestly respond to the question, "What, in the individual place I inhabit in the world, can I beneficially contribute to the evolutionary progress of the planet?" It is through taking action on your response, no matter how basic, that you contribute to relieving the pressure points that threaten the cohesion of our global community. Our willingness to deeply listen and have authentic dialogue across our differences is the fuel for global survival, for reclaiming our shared humanity, for considering if our planet’s borders, drawn by the human hand across the sands of time through the conquests of war are, in fact, real.

Free Trip to Egypt validates the beautiful personal stories that are portrayed through the television series The Americans and Homeland, both of which delve deeply enough that if we, its viewers, sufficiently open our minds will understand how challenging it is to define a nation as good or bad once we come to know what is in the hearts and minds of its people who were, up to that point, strangers to us. Although doing so may not be the most popular choice of our cultural intelligentsia, what more evidence is required to realize that now is the time for humanity to come together and enter into authentic conversations which lead to worldwide actions that make a difference?

Shifting Our Inner and Outer Worldview

As more of us become increasingly aware of our personal challenges, fearful feelings and conditioning, we begin to map our mind’s walk to freedom. We begin thinking twice about who we are and what is possible. Even as we feel things are blowing up around us, we sense that we are motivated by an innate organic wisdom, a mindset of civility that accelerates a collaborative spirit, that shifts our worldview, thus enhancing our chances to positively impact challenges such as global warming, species extinction, nuclear threats, terrorism, corruption, weapons proliferation, immigration, the imbalance of wealth, poverty, the needs of underserved populations including food, fresh water, housing, education, and healthcare.

It is only through deep listening that we can hear the hearts, needs, emotions and thoughts of others, which allows our own heart to expand beyond our own myopic visions of justice, balance of power, international well-being. Beginning with ourselves and those who inhabit our immediate circle, we can, with practice, learn to participate in authentic conversations with individuals we perceive as being different than ourselves. I encourage us all to remember that no one is disqualified from being part of this process, for even a small action of compassionate speech has the power to affect a chain of people because we are, every one of us, tied at the heart.

As my more than 50 years of time-tested work as a psychotherapist have proven to me, and as I wrote in my newly released book, Awareness That Heals Bringing Heart and Wisdom to Life’s Challenges: 

"My life and my work have taught me one fundamental lesson: there is a place inside each of us that knows, cares, and is able to guide us on the healing journey of our unique life."

It is on that journey that we encounter, perhaps for the very first time, the qualities of self-compassion, self-kindness, which organically spill over to compassion for and genuine kindness toward others. As the Beatles remind us in their classic song "Imagine":

"Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will be as one."

May each one of us join together as conscious co-creators of a world community that lives from the reality of our essential oneness.

Find out more about Robert’s work at www.humanisticspirituality.org.