New York City is a crazy place to live. The subway system is both one of my favorite parts of living in the city and the source of my biggest annoyance.
More than 5.7 million people ride the subway each day. Getting on the Subway every day is partly like a game of chess, part luck, part knowledge, and part Hunger Games. There are nearly 6 million people on the trains and I am just one of them, a minnow among sharks, trying to find my way to where I want to go.
There are signs all over the Subways imploring riders to stay to the right of the stairways. Every time a train pulls into a busy station, a recording reminds the crowd to let the passengers off the train before trying to get on.
If New Yorkers followed these guidelines, the trains would run more efficiently. But we humans struggle with these kinds of rules.
We are caught in a battle between Me and We. If I follow the We path, I might get there slower, I might not get a seat, I might miss the train. If I choose Me and dart forward, cut, take the clearer path, I might get there faster. If I follow the We Vision, the system will run faster. If I follow the Me Vision, I might beat the system.
The Subway is a microcosm (albeit a giant one) for the way we operate all the time. Our world perspective has become a collective Us versus Them. We pretend it is Me versus They. We like it. We like the competition. We don’t trust ‘the others’. It is easy to see Them as the stranger, obstacle, or enemy. We let ourselves think that everything that is not Me is They.
But there is another perspective. Sometimes what is not Me is We. I don’t have to lose myself in sacrificing for the whole. In becoming a part of the whole, I find myself.
Just like New Yorkers, we stubbornly insist on being the god of our own universe. We must win. We deserve to win. We end up needing to feed what the Chinese Youth I work with call the MeMe King.
The beautiful and sometimes irritating truth is that Me will get all he wants and more only by participating in We. I too often go out and pursue my own ideas for my life, my own prosperity, the best and most comfortable for me, at the cost of those around me. And then I am surprised that I feel rejected, abandoned, and isolated. I want everyone to serve me without me having to serve anyone. I don’t trust others will play their part so I refuse to play mine (I don’t want to be the fool).
As a culture, we have swallowed the black pill. Each of us secretly believe that if we just had a little more money, a little more influence, a few more things, Me would be satisfied. We ignore the deep spiritual reality that we all need one another. Not as pawns to get me ahead but because the deep magic of harmony only happens when there is more than one voice. We need each other because, deep down, we know we will never be satisfied alone.
This is one of the things I love about New York. It is one of the reasons people are flocking to urban centers. There is a deep desire to participate in We. To be a part of all that Is. Not to disappear in the crowd, but to lock arms with it, in hope and unity.
Until we can see that our us versus them mentality is killing both We and Me, our world will continue to spin out of control. Until we allow the We Vision to absorb us and pull us higher, we will continue destroying one another for the scraps of lies we believe in.
The world is out there. ‘They’ are not the enemy; ‘they’ are an opportunity. They are you, me, We. And We are only the Body of Christ together.