20 May I Will Honor, Not Shy Away From, Being a Citizen of the World
WHEN I FIRST HEARD the term citoyen du monde several years ago, the beautiful sound of the words stitched together resounded throughout the walls of my soul.
I’ve been afraid to own the fact that this is the life I aspire towards; that dream has fought against limiting beliefs whispered by my inner voice, telling me it would be naive to call myself a citizen of the world.
Yet this week, my spirit attained some sort of existential harmony between what is and what might be, manifested into being through my integral curiosity, a calling of the heart, and a nudge from the universe.
I’ve changed the name of my newsletter to Citoyens du Monde — citizens of the world.
This is something I’ve wanted to do for a while; but honestly I’ve felt resistance. Who am I to feel the need to make the world my home, not just where I come from?
Yet it’s not a job I’m seeking; it’s not a title. It’s what we are, all of us, intrinsically. Still, we don’t all have the same opportunities to claim what’s right, and that’s devastating.
I come from a privileged background, a free democracy, a loving family that I may always return to. But I’m not respecting those gifts if I cower away from accepting and doing something with them.
I’ve learned that the only correct way to honor that privilege is to aim, day in and day out, to make this world a better place, no matter how seemingly inconsequential the action.
I’ll stumble, I’ll fall, I’ll react to life and often miss the mark. But I’ll get back up and smile. Hopefully, in whatever capacity, I can make others smile too.
“There are all sorts of advantages that you have that other people don’t have, and no doubt disadvantages as well that are unique to you,” said psychologist Jordan Peterson at a talk at Franciscan University.
“You happen to be born American, which is relatively good fortune. You don’t deserve that in any sense. So how do you justify it? By leading an ethical life. That’s actually the answer. It’s not, you should lead an ethical life. You should, that’s not the issue. The issue is, that’s how you atone for your unearned privilege.
Your guilt can’t be weaponized under those conditions, not by other people, but also not by you. It’s like, I have these advantages. Well what are you doing about them? I’m doing the best I can with them.
That’s how I justify them. I try to treat them as gifts and make the most out of them that’s maximally beneficial for me and for everybody else simultaneously.”
I strive to do my best — it’s as simple as that. That’s all we can ever hope to do.
For the past month and a half while I’ve been living in Lisbon, Portugal, I’ve learned about others, about myself, about this world, both in the trivial moments and those I’ll carry with me for as long as I live.
But this week, after several instances which I might attribute to fate, divine intervention or pure serendipity, it all came together.
I know no matter what happens, I’m on my path.
It took putting the energy out there by working through my thoughts and actively seeking guidance.
When I did, multiple notes from the symphony of the heavens came to me and said, you’re on your way, kid. Keep moving forward with your heart wide open.
I know little about the world, but I got a fire in my belly to get out there and discover. I have a fervent desire to learn, not only about who I am, but about what it means to be human beings on planet earth.
We’re not perfect creatures by any means, nor should we expect ourselves to be.
But if we’re sincerely trying in this life — be it to fulfill our mission, to help another soul in need, or even just to enjoy the little time we have — what fault is there in that?
I felt called to make Citoyens du Monde a central pillar of my journey after being drawn into a store this week. I met an old German couple and a shopkeeper who taught me a valuable lesson about life.
A complete telling of the tale will be written soon, but it was as if I was meant to be there. This experience was too serendipitous to ignore.
We connected not through language, but through our common joy. Through the spirit of adventure. Through friendship and through love.
If we’re not all citizens of the world, able to connect profoundly through simple, everyday experiences, what are we really doing here?
The name Citoyens du Monde comes from one of my favorite books, Michel de Montaigne, written by the 20th-century writer Stefan Zweig. He writes about Montaigne:
“Not a son and a citizen of any race or a fixed place, but a citizen of the world, beyond any land or time.”
Montaigne, a free-thinker of the 16th-century, longed above all else to remain himself, rester soi-meme.
Later in life he realized a love for travel, not just to see the world and its ancient cities, but to understand its people. Zweig writes:
“For him, seeing is learning, comparing, better understanding all that demonstrates the perennial diversity of human nature.”
In the words of Montaigne:
“And I know no better school of life than that which reveals the way others live their lives.”
For him, the gift of travel is to get to know the people. Without a shadow of a doubt that has proved to be true.
The people I’ve met on this European journey have made me laugh, smile, think, confront my insecurities and open my heart.
There’s so much to learn from one another — our histories and stories and joys and pain.
No matter where we come from, what gifts we’ve been given or how privileged we are, nobody is exempt from the weight of existence.
Citoyens du Monde explores what it means to be a human being on planet earth, the highs, the lows, and all the beauty in between.
I hope as I learn, you gain a thing or two as well, or at the least, enjoy the journey which we’re on together.