Dear heroes of every kind,
I sit at my computer facing windows that crawl up the walls of my bedroom. It’s only August and while it is 90 degrees or so, the St. Louis sky seems to be stuck in a perpetual winter. The dark grey clouds that often explode into thunder and lightning loom above, and though the sunshine tries to peak out from behind them it rarely succeeds. Weather like this makes me feel lethargic, possibly because I am a spoiled rotten Californian who is not used to all the gloom. Lethargy is never a good feeling; it feels like it weighs me down and not only causes me to be apathetic but also makes it easier to forget the beauty in the world because everything is covered in various shades of grey.
Then I am reminded that recently I made a new friend here on WordPress. His name is Luke Atkins, and though I do not know him well, I can say from my few interactions with him that he is truly lovely. He is much like myself in that his mind is constantly spiraling with billions of thoughts at once, and when he lets them escape onto a WordPress page it results in wonderful writing. A few weeks ago, he published this post, a collection of positive things, good vibes and reminders that unlike the Missouri sky, the world as a whole is not drowning in gloom and sadness. I told him how I felt about it, to which he replied I should write a post regarding the subject. In an instant I was inspired.
Though one of my favorite descriptions of myself is “pesimistic little asshole,” I generally don’t consider myself to be a pessimist or an optimist. I feel both can be naive, judgemental, and minimizing in their own awful ways. I’d like to think that I’m a realist, and that I take everything as it comes, trying my best to not be swallowed by one side or another. Like all other aspects of life, one’s thought process should also be somewhat balanced. I’d be lying if I said that I’m perfect at this, or even good at it. It’s a struggle trying to constantly take in both sides, especially when one is exhaling fire while saying, “everything is a fucking nightmare!” while the other is vomiting rainbows as it screams, “nothing is wrong at all! I’m FINE!”
As I have tried to navigate my life for the past 26 years, through the explosion of technology during my childhood, wars, shootings, historical events of every kind, the media shoving ideas down my throat, and being influenced by every little thing that hits one or several of my senses, I have come to one conclusion:
There is just as much good in this world as there is bad. The problem is, the bad is always louder.
I am constantly reminding my sister, myself and others that I love of this fact. The media especially, whether it is a news channel, a radio station, a website, or that insanely annoying trend ticker on the side of Facebook that I honestly can’t stand, loves to fill us with fear. It’s how they get our attention quickly and keep it. Let’s be honest – scary, violent events are also more interesting to hear about to most people. It’s unfortunate, but it is the truth.
On the other hand, there are many people who do share the good news…but only the good news. They reject anything negative for the same reason others soak it up; because they’re afraid. As the cliche goes, “ignorance is bliss.” Many people are happy being removed from the problems humanity faces and since they feel their own personal bubble is not directly affected, they find whatever is happening to be irrelevant. The family I no longer have was especially keen on the phrase, “it isn’t my problem.” This is far from true. Regardless of what is going on, if it affects human beings, it affects all human beings.
So if neither of those seem to work, how is a human supposed to balance knowing that there are horrifying things happening in the world yet still be excited about the good things? How are we supposed to drown out the misery with happiness when the misery is just so much louder, screaming, writhing and slamming its fists with fury and hate? Well. I can’t tell you. However, Nadia Bolz-Weber can. While reading her incredible book Pastrix, her words lead my soul to a much needed realization. Since I can’t find the book, I’ll quote a message I wrote to my dear friend Nat after the Pulse tragedy in which I summarize Nadia’s point:
It is difficult to think that there is a way to continue living after 49 people were senselessly murdered, and the world after last Sunday feels uglier than ever. A while ago I read a book, called “Pastrix,” about an unconventional pastor who lives in Colorado. At one point, she speaks about one particular night when she and her small congregation had planned to go to the basement of a bar and sing hymns and enjoy themselves. This happened to end up being the day after the Dark Knight shooting happened. She said she wondered how she could possibly ask people to drink and sing in joy with her when such a horrific event occurred.
But then she says something that I find absolutely beautiful. She talks about how the devil causes havoc and thrashes because he has already lost, and he knows it, and it pisses him off. Likewise, this goes for those who are hateful and reject progression and acceptance of humanity. When horrible things like Pulse happen, it isn’t because people who reject us and hate us are winning; it is because they are losing, they know it, and therefore will go down kicking and screaming.
While I believe this is true, it doesn’t make the loss of life easier to swallow. However, I also believe that, as this writer says, the best way to carry on is to indeed, sing, and drink, and celebrate, even after tragedy. Not out of ignorance. Not out of apathy. But out of sheer defiance of that which tries to break us down. We carry those lost lives with us, and we defy the fuck out of evil in every one of its forms.
Thanks to Nadia Bolz-Weber, I was finally able to put what I had felt for so long into words. I truly believe with all my heart that for all the horrific, terrifying things that happen in our world, rather than allowing it to crush us or being too scared to acknowledge it, we instead defy. We sing, we celebrate, and we live on, which is both the best way to increase the goodness in humanity as well as to stand up and say, “I’m not fucking scared of you.”
There is so much goodness in the world and as human beings it is our job to raise it up with joy and allow the goodness to wash over us. Even when we are in so much physical pain that we cannot stand up, even when the television is spitting out images of murder, even when you’re so heartbroken you can’t think straight. Allow yourself to feel your pain, allow yourself to be acknowledged and understood, then look to the goodness in life and say, “I am broken, I am hurt, I am sick and I am scared, but it is not the end of me.”
Those of you who have followed me for a long while know that I speak this from experience, not from empty words. My life has been constantly tumultuous, terrifying, and painful. In my pain, when I am blinded by hurt, I still try with all the energy I have (which is rarely as much as I need) to acknowledge the goodness as well as the negative.
The kindness of nurses and doctors during my hospitalizations have so often made the terror of not knowing what my body is doing just the tiniest bit easier to handle. My friends Chris and Stan calling me to ask how I am after my ER trip, acknowledging my pain, and sincerely listening to me makes me feel loved and cared for while my heart feels like it is sinking into blackness and suffering with no hope of coming out. My friend Nat telling me they worry about me having to climb the steep stairs up to my apartment makes me feel like I am remembered and valued in a friend’s life. My friend Daniel telling me a character in a Manga he is reading reminded him of my grandmother and I (seen above) because of the character’s unrelenting love for children in an orphanage makes me feel understood and thought of despite us being separated by a few hundred miles. I could go on and on.
All of these gestures from strangers or people I love are quite small in the grand scheme of my existence, yet when they happen, they feel tremendous and pulchritudinous, like bright stars breaking through a cloudy, black sky. Most of the time, these words of love and kindness were not screamed, trending on Facebook, or acknowledged at all really by anyone else but us. Not because they are unimportant, but because they were wonderful in every way in their quiet, loving simplicity.
Goodness and love are not always louder than hatred and pain; but I promise you, they are always stronger. Always.
This song has no lyrics, but it is beautiful and will almost certainly cause you to feel despite the lack of words. Click the title below to listen.