By Khea Pollard

There I sat amongst the scaling murals and the Afrocentric idols adorning the interior of Balboa Park’s World Beat Center. I had come for a spiritual awakening. Or for the less ideological version, I’d come because my parents made me. I may have been reluctant to give up the comforts of my bed and at 9 a.m. on a Sunday; but looking back, I am glad I did.

The main speakers that morning were followers of The Earth Center, an organization founded upon spiritual practices rooted in the heart of Africa. Their main topic of conversation was how to connect to the earth’s life force by abandoning societal mores try to use a more common word we have embedded in our psyche. I know what you’re thinking; it is really metaphysical stuff we’re discussing here and this journey the speakers proposed is definitely not for the faint of heart. These speakers encouraged me to think deeply about our motives here on Earth.

What are we here for? Are we here merely to survive or thrive? Should I be living differently than I am at this moment?

A poignant point of discussion was “necessity” vs. “essentiality”. I watched the audience nod in agreement as the speaker addressed the practicality of the things we think we need such as our fancy cell phone versus the essential resources that we need to sustain life such as water. We, myself included, have all been conditioned to believe that these man-made creations are crucial to our functioning as human beings. Somehow through social media we are always connected to the outside world and this may or may not draw our attention from internal self-reflection to focusing externally on keeping up with the Joneses. Even this obsession with external stimuli is superficial. Instead of using social media to connect in a meaningful way we are comparing ourselves to the next person, thinking we are somehow special or different.

We aren’t fundamentally special or different from anyone. The idea that all human beings are interconnected, that we are all a part of one system supported by the Earth’s energy is astounding and thought-provoking to say the least. We walk this Earth feeling as though we are separate entities yet what affects one person affects us all in the grand scheme of things. It is essentially the law of the universe, a domino effect if you will. If one domino falls eventually they will all fall. We tend to look to life’s tragedies as isolated incidents, removed from our burgeoning consciousness and write off the perpetrator as “crazy”.

Take the recent bombings in Boston for example. How is it possible a young and unassuming teenager, who by most accounts a lovely person, “flip” and commit such an atrocious crime? Or Christopher Dorner, the neighborhood policeman. There has to have been something uniquely evil about him to undertake such atrocious crimes. I think not. These people are the manifestations of a broken system. If we are all cogs in this system it leaves to reason that we must work together to fix it, not isolate one another. That is not to say that people should not be held responsible for their actions. However, when we see multiple incidents such as these it would behoove us to examine our society from the ground up. There is something structurally wrong with the way we are currently living if this type of violence is becoming a trend and this violence is not unique to U.S. territory but present all over the world.

Talks of nuclear threats from North Korea and U.S. invasions for “peace in the Middle East” certainly bring our negative human nature to the forefront. As students and aspiring leaders we must ask ourselves what world we wish to see and how we can personally make our vision reality.

So I did. I am choosing to start internally. If I learned anything from the discussion I witnessed that day, it is that you cannot help others if you will not help yourself. With that in mind as I carry on from day to day I am reminded to consistently strive toward a better self. The first step for some might be delving deeper to recognize that Siri is not a necessity to their existence and for others it may be finding their own spiritual center. Whatever your medium, the end goal is undoubtedly one bigger than yourself.