Some inspo for your weekend today. This one tears me up every time. And you know what’s even more glorious? I actually know that I have friends who would – and have – rush to my rescue like this, to support me through dark times. If you’re one of those friends, THANK YOU. I love you wholeheartedly <3 <3 I am one super lucky human bean.
IDK about you but last week I was in a really negative headspace, and it’s lingering through to this week (though today has been better and honestly a lot of it is probably food-caused, urgh). So I really needed a reminder that not all humans, particularly Famous Ones, are walking garbage fires.
So. In the interests of buoying my own spirits, and hopefully also yours, I present for your personal edification, Humanity Humaning Well. IDK, I feel like this needs to become a regular feature, tbh. It was pretty awesomely perspective changing to do the research for this 🙂
Any good news on your end? Any examples you’ve seen or can actively find rn of humans humanning well? Please feel free to share! 🙂 🙂
Just take five minutes to skim over this list. I promise, you’ll find AT LEAST one thing there that will make you glad you did 🙂
Go on. Click. You won’t regret it <3
It shouldn’t come as a big surprise that I am a pretty big fan of Harry Potter – world, series, characters, all of it. And, probably like many readers, I empathised with Harry, and also Hermione, and fancied myself a bit of a Gryffindor. So when Pottermore came out and I could finally get that One Definitive Answer about what house I was supposed to be in* (because we all know fan-made ones are only as right or as wrong as they confirm your own initial bias :D), I was SUPER excited.
* Yes, yes, I know the sorting hat takes your choices into consideration 😛
And then I was in Slytherin.
I was a little crushed initially, but when I told my family and friends (my sisters are both Potter fans too), without exception they were all, Yeah, of course you are, duh!!
It took me a while to really learn to love my house, but all the fan-created paraphernalia that supports the house, and the explanations – they helped a lot. To the point that when the new Pottermore was released and I had to set up a new account and retake the sorting test and OH MY GOSH IT PUT ME IN RAVENCLAW, I was Not Okay with this.**
** Like my original sorting, however, I have learned to live with this one, and I think it’s actually extremely accurate to call me a Slytherclaw.
Because, you see, Slytherins aren’t all evil. In fact, we’re actually quite adorably loveable, and I stand firmly by my twitter motto of ‘nicest Slytherin you’ll ever meet’ 😀 (And then I discovered this Tumblr, and oh my gosh, YES, like 98% of those observations-about-Slytherins are MEEEEEE.)
Yes, Slytherins are driven by ambition, but ambition in and of itself isn’t evil. It’s what you’re ambitious for that makes the difference.
Derek Murphy, YA author and professional cover designer, sent out a newsletter recently that said this: “Ambition is seeing something you want to change in the world and making it a reality through the strength of your own will … changing what is into what can be.” (original emphasis).
Heck yes, I am ambitious. Always have been. My grades at school reflect that, as does the fact that I currently work full time, am making significant in-roads into being a professional writing, am running my own mini-publishing company, have a burgeoning cake business, and run a baby-things small business with my husband. Oh yeah, and I parent occasionally in there too O:)
But I was never that kid who cried when I didn’t get an A. I never felt good when I beat my equally-high achieving friends. I was, dare I say it, really relieved when I didn’t get the highest university entrance score in our friendship group. Because I’ve never wanted to beat other people. I’ve never wanted to use others as a stepping stone to make myself feel better. I just want to be the best human being I can possibly be – and that includes being a decent, moral human being, too, and it comes tied with a sense of duty to make the world as good as it can possibly be.
Ambition, yo. If no one had it, we’d still be living in the dark ages.
So here’s to all my fellow Slythies: Be proud of your house affiliation, and let that ambition drive you onwards to great and wonderful things.
Here’s to Slytherin.
Here’s to ambition.
Here’s to making the world great.
Sometimes, you just really needed to hear it.
My kids are 5 and 2 right now, and they are both clever little beans, and super active. My son particularly is a little perpetual motion machine, and always has been.* So for the last two years, they’ve been doing swimming lessons as yet-another-way-to-try-to-expend-their-energy-and-keep-them-sufficiently-occupied. Y’all know my schedule tends to be packed so tight I can a) barely breathe and b) never afford catastrophes because they throw MY CAREFUL BALANCE OUT…
…but this is not, actually, a story of something that went wrong. The schedule comment is merely to contextualise, and to note that by the time I hit 6pm on the weekday whereon they have their lesson, I’m frequently a little frazzed. The actual lesson itself is fine (once I get over the almost-requisite being-5-minute-late part), but since I get in the water with the 2-yr-old, it means three swimmer-clad bodies to deal with at 6:30pm when we are all tired, in a crowded public change room where we often have to queue for the kids to use the open showers (though at least this means they don’t need a bath at home, and serves as their weekly hair-wash if I don’t get to it at any other point in the week 😀 😀 #MultiTaskingFTW), and then, because my kids are slooooooooooooooooow and everything is a biiiiiiiiig deeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaal when you are 5 and smart and tired, we usually have to queue for a cubicle so I can also strip off and change while they change, and look, it’s not a problem because we’ve been doing it for 2 years and have our routine down to a fine art (requisite tears x 2 + 2 x optional bonus rounds of tears included**), and it works, and I wouldn’t not do it because they both LOVE swimming (baby especially, who’s been swimming since 14 weeks*** o.O) and they need to learn to swim (this is such a compulsory Australian skill that most primary schools include a course of swimming in their sports curriculum each year), but it’s… a juggle. You know. I don’t mind it, it’s definitely not horrible, but it’s not the most relaxing 25 minutes of my weekly life.
So this week, I was going through all these motions as usual, had queued for a cubicle, and was just ducking in, and another mother came up to me.
I’ll admit, my heart sank a little, because the last time this happened it was a mother very politely and with much embarrassment on her part informing me that my son had been pushing her son into the pool >.<
But this lovely woman, looking – let’s admit – not a whole lot less frazzled than I, leans in close, and goes:
I just wanted to say, I think you do an amazing job.
I blinked, stunned, managed to beam and thank her appropriately, locked myself in my cubicle, put the baby on the fold-down table and instructed my son to set up under it, as usual, and promptly burst into tears.
I hadn’t been feeling especially frazzled this week, not compared to some weeks. And I hadn’t had a bad day at work, and I wasn’t feeling like I was teetering on the edge of sanity like I sometimes am. But I had managed to accidentally hurt Mr 5’s arm as I directed him out of the showering area, and the general frustrations of trying to wash, dry and dress two baby octopuses with Strong Opinions and Independences of their own in a crowded space on a tight schedule is always… well. You know. It is what it is.
And so even though I hadn’t been going, ‘Man, I could really use some encouragement right now’, apparently I still needed it, and it really hit home, and I am so, so grateful to this woman.
The take-home point is this: Modern Western consumer culture particularly sets us up to be in competition with each other – as men, as women, as non-binaries, as teens, as adults, in the workplace, in comparing homes, in our hobbies, in our social media. People who are united, gracious and forgiving of each other, always striving to encourage and lift each other up – these are not the kind of people who are susceptible to advertising, propaganda, consumerist values that drive corporate business. It’s not in the best interest of the people who currently run our society for us to encourage each other.
But we need it. Oh, how we need it. For the sake of our self esteem, our sanity – and, simply, our humanity.
So do something rebellious with your life: Become an encourager.
I bet you’ll be amazing at it <3 <3 <3
* Like, always. He nearly cracked one of my ribs in utero o.O
** One from Mr 5 at some point because he wasn’t listening to what he was supposed to be doing and got hurt (slipped on the wet floor, bumped his head, got soap in his eyes, take your pick), one from the baby when I wash her hair, and optionally up to another one round each while actually in the change cubicle because Tired and Wet and Getting Changed Is Hard).
*** Initially as a) something to do while Mr then-3 began lessons and b) as a bonding activity with my sister, who was also on maternity leave at the same time 🙂
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