Twenty years ago today, I boarded an airplane from Stuttgart to Chicago. Twenty years ago I left my home in Germany and moved to the United States.
Today marks 20 years of being an ex-patriot, or rather, a planet-patriot. Back then my father told me that I would get to choose one day if I wanted to be German or an American (he himself had fled Hungary and decided to become a German, which today is a big part of his self-definition). I told him then that I didn’t think so, that in the future we would have different choices available to us. Instead of becoming an ex-pat, I could become a patriot on a whole new level.
When I was born, pictures of Earth from space existed. I have been on an airplane more times than I can count. I have never seen lines on the ground that determine a nation. It’s an artificial construct. “Nation” is an artificial pattern.
The word patriot comes from Latin pater, father. There is pater and mater, father and mother. Those same roots also give us the words pattern and matter.
When pattern imprints matter, new life is born.
A nation is a pattern. It is information (something that in-forms), a social agreement, a contract drawn up between warlords. A nation is not something real — though all patterns we hold are powerful.
Those nation patterns create things in matter: Borders drawn on a map and enforced by armed men. Machine gun towers. Walls. Barbed wire. And they inspire people to action: To kill in the name of their “Vaterland”, to feeling hatred toward those who are not part of their pattern; to chose ignorance about the other — how else could we hate them?
Our patterns inform our actions in the material world.
I could have adopted the US as a pattern of home. But those pictures of Earth from space kept haunting me. Traveling around the world and studying wisdom traditions and learning about different cultures, I realized that the sages of the ages did not get sucked into those small patterns of nations. They focused on the human condition as such: What it means to be an individual in relation to the world, to the entirety of life, that inter-related web that makes up this reality — parasparopagraho jivanam, “All life is bound together by mutual support and interdependence,” as the Jains described it.
Today, we get to start thinking about new patterns. A mere 160 years ago someone sat around in Bavaria saying “Germany? — I don’t believe in Germany. I am Bavarian, I don’t even like those Prussians, those Swabians, all those other guys — they are too different from me. I am Bavarian. I don’t believe in Germany!”
Today, we get to start thinking about bigger patterns than a puny nation. If we look at evolution, we have continuously evolved our sphere of concern: From the reptilian mind, concerned with eating, drinking, fucking, sleeping, and who thinks that everything is okay if “I” am okay, to the mammalian mind that knows things are only okay if “my” family is okay, to the tribal mind, that is okay, when “I” am okay, “my” family is okay, and everyone in “my tribe” — insert tribal definition here — is okay.
But we have come to realize that tribes are artificial, too, that no two Germans are alike, no two Americans are alike, no two Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, it doesn’t matter what tribal definition we use.
No tribal definition is fully coherent.
How could it be? It would deny our individuality.
Now, we see each other across the planet, and with that we have a new level of consciousness available to us, a new sphere of concern, where we know that things are only okay, if everyone on this planet is also okay.
Someone once said that we will have terrorism until nobody on this planet is oppressed or even feels oppressed. Terrorism is a tactic of the overwhelmed. Of the one who is seeing himself against a mighty force and does not have another option but to take an extreme stand. We cannot fight that. It would be more of the same. More of that oppression that is being fought against. We have seen that time and time again, from the barbarians fighting against mighty Rome, to the hills of Yugoslavia, where Hitler learned that lesson, to Vietnam, to the middle east, to the current day. More oppression, more force will not resolve that. Only if we shift our pattern, make it bigger, become patriots for the planet, for all of humanity, then we can alleviate any reason for terrorism.
Today we are living in a world where one pissed-off teenager who does not feel like he belongs can create nanobots that will turn the entire world into grey goo.
Forget nuclear threats. Those are for Bond movies of the last century. Today, we have a whole new arsenal of possible weapons available: Nanobots, chemical/biological agents, computer viruses to name just a few. There are many ways to do harm in this world that don’t require elaborate plans and millions in villain money to make happen.
We cannot fight them. But we can focus instead on creating a world where they are not necessary. Where everyone on this planet has loving and forwarding relationships so that the idea of harming others itself becomes ridiculous. We get to embrace and spread the memes of being part of one humanity, of one planet, of fully experiencing atomic inter-relations.
We aren’t all one, but we are all part of one. It’s a polyverse, not a universe, created by the interference pattern of our perceptions.
Each of us seems to be a point of perception that experiences itself through our bodies, our emotions, our thoughts. We get to take ownership of that and truly stand up as planetary citizens.
For the last 988 days I haven’t had a home in the traditional sense, but have been traveling back and forth around the planet to deeply anchor this notion that the rock beneath my feet is the only home. That planet is my pattern of reference. That all of humanity is my kin — as retarded as some of them might be in their development (many are still of reptilian mind and mammalian mind, and demagogues appeal to that by relating it to the tribal mind). Regardless, all of them are my kin and deserve my kin-dness.
There is this planet. That is the biggest pattern I can see that I can feasibly call home, and I am a patriot for that.