..stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.
“Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others. Past and present. And by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.”
We live in a web of relationships, we depend on other people – if we like that or not. I always thought of myself as a loner. I don’t need anyone else. In fact, maybe even: I don’t want to need someone else.
Sometimes when looking around me I know why I don’t want to care. I am horrified and feel a heavy sadness thinking of what we can do to each other, what we are doing to each other and to any form of life. I watched The Salt of the Earth about the photographer Sebatiao Salgado and even though it was a very good movie ending somehow on a hopeful note, it left me speechless. There was so much beauty, detail, and power in his pictures. But there was also death, humiliation, horror, sadness and resignation. He had been in Rwanda when the genocide started. He had been in Uganda and Congo. He had been to Ethiopia. He had seen man-made despair and destruction. It is not that I haven’t seen images like this before. But once more, I was left with the question of why? I simply don’t understand. I was left wondering if there is anything humane in human beings.
I am on my way home from work and I have to take the longer route, because instead of going straight back home, I need to go to Newmarket to do my groceries. I am not in a particular good mood, because Newmarket is always busy – especially once school has finished and you have all the students running around in their uniforms. Also I already have to carry my laptop – and then on top of that the groceries. Then again – I am too lazy to go home first and do the groceries afterwards. I am just trying to get through this as quickly as possible, to escape all these people. Head down and marching on. Then this guy in front of me wearing a black hoodie while having a coffee turns right to stop and talk to some people who sit on the ground in front of a shop. They have a sign that asks for food. Without hesitation he hands them over the little box, probably from the same place where he got the coffee from, and has a little chat with them. It makes me smile. He probably got the cookies or sandwiches (whatever it was) for some other occasion, but he decides to give it away. Another time in Newmarket – there is a street where you need to pay close attention to cars which are coming from the right and the left. I am standing on the one side with a couple of people. A few people stand on the other side. An elderly woman with her walking aid has made it to the middle. Another car wants to turn into the street. A young man comes from behind and puts himself in front of the car, so the elderly woman can pass the road. I can see the confusion on the people’s faces who at first were thinking, he has nerves just walking on the street, but then realizing that he is not doing it out of ignorance. The contrary, he is doing it because he cares. It makes me smile. Both times I walk light-hearted back home.
“There is a natural order to this world, and those who try to upend it do not fare well. This movement will never survive; if you join them, you and your entire family will be shunned. At best, you will exist a pariah to be spat at and beaten-at worst, to be lynched or crucified. And for what? For what? No matter what you do it will never amount to anything more than a single drop in a limitless ocean.”
“What is an ocean but a multitude of drops?”
Who am I to get angry with people in power who hold on to that power while leaving others to starve?
Who am I to get furious at politicians for talking, but not taking any actions – even when faced with 900 people drowning in the Mediterranean Sea?
Who am I to challenge the idea that some lives matter more than others?
Who am I to oppose a fashion industry that is rooted on child labour, horrible working conditions and focuses on spreading the image of size 0?
Who am I to actually want to scream out loud and shake up all these hypocrites and so-called leaders and decision-makers who clearly have forgotten what their responsibilities are in the light of global warming?
Who am I to complain about how so many people, me included, live on the expenses of others – not only of others well-being, but literally of others’ lives?
Who am I to speak up against discriminatory, hypocrite and simply idiotic remarks and actions concerning gender equality – gender = straight, gay, lesbian, transgender?
Who am I to cry with the people in Nepal, Tibet, Myanmar, Somalia, Sudan, the Native Americans, First Nations, the ones who have seen the horror of war, who have felt their world breaking apart – literally or due to the economic crisis, the ones who are confronted with unfair and overwhelming conditions – created by men?
What right do I have to point at these things, to point at people, blaming and accusing people?
I have every right.
In fact, the question should rather be:
Who am I not to get angry, not to get furious, not to challenge, not to oppose, not to scream out, not to complain, not to speak up, not to cry?
I might not know how many other things politicians need to keep in mind and need to accommodate to. I might not know how much pressure certain industries put on parties to not go forward with bold and clear emission cuts. I might not know how it feels like trying to survive in a war-torn country or being subjected to cruel discrimination because of my gender or religion or ethnic background. I might not know how ‘tough’ it is in today’s economy to survive as a company so that certain working conditions and ethics are accepted.
But I know that this is wrong. I know that this is neither the reality I want to be faced with nor the future I want to live in. I know that we can do better. I know I can do better. That’s why I have every right to tell people off.
“Don’t worry, all is well. All is so perfectly, damnably well. I understand now, that boundaries between noise and sound are conventions. All boundaries are conventions, waiting to be transcended. One may transcend any convention, if only one can first conceive of doing so. Moments like this, I can feel your heart beating as clearly as I feel my own, and I know that separation is an illusion. My life extends far beyond the limitations of me.“
When I can’t simply press the button and feel indifferent about the other person – even though I would like and it would make things ways easier.
When I can’t walk away from that person just because that person is an integral part of my life.
When I stop worrying and start trusting – trusting I am accepted the way I am.
When I understand myself better because the other person reflects me.
When I feel I have a purpose in life, because the other person gives it to me.
When – even though sometimes annoying, challenging and confusing – without that person my world lose part of its meaning.
That is when I dare to live.
After all, I still care. Because I begin to understand how exceptional lucky we are to give love and feel loved. We can create meaningful relationships. As much as we can torment other, we care and empathize with others. We have the capacity to look beyond ourselves and give meaning not only to our life, but also the lives of others.
We are lucky. Even in the darkest moments – because feeling pain and loss is you being alive.
“To be is to be perceived. And so to know thyself is only possible through the eyes of the other. The nature of our immortal lives is in the consequences of our words and deeds that go on apportioning themselves throughout all time.”
Sometimes I feel insecure, seem small and weak and think I don’t know enough about the world to make a difference.
Then, I am told that it is rather brave to go out into the world exploring, starting from scratch, pushing me out of my comfort zone.
I become aware that I am still here, that no matter what seemed unachievable or unbearable passes, and because of it I can relate, I care and that is a strong and encouraging thought that keeps me going.
I am asked why do you want to change the whole world? You don’t need to change the whole world. Start with the people around you. Make them aware, listen to them, make a difference. And don’t think you can’t do it. You are already doing it.