Dangerously Unselfish (Letting go of the soda can)

By Cammy Watkins
I was recently listening to this podcast called “White Picket Fences” sent to me by my friend Naomi. As I listened to this final episode I had this revelation. We have to let go of something so we can gain something else. I envisioned this to be like the hand stuck in the fence to get the Soda Can. You can’t get your hand out while you continue to hold onto the Can. But the reluctance to let go comes from the belief that you lose that temporary joy you were seeking. In holding on, you are stuck. You cannot move forward or backward you are just stuck holding a Can. A Can you cannot use. So why not let go? Let go of the Can. Let go of the idea that this is the only option. Let go and free yourself from the immobility of clinging to an idea, that has never really materialized actual success.
Yes, letting go will feel like failure, but failure is not an ending. Failure is an opportunity to start over to do something different and perhaps better. And yes, you may not know when or where you will find that next Can, but you do know it exists. And the moment you stop just seeking to fulfill your own thirst, but instead practice what MLK said in his Mountain top speech “Dangerous Unselfishness” and take the leap to try and fulfill everyone’s thirst — only then will you experience what it means to thrive. Surviving isn’t thriving, it’s just staying alive. Too many of us have just been staying alive or surviving. We all deserve to thrive and the only way any of us can thrive is if we all do.
When I hear people comment that a focus on equity and inclusion is nice, but will not address the “real” or “practical” issues, I know it is because these individuals are still holding a Can. They are still existing under the illusion that prosperity and poverty are not linked, that taxes and people are separate entities. We for far too long have relegated our belief sets to the idea that the “bad” is in no way connected to the “good.” This is simply not so. As Matthew Desmond so beautifully detailed in his recent book, poverty is in a relationship with wealth. The two are not separate, but are inextricably connected. We cannot address poverty without also addressing the development of wealth. And we will not be able to even start having real conversations about either until we let go of the notion that we can maintain our current caste system of supremacy AND eliminate racial disparities or other inequities. We can not have both, we either maintain our caste system in America or we let go of the Can and get up and really start the work of building equity.
We as a community have been stuck. Stuck in a holding pattern in which maintaining the comfort of whiteness (and the status quo) has not allowed us to be better. We fear what change will bring and we fear the discomfort of letting go. I cannot say why that fear often is tacked to people that look like me. That is a question you have to answer for yourself. Why do we fear the “other?” More importantly, why do we fear the “other’s” power?
I often say we or us or all and when I say we I mean WE, that’s you, me, them, all of us. I don’t see a need for the constructed hierarchies or caste systems we’ve been trained to accept. I choose to see the world through the lens of abundance. The current systems we live (not thrive) in have taught us to look through a lens of scarcity if we are of a certain caste. We don’t have to continue to do this. We can change these systems we just have to be brave enough to let go of the Can. Radical change doesn’t have to mean a recycling of the old ways to just a new thing that sucks the same way but looks different. It can also mean deconstructing something that only worked for a few and reconstructing it into something that works for all of us. We have to get real and acknowledge that ALL hasn’t always meant ALL, but it can. Only if we are willing to stop being afraid, let go of the Can, get up and become dangerously unselfish.
If you wish to listen to the Podcast that inspired this blog check it out here.
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