Look for the helpers

~ I recently revisited an old favorite while on a walk, the YouTube channel “Like Stories of Old.” The video in my feed, from December 2020, is called “Who We Really Are… When Everything Goes Wrong” and covers the concept of whether or not human beings are made to take care of each other — or are generally just out for themselves.

Who We Really Are… When Everything Goes Wrong — Like Stories of Old

A beautiful video essay collecting the words of Hobbes and Frankl and Solnit, while knitting together scenery from Blade Runner, Chernobyl, Children of Men, Dunkirk, V for Vendetta — it provides a powerful message. It happens to be one I believe in:

Love is the highest goal to which Man can aspire.” Solidarity between the suffering is the only way for us to ever make a world worth living in. The predisposition that others will be barbaric justifies current and ongoing barbarism from those powerful enough to rule and hoard and close their hearts off from such solidarity. The lack of conscious belief in any “common good” within our society leads to selfishness and greed, shortsightedness toward long-term solutions to collective problems, and in times of prolonged extremis, potentially annihilation. This vicious dichotomy seems known to us.

Children of Men (2006)

However, in such times of extremis, with the specter of death on our horizon, an innate, even unconscious, sense of cooperation and collaboration can be drawn out of us for the sake of our fellow man. Time and time again, throughout history, in real accounts from people living through myriad kinds of ‘Hell on Earth’ — people are shown to sacrifice themselves for strangers. Under extraordinary conditions, never seen before and likely never to be seen again, regular folk become heroes. When disaster strikes, people come together — out of necessity, out of instinct.

Whether in a hurricane or a war, there will always be conflict of one kind or another within the chaos. But there will also be those seeking to mitigate, to end that conflict, toward the ends of protecting life at all costs.

With Death calling, Life screams back, in a harmony of many voices resounding.

Death: It Is I Who Makes You Serious; Let Us Embrace ~ Odilon Redon

The author of the video does a tremendous job laying out the truth of why people help each other during disasters and tragedies. We help not just because we desire connection and belonging — or because we want to be seen as being helpful or heroic — but primarily because it *must be done.* People help each other because deep down inside we feel as though it is the right thing to do. Saving life, when you have it in your power to do so, becomes an imperative {for many? for most? of us}.

Often, it is as simple as that. It’s a natural compulsion. To cooperate. To fight for life when death is threatening. This is how we have survived thus far as a species within this chaotic, harsh and dangerous world! The all-powerful instinct to survive is not confined to only our singular life — it is communal, it is part and parcel of the necessary interdependence between us as a society. None of us would be here without each other.

No man makes himself. In the face of any truly great crisis, no one Man stands a chance; we survive together, or we fall apart.

When tested in life-and-death circumstances, people tend to reveal who they truly are. And we have accounts to fill books with revelations that Man is good, Man is ultimately someone who shares, who sacrifices, who helps.

This seems intuitive, obvious. {This is why we are still here at all.} Though I admit this may just be a belief that myself and this author share. Well, us two and at least one other, someone that I became reminded of while watching this: Mr. Rogers.

~ …always look for the helpers. You’ll always find somebody who’s trying to help. {https://www.misterrogers.org/}

Fred’s time-honored words on the “helpers” is helpful here in this hopeful understanding of human nature. As we survey these times of crisis {as we are set to face the ongoing spirals of as a species from here in 2021 and on out…} it is necessary to pay as much, if not more, attention to these helpers. To draw inspiration from them in the midst of the sometimes hopeless modern world. And also, to gather that strength and convert it into the act of becoming a helper yourself.

This is the light we must hold onto and share. Within it is power and meaning and goodness. ~

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)