[language warning at one point]
I don’t think we need a lengthy introduction here about how awful humanity can be. It’s pretty easy to look around and spot a hundred examples all within arm’s reach. Humanity can be awful. It hurts. It hurts so much there’s a term for it: Weltschmertz, which is German for ‘world pain’.
World pain. That’s pretty much it, isn’t it? When you look at the world and the horrors it contains, and it hurts, and it’s as big as the world and has heavy as the world and just a solidly immovable.
Most of us can’t do much about the pains of the world (though if you’re interested in trying, here’s a super cool organisation dedicated to helping people make the most out of their careers to address the world’s top problems), and that makes it even worse; we see the pain, we feel the pain–and we’re powerless.
Everywhere in the world, people are hurting, people are scared, and people’s lives are in danger. Maybe for some they’ve always been in danger. Maybe some people are only just now being confronted with the fragility of their present existence. Maybe some people are actively trying to take lives away; maybe the natural powers of the world itself are against them. But everywhere, people are hurting, and people are dying.
This is nothing new.
And it still hurts.
And I have no magic bullet to offer you, no empty promises, no salves or balms for wounds immeasurable.
But I do have hope.
Please, don’t scoff. I know it’s a fragile thing to offer; I know sometimes it feels hollow. But hope is what keeps us alive.
More than that: hope is what keeps us human. Because much as we like to set ourselves apart from the rest of the animal kingdom because of our incredible intellectual prowess, our ability to calculate physics and make rational plans, our creativity, our ability to imagine a different future, to hope for that future–these set us apart just as much. Fundamentally, humans are creative; I believe that’s part of why it hurts so much to see the horrors of the world. It’s not just that we’re empathising with another suffering human; it’s that some deep-seated part of us recognises that these horrors, whatever they may be, are fundamentally destructive: destructing lives, respect, dignity, communities, our sense of self.
Because that’s the other part that hurts, somewhere down behind the empathy and the sorrow: the recognition that the people causing this destruction are human too. And that can seriously mess with our sense of self; what are humans? What are we? Good? Bad? Destructive horrors? Creative miracles?
Of course, we’re both, the living paradox of the universe, the best and the worst all in one species–and sometimes even in the same person. Because all of us have our inner darknesses, and the darkness is always calling.
It calls louder when we’ve lost hope.
So I know that hope is something flimsy to hold when it seems like the world is crumbling around you; I know that hope can’t magically fix your circumstances. But I can’t honestly tell you that it won’t save your life; hope can save lives, it can improve the world. It has before, all thorughout the history of the world, and as long as there are humans doing horrible, destructive things, there will be humans doing wonderful, creative things, providing hope and lifting others up.
So here: take my hope. All of it. It’ll regrow soon enough, and I’ll have more, and I’ll pass it on to someone else again who needs it. Because that’s what humans do, right? We get knocked down, and hope restores us, and restores in us. Hope is like the seed that germinates in the deep frosts of winter, struggling upwards through the dirt, bending around rocks, seeking, seeking, never giving up until it finds the light.
There is a light. There always is. Sometimes it takes a long time to come–too long for some, such sorrow–but come it surely does. Humanity is full of soul-crippling horrors; it is also the largest collective vessel for hope in the universe.
Hope. Hope madly. Hope powerfully, by acting on those hopes. And trust, if you still can, in the creative power of people. There is a light, and we will drag each other towards it as surely as the seeds will find the sun.
Hold on. And if you can’t, hold a friend; hold me. We will drag you onwards, and together we will reach that light.
We won’t leave you behind. Hold on.
Happy Easter! Here in Aus it’s a four-day long weekend, which is fabulous, so I’m enjoying the extra time with family 🙂
One of my junior classes has just started their poetry unit for the year, so I’ve been trawling through YouTube vids for all my poet-y favourites. There are some seriously amazing spoken-word poets around, and I highly encourage you to lose an afternoon trawling for them through YouTube 😉
Sarah Kay is a good place to start. Enjoy 🙂
There are good people in the world. There are strong people in the world. There are knowledgeable, informed, active people in this world, and they are doing good things. And if we just keep being positively rebellious and rebelliously positive, every little thing will be okay. Trust David Tennant: he’s a Doctor.
I found this the other day when I was searching my old Blogger blog for something else. I wrote this in 2012, but it’s Relevant To Our Interests in this post-truth age, methinks. Hang in there, my lovelies. Be good.
The Small Person is in bed, again, at last, and I’m reading, again, but not books, because books can’t hold my attention right now when I’m restless, and tired, and vaguely guilty for the fact that my house looks like it’s lived-in and there are toys in the corner and folding on the lounge and unfinished paperwork on the table and dishes in the kitchen, though all the non-dishwasher dishes are clean and really I just need to unstack and stack. There’s a basket of wet laundry waiting to be hung out on the line like flags, colourful flags that symbolise everything we are and have been, because we wear our clothes every day and they make us, and we make them, the caterpillar suit that belongs to Small Person that is my favourite, the shirt I should have thrown out months ago but that I love, the sheets that my husband and I bought together, lie in together, change together.
All of this is calling to me, but I’m sitting here reading, and my soul is full. I’m reading about courage, and hope, and change; I’m reading about things that outrage me, things that try to excuse themselves saying they ‘didn’t mean’ to be offensive, and so therefore aren’t – to which I silently, furiously, blood-boilingly disagree, because when you are the powerful one, you don’t get to define what offends those in less powerful positions. And I’m reading about love, and life, and wanting to uproot everything you are and have and just get out, change, do something different because what you’re living is so empty, so small, so nothing.
I, too, was raised under the unconscious message that bigger is better, that more is more, and I’m not talking about the world, about acts of greed and selfishness and plastered billboards and enchanting lights and beautiful people with beautiful drinks and cars that change your life and computers that sing and dance and long slim legs and long thick hair and sparkling eyes and full breasts in bikinis and clear skin and stuff and things and more-more-more. I’m not talking about that.
I’m talking about other things, unselfish things, things that help and heal and minister. Things that change the world, that can only BE big because what can small do against a world of greed, a world of pain and hurt and envy and pride, large gaps getting larger and privilege and wealth and so much poverty that I never, ever see. I’m sheltered, spoiled, I don’t even KNOW anyone who qualifies as poor, and we’re not rich and we have bills but we also have a car, and a motorbike, and a house and new furniture, a dishwasher for Mothers’ Day and fishing rods for Christmas, thousands of dollars of books and a flat-screen TV, and how dare we think that we need stuff in a world where people die so easily at the end of a gun wielded in a bar brawl, in front of their wife, with two small children at home?
And I’m doing nothing, or so it seems, because we’re told that the only things that count are BIG, that if you’re not serving overseas it doesn’t matter, that soup kitchens and street alleys are the only places you can make a difference, that unless you’re fighting to stay alive with everything you have your perspective isn’t valid, doesn’t count.
And I’m thinking all this because of what I’m reading, because the woman whose blog I’m reading has felt all this and I do too, and it’s guilt, and it’s more guilt, and I am so. sick. of guilt. Guilt is poison, a spider bite in the vegetable garden, a snake curled in the blankets of your bed, a fire-ant sting at a lavish summer picnic, ready to flood your senses without provocation, devouring, destroying, souring the taste of the cherries because cherries are expensive, and out of season, and you shouldn’t be eating them because the cost to ship them here from America ought to be prohibitive, and people in the world are dying from lack of sustenance and you’re eating things that cost a year’s worth of food for these people, and you’re enjoying it, and you must be perverse.
Sometimes, even big things aren’t enough.
But I’m reading, reading, feeling and still reading, and a sentence makes me pause. In all of this, the quiet reminder that even if we don’t feel like they do, the small things count, because we’re not in this world to fix it, it’s broken, it’s crumbled, and one day maybe we will rebuild but for now there are just as many working against as there are working for and really, ultimately, there’s nothing we can do. One day it will all be gone and we’ll start over with everyone, everyone, who wants to see that, regardless of race colour creed size shape gender age. We will all be there, and then it will be fixed.
But now, here, we’re not fixing things, no one can do that, we just can’t, we’re fighting against powers and principalities not of this world, and here, on Earth, it’s a losing battle, though ultimately it’s won. But I’m reading, and I know: that doesn’t mean that what we do doesn’t count. It’s like the starfish, which has been retold so often it’s cliche, but it matters, it still matters even if you’ve heard the story a thousand times, just like what we do. We do it so often, all that small stuff, that it becomes cliche, and we’re inured to it, and we forget that it still matters, that even though we’ve never seen a smile of ours make a difference, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t. That giving a few dollars here and there still helps, even if it’s boring, even if it’s tiny, even if it’s ‘done’.
And I’m reading, and I find the thing I didn’t realise I was looking for, the sentence that gives me hope. We’re not here to fix things, we can’t, it’s too much. Instead, all we need to do it tip the scales. We’re striving for justice, for mercy, at least I am, it’s what I burn to do with everything that I am, every time I read something that makes my blood boil it’s because I hate, I hate injustice and I hate unfairness and I hate that there are people in this world that think that privilege is okay, that power over others is God-given, that discrimination is alright. I long for justice; I ache for mercy. And in the end, that is what we are to do, all we are to do, everything we are to do: to tip the scales in their favour.
And I read this, and I remember: it only takes a grain of rice to tip the scales in the end. We don’t need ‘big’, or loud, or bright or shiny or dazzley; we just need. Everything tips the balance, one way or the other.
I did something useful, even though it was a very small thing. It wasn’t like I brought peace to the world or anything. I just kept some people from killing each other for a little while. I was useful. It felt good.
Nothing I did will last. Omar will live the rest of his life without his parents. The killing will keep on going.
But in that little place, for those little moments, I actually did something good.
Context is everything.
Deborah Ellis, The Cat At The Wall
Liana Brooks, twin of my soul if not my actual blood, and I email each other quite a lot. Actually truth be told, I email her more than she emails me, because she is the kind of creature who will send considered emails at sustainable intervals, or else will email me the day’s writing for safekeeping, where as I am the kind of creature who will fire off seven single-sentence emails to the same person in under and hour. Oops. O:) Somewhere in the midst of all of this crazy, an email genre I like to call “Dear Amy” has been established – and I’m not sure Liana is even aware of it? but any time I get an email from her that starts ‘Dear Amy’, I know it’s That Kind Of Email.
Which kind? The kind where someone you know, love and trust is basically doing you a favour by telling you to pull your head out of the ground, stop having an unproductive whinge, and bloody well get on with it. We all need someone in our lives to give us a Dear [Name] talking to once in a while, that’s for sure 😀
However. Sometimes, procuring a Dear [Name] email when I need one is all too hard: maybe the twinny one is preoccupied; maybe I’m preoccupied and don’t have time to email my whinge in order to provoke the necessary reply; or maybe, the issue is just too complicated. You know, sometimes, when you try to explain a problem to someone else, and all their answers are super helpful in theory but in practice are actually just slightly off point, like they’re not quite understanding the crux of the issue? Yeah, that.
You know what, though? You can totally write your own Dear [Name] letter. I had a bit of a Moment the other night when I was lying in bed attempting to get my brain to shut up so I could sleep. It just sort of hit me what one of the main problems I’ve been having with writing is, and before I knew it, I was composing my own Dear Amy letter in my head. I’ll share it with you on Thursday, but in the meantime, this is just your official permission in case you needed it to say that yes, sometimes (not all the time, but sometimes) what you need most is a kick in the proverbial pants, and that yes, you are totally capable of doing that for yourself. Because you are awesome, and you rock. *fistbump*.
This is a repost from 2012, but it’s so totally relevant to my life right now. I needed the reminder and figured it might be useful for you guys too 🙂
Anyway, have been doing lots of internet reading outside my usual hangouts, lately, and this article on busyness seemed ridiculously appropriate, given my excuse for not posting was going to be, “I’ve been busy” O:) Definitely go read it for yourself, but the best quotes are extracted below.
It’s become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing: “Busy!” “So busy.” “Crazy busy.” It is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint. And the stock response is a kind of congratulation: “That’s a good problem to have,” or “Better than the opposite.”
[We] feel anxious and guilty when [we] aren’t either working or doing something to promote [our] work.
It’s not as if any of us wants to live like this, any more than any one person wants to be part of a traffic jam or stadium trampling or the hierarchy of cruelty in high school — it’s something we collectively force one another to do.
Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.
[But] if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary. (That’s a challenging one)
Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets.
Conclusion? Life is too short to be busy.