Society: the aggregate of people living together in a more or less ordered community. We are not White, Black, Mexican, Islamic, or any other label that society has used to define and separate us. Are there biological differences among us, varying beliefs and norms guided by where we were born, the access we had to schooling, and health care? Do we live a period of our lives as children and young adults having an unrealistic picture of the world that surrounds us? If your answers to these are anything but yes, I urge you to reevaluate yourself. Not as a race, a nationality, or any other demographic, but as a human being.
This is where I begin to lose most people. Those who clench so tightly to ideals like religion and heritage, frightened to open their minds to the fascinating yet terrifying reality of our existence. I have grown up fascinated with society, psychology, physics, philosophy, and a number of other academic disciplines. I am astounded that we as human beings are so determined to understand the world in which we exist. The fact that we drift among the stars, living life on a planet composed of elements that can be combined to form everything we know today. Mesmerized that society has studied everything around us for centuries. Measuring, testing, wondering, and trying to explain and understand everything in existence. From things we can see with our own eyes to the invisible forces that keep us alive and give us the luxuries we take for granted on a daily basis.
Is it frightening to accept the possibility that our existence is random chance, the result of billions of years of chemical and biological reactions and changes? That a theory such as evolution may actually serve as truth? Yes, it is. Yet, isn’t it also the most poetic story conceivable? The reality that makes life so precious, the piece that ties all of us around the globe together. No matter our sex, race, religion, heritage, or location. The undeniable fact that we all share the only label that truly matters, human beings.
There are great stressors in our lives. The reality that our lives feel long and painful, yet the years pass as if they were just days. There are days where your mind is on fire, nerves and senses run on all cylinders, and your soul shines. You want this feeling every day; but like everything else, the feeling drifts. It is replaced by sorrow, pain, anger, emotional destruction. We are reminded of the horrors this life brings. Disease, violence, death. But in these moments, the light of life still shines. Stories of amazing people, risking their lives to help strangers. Doing everything they can to help and save those who are complete strangers to them. This is the beauty of our existence.
While I am proud to live in America, proud to wear the uniform of a soldier and serve a higher cause, I am also no fool. I know the history of our people. I know and have seen first-hand the reality of collateral damage, the consequences of poor judgement and mistakes. I have also seen unbelievably brave men and women step into perilous situations, with a fire and heart to save those they share nothing with, except for the title of human being. I have watched the most powerful military in the world adapt and overcome. Take responsibility for their mistakes and try to do what is right, all while being bombarded with violence from the very people they are trying to protect. Being caught in situations no person should face, doing everything they can to fulfill their duties with honor and morals.
Life is beautiful chaos. There is no hiding from this fact. But to me, that beautiful chaos, the times of pure joy and the times of absolute despair, is what makes this life worth living. It is what makes everything real, what gives our existence purpose. Our global perspective, all people in all countries, needs a drastic shift. I will continue to use my life, my existence, the actions I take daily, to share this perspective. To build a better world for those who come after me and those who come after them. This is not about me, not about you, not about recognition or praise. It is about sharing this beautiful struggle together. Growing our hearts, minds and souls. Maintaining as much awareness as we can to the bigger picture of our lives.
Anthony Heiland is a veteran of two tours in Iraq and a non-commissioned officer in the Ohio Army National Guard. He is the founder of Wright State Veterans League, which influenced the construction and opening of the Wright State Veteran and Military Center. He continues to serve our country, engaging in veteran-focused projects with Wright State while applying his skills and knowledge in the private defense sector. He lives in southwest Ohio with his wife, son, and daughter.