About three years ago I started my experiment. All good experiments start with a question and this one, being a TRUE experiment has one too.
Question: can one person bring about world peace? Well, three years later, I can at least say it takes more than 3 years to push it through to the whole world. As far as I'm concerned, this experiment is open ended and that makes sense that it would and should be.
Whoops, let’s get something out of the way. I’m only a scientist in the most basic definition - a person who believes science is a thing that follows general or relative laws depending on your perspective and observational instruments.
I would love to think I could cause world peace but there are measurements that can be taken to see if world peace is occurring. Here are a few possible ways to measure it.
Is the earth on fire and in the process of killing all humankind as we know it and is it because of humankind? If not, then we are at peace.
Or, has there been any example of human suffering caused by another human occurring on the earth in the last 24 hours? If not, then we are at peace.
The first option is too generous and the second option is too restrictive.
Like a true scientist (did I mention that I am at least aware of something called a scientific method?), my original question uncovered another question that must be answered before the first can. How do we measure world peace?
Let me point out something before we go on - if you are automatically discounting part or all of what I've said so far ask yourself why. It could be that you are a real scientist (like me - I have a freshly printed document that says so) and already see "flaws" in my "logic". Quotation marks are used here for both scientific, rhetorical, and ironic purposes. Anyone who puts an "r" and an "h" together in a word is highly suspect of snobbery or....a scientist. Notice the correct article ("an" versus "a" when describing the "h"). Also keep in mind the misuse of "both" was overlooked by everyone - you included.
My point is, will I ever be able to conduct an experiment that proves whether or not I can single-handedly produce world peace that everyone agrees on as being successful? Hmmmm....another question. This science stuff sure does open up a lot of rabbit holes to go looking down. I can see why Einstein got bored with Newtonian physics now - too predictable.
I decided to go about my experiment regardless of how world peace is measured. I was going to take action and then look and ask myself if we've arrived at world peace. If we have arrived by my estimation then I'll take a partner. Until then I'll keep acting as if I can produce world peace. I'll show them.
Here is how I will be conducting the experiment. Each day, I will locate a stranger. A stranger in this context is someone I have never laid eyes on before that I know nothing about other than what I can see, hear, and smell. After careful consideration I chose to leave out the touch and taste senses as they could leave a stranger with an "I need to shower" feeling that could potentially send this scientist to jail where this scientist would then likely need his own shower and would be afraid to take one.
I will ask the stranger two questions, one of which will NOT be an inquiry into their favorite color or the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallows - only laden swallows over here!
The two questions are:- What are two important things to you?- How would you suggest I communicate that to the people in the world so as to promote world peace?
Here's my hypothesis. People tend to be generous with people they know and with people that have commonalities with themselves. Asking strangers for two important things helps them be known. So far I've also found that I share commonalities with these people too.
On my first day - the day this idea struck me - I was in a coffee shop. I was the second person in the shop after it opened. I had already received my cappuccino and was enjoying it. I haven't been the kind of person that would just start a conversation with a stranger about anything outside of superficial hellos and how-are-yous. She had given me my coffee so we had interacted a little, but only in a professional, coffee-for-money-with-minor-contact-only sort of way. I put my coffee down and walked up to her not knowing what to say. She saw me walking up and smiled politely.
"Did you need something?" she asked, cleaning the tamper. I smiled back at her.
"Yes. I'm doing an experiment." Her eyes shifted as if nervous a little and focused on her work.
"Ok..." she said with an unknowing and trailing sound.
"I'm approaching people I don't know and asking them to share two important things in their life and how I can help pay that forward." I had yet to formalize my approach. I knew it needed some work but I was compelled to begin.
My instinct was to fill the empty space with more chatter but I kept silent and waited politely. Too often we fill space with external noise to quiet the cacophony of our internal dialogue.
"She must think I'm weird. I'd better speak. Why aren't you speaking?! Oh wait, she's thinking. But is she thinking I'm weird?! C'mon! Speak to her! Fill this void!"
She realized it was her turn and while continuing to work, she looked down and away, clearly in thought.
The feeling I had in that moment when she was thinking of something important to her was a very real sense of connection. I was on the cusp of learning something about her I didn't know before that moment. Her smile spread across her face and her whole body relaxed as she looked up. She met my eyes, smiled even more and said, "My dogs. I love my dogs."
Again, I let the silence sit there for a minute. She nodded her head and her relaxed body held there gently. I took that as my cue.
"So, maybe I can communicate that to the world by appreciating animals - dogs in particular - and acknowledge people I see treating dogs well for what they're doing. That could be a way for me to generate your love for dogs in the world."
She nodded her head and giggled. I was excited about learning more about her. I paused again. She went into thought and was really looking.
"Tattoos. I appreciate tattoos," she said. She had 3/4 of a sleeve on one arm and some piercings on her ears and nose.
I said, "So you appreciate the self expression of body art, specifically tattoos and you want to let the world know that this kind of self expression is valuable and should be appreciated."
Again she beamed. "Yes!" she said.
I nodded my head and said, "Thank you. I promise to forward your values of loving animals and self expression through body art to the world. I appreciate you making yourself part of my experiment."
She gave a little semi-curtsy and nod and smiled strongly back towards me. With that I smiled, turned, and left the coffee shop. Immediately outside there was a woman walking two dogs. I learned their breed and which one was good to pet. Both of them ended up being pet by me.
I noticed the self expression of others as I saw them that day, with their tattooed arms, necks, shoulders and legs and appreciated that they too were realizing their self expression through body art.
I took part of that barista with me when I left without diminishing anything about her and reproduced her love into the world.
Then I checked my news feed.
Crap. I hadn't succeeded yet....
Maybe day two I'll achieve it. I'm not about to give up yet.
Namaste and all that good stuff.