Common Ground Zero: The Launchpad for Change

April 13, 2020

The Sacramento, California, Golden 1 Center holds about 19,000 people for rock concerts. If Twenty One Pilots are playing there, it feels like a million fans—or only two or maybe even just one—are in attendance. As I listened to everyone loudly singing every word to every song, it seemed like a million people. When I danced with and connected to the other 18,999, there were just two—a single sea of humanity in motion, and me. When I was swept completely away by the energy of the thing, held purely in its sway, there was only one.

For moment after moment that fall evening, we were a gathering of one. I know this sounds touchy-feely, but it’s the best way to describe the vibe. The floor shook and the rafters rattled with the reverberating melodies of these musicians—brilliant artists and revered spokespeople for difficulties, acceptance, and change. It was a singular chorus of their songs, including “The Hype” (“Nice to know my kind will be on my side, just don’t believe the hype”), that powered the place. Nearly three hours of explosive energy on our common ground zero launched us up.

Ground zero is defined as the point of origin for intense change; it is regarded as square one. Common ground is defined as a foundation of shared or mutual interest between two or more people, as in a social relationship. By extension, common ground zero (a phrase that I coined) is the critical starting point for relationships that share ideologies or hopes or dreams. We are now more than ever at common ground zero. From here, we have to start working together better.

Our common interests form the plane on which we all can stand. But what is the glue—the energy—that hooks us together, to find and stand on common ground? This glue is the beliefs and morals that we each hold dear. Rather than present our manifold shared interests here—such as clean water, healthy children, and peace—this shorter blog post will focus on the adherent. It will explore the stickiness that consciously and subconsciously connects us: our shared values and the prevailing characteristics of those we most admire.

Over the course of many decades, my vocation and avocation have provided opportunities to study the values that humans cherish. As a river guide whose paddle raft guests depended on teamwork in order to safely run some of the most challenging rivers on earth, unity was needed to survive. As a global sojourner, the bonds of every culture I explored were repeated on each continent. I realized that we are all unique in the same ways. As an entrepreneur, I discovered that among people rightly hinged—versus unaccountable corporations—money is simply a means to an end, with that end being the care of community’s loved ones. And as an author, speaker, and workshop facilitator, I have surveyed crowds and participants on what their mentors or role models are made of. From Jesus to Gandhi to grandma to Buddha to Nelson Mandela, the number of different personal characteristics preferred by people from all walks of life can be counted on two hands. In essence, we all like, respect, and want the same goodness of all people.

In an attempt to make it easier to remember the glue, each of the heart-driven values or consistently admired personal characteristics named here start with the letter “c.” Or maybe it’s just divine coincidence, because the word “heart” in so many languages starts with the letter “c.” Corazon. Couer. Croi. Cuore. Cepue.

Here are values that we feel are important.

Compassion: The ability to feel what others are feeling and having a desire to help them.

Courage: Bravery to take action on what is right. The root definition of courage is “of the heart.”

Countenance: Wise acceptance and tolerance combined with support and encouragement.

Conscience: Using mind and soul to recognize good and then behaving in accordance with this understanding.

Companionship: Honestly counting on and connecting to another or others, so you or they can tenderly set things straight or hold a hand.

Common ground zero is upon us here and now. We must collaboratively share and act on our hopes by capitalizing on what binds us. The irony is that a maladapted crown, the coronavirus—with its symbol of hierarchical difference—helped us recognize our commonness. In disease and distress we need to draw on each other in order to go quickly and powerfully from where we are to a better place.

In the song “Cut My Lip,” Twenty One Pilots’ Tyler Joseph sings about being bruised and battered. They talk about how it feels to get through difficulties, as well as the importance of helping others get through tough times. “I don’t mind at all, lean on my pride, I’m a lion,” they offer up in this song. Another hit, “March to the Sea,” is an anthem about no longer blindly marching in line to our demise, subservient to the powers that be. Instead, the song implores us to believe in and turn towards each other for guidance. “Follow me, instead,” they suggest, “Follow me, instead.” They make music about companionship, countenance, compassion, courage, and conscience as part of understanding each other and getting healthy. It seems to be a call to join together—like we do at really good concerts—on common ground zero.


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