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Change Our Story

Composer, author and philanthropist Peter Buffett on finding your own path to life fulfillment.

Poison the River - Part 3

Peter Buffett, son of billionaire investor Warren Buffett, is an Emmy Award-winning composer, NY Times best-selling author and noted philanthropist. Currently, he is releasing socially-conscious music and touring his "Concert & Conversation" series in support of his book Life Is What You Make It.

I hope we can agree on one thing: Everything goes in cycles. Nothing lasts forever (OK, two things).

We’ve been on a 150-200 year cycle of “progress” that's become increasingly rapid, and now maybe we can settle down a little. Of course things can still feel productive. And I’m certainly not romanticizing the past. I’m thrilled about indoor plumbing, etc.

But now we can actually see, hear, and measure the impact of seeking tangible monetary gains over any kind of loss. Relationships are being torn apart. Relationship to the things we do, the people we love, the food we eat, and the place we call home.

From what I can tell, it must be really important to either have lots money in the bank or be absolutely sure that everyone else’s interpretation of God is wrong (or both). And it seems to help if everyone looks and acts pretty much like you do.

This can’t be right. There has to be another way. I know, I know—it’s always been this way, it’s the human condition, etc., but I don’t believe it. You want progress? I’ll give you progress: human beings in respectful relation to themselves and the world they inhabit, living as a part of an ecosystem. Forget tolerance—I'm talking about respect.

We’ve all been wounded. We all were born needing love and nurturing. And none of us got it the way we’d hoped for. It’s impossible.

So let’s see that in each other. We should respect each other for the complicated lives we’ve all led, and acknowledge that many are trying to live up to something or someone in order to be seen and heard (and fed and loved). We start life seeking acceptance and fearing harsh judgment.

I’m not saying we all have to like each other (I just let a bunch of people off the hook, including me), but respect has compassion hidden somewhere inside it. “I may not like you, but I know that you have a story that got you where you are.” We must have respect for someone else’s path; compassion for someone else’s pain.

If the river helps keep the water in circulation, when it’s poisoned, the whole system is sick. Get the poison out and the system will eventually return to a healthy balance.

I believe that as we hear more people’s stories, the various poisons in the river will become more obvious. Then we can head upstream and start cleaning it up.

It’s time to remember the mystery: We’ve mapped the planet and enough of the universe. The subatomic world is just too damn small. Don’t forget that when the greatest scientists come to great conclusions, they always recognize that there is a place that will always be unknowable. We’ve always needed stories to make sense of this. But many of the recent ones —say, the last few thousand years—don’t serve us too well now. We need new stories; stories to live in to.

What do you think? Share your story at changeourstory.com. Visit www.peterbuffett.com to learn more and Change Our Story to join the conversation on how we all can become active participants in shaping our future.  

Image courtesy of Editor B, licensed under Creative Commons.