(How You Want It) To Be

| 12/5/2012 10:40:52 AM

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

old woman

“(How You Want It) To Be” by Peter Buffett  

This is a song about understanding; about how the stories we believe might change if we saw the world through someone else's eyes. Of course we all know the old "walk a mile in someone's shoes" line. But somehow the reality of that is hard to achieve. Partly because there are around 14 billion pairs of shoes to fill.

I'm writing this as I ride a high speed train traveling through the Chinese countryside. How could I possibly ever know the intricacies of the lives I'm seeing from a relatively close distance while speeding along at 200 mph? I won't pretend to. But I can respect the fact that I never will, and honor their life as one that is as important as mine or someone dear to me.

Why can't we assume that everyone has a life as complex as our own? That everyone has family stories that haunt us or inspire us? That every culture has a history that shames us or makes us proud? And that, in truth, almost all stories hold both beauty and ugliness—perfection in the very lack of perfection.

The opening stanza plays off of the old joke that even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day. It's the idea that everyone can be right sometimes. But how do we make room for all the rest? How do we allow for the messiness of the gray areas?

As we move further and further into a digital world, one that's made up of ones and zeros in almost every facet of life, how do we keep this binary imprint from seeping further and further into our everyday thinking? As George Bush Jr. so perfectly said in very black and white terms, "you're either with us or against us."

12/14/2012 9:56:50 AM

Yes, but it's just the beginning. When I was an ignorant child, I had no respect for the life forms around me. But as I discovered microscopes and telescopes and fell in love with the animal and insect world, I gradually woke up from my sleep of arrogance and careless self-absorption. The incredible beauty of a microscopic pond cyclops with its tiny heart beating at the same rate as mine became inescapable. I wouldn't let even one die at my hands. Now my Cockatoo George talks to me in English. " I was scared!" "Is this an excellent vehicle?" "Watch where you're going!" In short, I became aware that life is a continuum, not me vs. other humans in a world of fuzzy, feathered animated toys. I've become able to walk in their claws, their webbed feet, their hooves. So heck, people are easy. Consciousness and self-awareness and empathy is not some special human soul magic. The birds in the parking lot pecking at french fries have families, and problems, and personalities...and empathy. Individuals all. This acceptance of the reality of life consciousness opens the door of empathy for all living things, with other humans the easiest of all. Once you have deep respect for all of life, empathy for others comes naturally. Basically we need to vote ourselves off the island of ego and dive into the sea of life. And if you just relax and lay back, you'll discover you float just fine along with all the others!

Donna Young
12/12/2012 12:50:21 PM

a gray area,..with many connections and association in many categores, some might view this as a dismal condition with many mountains to climb BUT...others see many connections and association in many categories as a brilliantly bright outlook...

Yaxue Cao
12/11/2012 5:04:24 PM

Dear Mr. Buffett, I'm the translator of your essays here. I learned about your trip to China on Twitter and translated this piece yesterday. I hope you had a good trip. Unrelated to the Chinese-language media outlet that hired me to translate your essays, I myself have an English-language blog about China. I would like to recommend an essay of my own to you titled "The Other China". Look forward to your next post. http://seeingredinchina.com/2012/06/01/the-other-china/

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