2016 has been a horrific year. Between mass murders, deaths, racial tensions and Donald Trump; I keep hoping the gods will jump out and say, “just kidding!!” However, that will never happen. No powerful being is going to pull us out of this one no matter how many prayers you throw at the dead and dying. It’s up to us to change the direction of our destiny.

We have an opportunity here to do something amazing. To be more than we are and we can do it one person at a time but it won’t be easy. Evolving is painful and difficult but if humanity is to survive, we have to do it. Each person can have a hand in it and know they helped humanity to move forward. To evolve.

First I ask you to set aside your religious beliefs for a moment. I’m not saying give them up but, rather, just put them in a box to the side for a bit. Be human before you put on the mantle of your Christianity or Judaism or Islam or Buddhism or Wicca or whatever. Put all that to the side and just be human without the help of gods or written words or holy men. Just, for a second, be human in all its frailties and foibles. Be human in all its glory and wonder. Just be human.

Second, put aside your things. Oh, I know, they’re important things. Houses and cars and clothes and boats and bikes and… things. Just put them aside for a moment. They’ll still be there when you return. I promise. Just put them on the shelf for a second so you can remember your humanity without the burden of things.

Third, the next time you come across a living creature, take a look at it. It might be a person, it might be a butterfly or a dog or a monkey. Just look at them without the tint of religion or the white noise of things. See them. Know that they are struggling to live just like you. Understand that they have as much right to be on this earth as you.

Now look at the world around you. See it for the first time without the noise of society and religion and things. Understand that you’re an intricate part of that whole. That your place in that whole matters. It matters without the religion and the words and the things and society. You matter. You’re important.

The last part that I ask you to do is the hardest. Take up your religion and your things. Now see them as you have the rest of the world. Some will hold up to your scrutiny and some won’t. You have to decide what to do with them.

One thing I will tell you is that once you see the things and the religions without the white noise of what “should” be, they will start to look very different than you once assumed them to be. It’s not that they’re unimportant or wrong but that they may not have the shape and size they once had in your life and that’s ok. It’s when this happens that the truly important things can enter your life. Things like a love of life, an acceptance of that which is different from yourself, respect and love for yourself and others. True love and respect, not the mouthings we voice daily.

I challenge everyone to try this. 2016 should teach us something important; that we matter, that we are part of a whole. Unless man evolves beyond his infantile ways and temper tantrums, we will not survive.