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What If? NOAH RENNERT

 

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NOAH RENNERT is currently traveling the world working in accounting, politics, and the music industry. He will begin his studies at Washington University next year and hopes to work in the environmental sector after graduation.

 

What if there were no secrets in the world? If I knew you and you knew me as we know ourselves? Would we be wailing in the streets for our each other’s pain? Would there be mobs breaking down doors because they knew the man inside needed a hug?

90% of my work as a human is learning more about the people who I spend time with. Such an endeavor takes time and often fails, so when I pass strangers or meet someone only briefly, it is too overwhelming to emotionally commit to earnestly learning and taking on even a portion of their personal suffering, let alone every nook and cranny of their humanity. As such, there is a dearth of compassion in my heart for those outside of the hearth of my inner circle. I wonder how people coping with more hardship than I am can find the emotional capital to spend on the unfortunate many who long for understanding.

What if, when I rode the subway and the woman next to me tightened her grip on her purse, I instinctively understood why? What if, instead of abstract irritation and indignation, I felt the cold marble of her foyer floor pressing against my cheek, an anonymous arm trying to choke me as it had choked her, the neurons in my brain flooding me with her memory of being jumped only inches from home.  What if I, who walks the streets with reckless abandon out of ignorance, would no longer extend the cold distance of scorn to this anxious stranger, but would instead speak to her to let her know I understand why she is afraid?  What if she would know I harbor no ill intentions, assured of her safety and able to get home without the burden of fear?

What if I could return to the joy and naivety of youth?  When I was a little boy at the beach, I would approach other children whom I had not met before to ask if I could help build their sandcastle. I would do so with the quiet assurance that they were just like me and would love a helping hand.

We are the center of a homogeneous and welcoming universe.

The psychic crack that begins to form on the first day of school and widens to a chasm by high school is what “growing up” is. It is to recognize the incomprehensible and unknowable vastness of humanity; to know at your core you could never understand everyone – not fully. It only grows more painful the first time you provide someone with that invaluable service of needed compassion, because then you are aware of the world’s terribly great demand for understanding and your shocking inadequacy to address it. The pain caused by such a realization only deepens your own mystery, making it harder for others to really know you, and augmenting their pain.

But, what if there were no secrets? What if I knew you and you knew me? What if the world were free from the constraints of these invisible, opaque walls that isolate us? To love and feel love in the presence of strangers — what a wonderfully tumultuous world that would be. At first, the jarring onslaught of humanity’s inner turmoil would be as though a captain had awoken from his dreams of smooth sailing only to find his ship at the center of a hurricane, receiving fire from land, sea, and air, and his crew on lunch break. But, when the storm had calmed, the deluge had subsided, and the sunbeams shone through the ocean spray to show hints of a rainbow all around, humanity would know each other at peace for the very first time. It would be more triumphant than the Trojan horse’s entrance and more final than Waterloo; it would be the dawn of universal understanding and lasting world peace. What if there were no secrets?

 

N.R. 2016

 

Published: April 28th, 2016

Previous in this series:

What If? MAX WALKER-SILVERMAN

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What If? JULIA M. KELLEY