Paul Andersen: Fair Game | AspenTimes.com

Paul Andersen: Fair Game

The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

Forget the “One Percent;” it’s so passe. Now that we’ve surpassed the apocalypse of the Mayan Calendar, it’s the One-Hundred Percent that matters, a percentile not determined by exclusivity, but by our collective humanity.

Since the world doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to end, the future is rife with opportunities to stitch together the human fabric with the thread of commonality. A foremost choice is whether to aspire to the One Percent or the One-Hundred Percent, a personal decision of great import.

While the One Percent guards its prestige in hedge funds and Wall Street banks, the One-Hundred Percent has no requisites for belonging. If you are a human being, you’re in the club, a member of the most expansive social niche there is.

Even as we wobble with vertigo on the fiscal cliff, preparing to leap, lemming-like, into a fiscal abyss that already has swallowed much of the middle class, our humanity must prevail. The high priests who demand a human sacrifice to assuage the god of capital must be thrown out of the temples.

The economy to which we pay obeisance creates divisions and factions through an arbitrary framework to which the One Percent pays homage and claims control. Its higher role should be to support social values and benefit the One-Hundred Percent, to function humanely beyond the reign of acquisition and the tyranny of profit.

Looking back on 2012, the One Percent filled too many headlines as the foil for slogan-shouting Occupiers who denounced the moneyed class while aspiring to it. The allure of the One Percent could not exist without adoring wannabes suffering the purgatory of envy. End the adoration and the One Percent becomes irrelevant.

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A clutter consultant friend who organizes Fibber McGee closets in California marvels at how overwhelmed the One Percent is by a suffocating avalanche of materialism. The accumulation of stuff swamps hectic lives with an overburdening of commercial excess.

American culture instills this as the end-all of career earnings, touting the gathering of mammon as the proper goal for human achievement. Lost in the competition for self is the sense of proportion necessary to becoming part of the One-Hundred Percent.

All it takes to join is good works, generosity of spirit, respect for others and a set of innate values on which the worth of humanity ultimately is measured. The One-Hundred Percent is underwritten by love, a word that some think corny but a word that substantiates all else.

The One-Hundred Percent is made up of friends, family, the exchange of ideas, the music of laughter, the joy of being contributing to something beyond oneself. It is a spirit that keeps us warm through the holidays on the coldest subzero nights.

Last week, after a dinner with friends, my wife and I stood outside our home, quietly looking up into a sky bright with constellations and the star-smear of the Milky Way. “What a night to be alive – and aware of it,” I said. Combine love of humanity with a feeling of celestial elation and you’ve got a deeply gratifying affirmation of life on which there is no price tag.

Author Laurens Van Der Post described the idea of “being known,” not by fame and fortune,but by deep internal connections to a people and a place. Van Der Post lauded the value of belonging to a vast spectrum, from the family nucleus to the universal connection we see in the stars.

When Thoreau was asked if he ever got lonely living all by himself at Walden Pond, he replied, “How could I be lonely? Don’t we live in the Milky Way?” Thoreau recognized his place in the cosmic community. His was an all-inclusive sense of belonging, a visceral contact with the universe.

Divisions keep us apart. Additions bring us to together. A good New Year’s vow is to add more than divide, to do away with the percentages that separate us with a contrived and factious calculus.

The One-Hundred Percent is an ideal that strives to aggregate the sum of humanity, making it indivisible and whole. In this type of accounting lies our best future.