What do you really want now? This is a question I’ve asked myself from time to time over the years.
When I was younger, the answer had to do with survival and comfort. I wanted a good-paying, stable job. A spouse. A comfortable place to live with room to breathe. Independence.
After achieving all that, it was time to ask the question again. And although “survival and comfort” remained in the mix, I needed to add a few things. I wanted more honesty, and trust within my relationships—a reduction in day-to-day-drama. I wanted opportunities to learn new things and to meet people from different countries and cultures. And I wanted the ability and permission to be creative in my job.
As I grew older and both my relationships and life circumstances became more complicated, it seemed that everything I wanted could be summarized with two words: serenity and freedom.
I struggled to nail down either one by attempting to control all my external circumstances. I finally realized that the solution lived within me. I could take hold of my own serenity and freedom. And when I figured out how to do it, I realized that it happened with ease and grace.
I suppose I could have stopped right there, but that seemed wrong somehow. If I stopped there, what would I do with the rest of my life? Maintain the ebbs and flows of serenity and freedom in every moment, for sure. But I was restless—still looking for something more.
Then two things happened that deeply impacted me: the United States had its 2016 presidential election, and Walt Disney Pictures released the animated film, Moana. The timing of these events so close together was like having my heart torn open, then having a healing salve poured over it.
I was completely shocked and saddened by the way the American people treated each other during the political campaigns, the election itself, and in the post-election months. Emotions were volatile, and people exercised their right to express them. There have been many issues in our history where people have reacted with hate and violence, but I had never personally experienced a more divisive issue involving the people I knew—people expressing disgust and hatred towards their own family and friends, let alone strangers! The attacks appeared overwhelmingly vicious in word and deed, and especially in social media.
I finally understood how it must have felt for all the victims of injustice, prejudice, and ignorance in our human history. This time there was no escaping it—no matter which candidate or which solution you supported, you were attacked. You were called stupid. You were assigned a lowly character and a generalized set of beliefs. And worst of all, you were cursed. Even though I chose not to engage, inside I could still feel the blows.
It seemed like there was no hope for Americans to ever come together again. There were too many things that divided us. And if we couldn’t do it at home, what were the chances of us uniting across national boundaries to collaborate, innovate, and resolve global issues? It didn’t look good.
Then one night, I watched Moana for the first time. And then I watched it again. And again. I watched every bit of bonus material: the making of the movie, the music, and the animation techniques. I watched interviews with the directors, producers, songwriters, and actors, and I fell in love with them all.
I was heartened by the story—a journey of self-discovery, of forgiveness of self and others, of disconnection then reunion of people with the rest of the natural world. A story of courage and curiosity and trusting intuition. Of service and devotion to a community, and protection for a sacred environment. I was enchanted by the music, and uplifted by the humor that exposed humility in the characters. And I was duly impressed by the coming together of filmmakers and cultural representatives to form the Oceanic Trust—a group of people who did their best to represent the history, values, and experiences of so many distinct nationalities of South Pacific people, and portray them in an integrated way so that important messages could be shared with those of us who were unfamiliar with these perspectives.
And then it dawned on me that maybe it is possible to be devoted to each other despite our differences.
We can focus on the goals we have in common rather than dividing over strategies. We can agree to disagree while we investigate alternatives, and use our diverse viewpoints to create more, better, and kinder solutions to our problems. I didn’t say it would be easy, but I have seen it done successfully when people are willing to try, and when they respect each other as well as the process.
Finding serenity first within ourselves produces an opportunity for connection with others—authentic connection that is based upon understanding our true identity and having an intention to learn and grow. The natural result is a desire for impact, to put our heads and hearts together, and to serve each other—not in an obligatory kind of way, but with the joy that comes with working together to accomplish something much bigger than ourselves.
And that’s what Serene Nation is all about.