Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Feeding The Fish That Is Eating Us

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." President Theodore Roosevelt.

I was struck by the man I heard rambling on, hatred spewing from his mouth about politics and how by the time I got to my car, whoever he was angry with because they didn't see things his way, had clearly chosen to end the conversation because he was standing out in the cold dialing up somebody else. And I thought of all of the hate TV and hate radio and all of the people throwing up their hatred into our daily lives and how many people in our country who have been infected with it, like it is a disease and it made me wonder. I read this quote this morning. I've just started reading, Saving Italy," by Robert M. Edsel. 

And I thought about something I don't think our young generations know much about, the hatred that was repeated over and over like some kind of mantra, hatred searching for a scapegoat to devour, to appease its appetite for misery and despair that permeated nations during WWII. I studied genocide of many nations for many years. And though my brain injury and memory and organizing has its own challenges I am grateful for this one thing. My brain doesn't seem to see differences much anymore. Too much information to process all at once maybe. Or maybe it just decided on its own all of those differences were irrelevant anyway. So let me sum up genocide, a few people decide life is miserable and instead of actually doing something about it that is constructive they decide the only answer is to make everyone think the same, like them. And anyone who doesn't becomes less than human, less than godly and less than worthy to take up space on this earth. And the more people they can gather around them to reinforce their beliefs the better they feel. And so they begin to brutally end the lives of those that stand in their way of controlling those things they can never actually control. No amount of money or power or killing or destroying nations has ever made people actually feel better. Nobody says after war, was that fun or what! My Grandmother told me there are no winners in war. Her family were survivors of the Civil War and in her family there were people who fought on both sides of that war. She had lived through WWI, my Grandfather was in the Calvary in that war. She had lived through WWII, my father was an anti-aircraft machine gunner in that war. And she felt the same way about all of the other wars before and after. She was an avid student of philosophy and history. In my lifetime I have also been an avid student of things most other people would like to forget. I interviewed WWII Veterans and Holocaust survivors and Death Camp liberators and guess what... all were devastated. All carried the scars of other people's hatred.

Now I will share two things I have learned. One is from Gandhi. He counseled a man who had lost his son to war, that he should take in an orphan boy from his enemy and raise him as he would his own son. The concept of this was so disturbing to this man that he shot and killed Gandhi. Arguably one of the most beautiful people of his generation. But he was right. Until we understand that we are all each other's family and that violence solves nothing; until we continue to make choices that lead us to destruction instead of making choices that build hope and love and a reason to live.... we are lost in our a misery of our own making. And no matter how many scapegoats we create or believe or there....the world of our own making will never transcend this sea of hatred.

The second thing I want to share is this, and this I learned from my llamas. I used to enjoy going out in the pasture where a huge Hickory Tree stood. The llamas enjoyed its shade and some times I'd go out there and to the dismay of my dogs, leave them in the enclosed yard around the house, and I'd lay down and rest my head on one of my llama friends and just be. At first they'd all stand up when I came to see them. And when I sat down all but one would sit down. I so loved it when they started letting me rest my head on their bellies and look up at the sky and just chill with them in the pasture. And this wonderful thing I noticed. They took turns keeping watch. They were all turned in slightly a different way and one was always standing. And when it decided to graze or lay down, another would stand. They were not discussing who did what. They just all took turns relaxing and being watchful. One llama didn't hate another llama if when its neck stretched and its gaze pierced the tree line and its ears pricked to hear the many things I couldn't hear. They all paid attention. And when it was determined there was no need to fear they were relaxed. 

I recently got to know people who came here from Lithuania and Estonia. Countries that nearly killed all of their Jewish population that stemmed from this hatred. And they had suffered under the communist regime because they could not be Catholics. They could not believe in Jesus. They did not know anything of the history of their ancestors. This was the way to purge all differences and reasons for war from the people. But they could not make choices about who they were and what they wanted to believe either. And they suffered from this. It was the first time I understood the other side of so many things. 

People need to be able to choose for themselves their life's path and the way they believe. If people who could, do not set a good example by their actions and they instead pursuit greed and power and status then those who don't understand how fruitless those obsessions are will follow right along after them. We say our government isn't working but don't ask the very next question. Not really. We don't ask why we keep electing assholes. Why are money and power grabbers and ignorant yes men constantly being elected? Because that is what people are choosing to admire and emulate. After all, if we have more that means we are successful right? Look, there is nothing wrong with success... and a lot of people do really good things when they become successful. So I'm not saying that is the solution.... everyone all gets the same thing and nobody has to earn or can surpass anyone else. That actually is what didn't wind up working with communism. What I am saying is until people who actually have a conscience run for office, until people like Edward Snowden are listened to and promoted for their objective honesty about something that effects us all, then we are feeding the fish that is eating us.

Hatred and Ignorance are like a car with four flat tires and a full tank of gas; all revved up, going nowhere and polluting the planet in the process. -- Jenn Weinshenker

This world is the way it is because either we are not being good teachers or we are not living up to being the kind of people we could be. Too much time is spent yelling and hating and not enough time getting out their in the community and volunteering and actually making a difference and feeling good about our day. I'm an artist and an author. Almost everything I have, that my sister hasn't given me, I retrieved and fixed up from somebody's trash. I may never be acknowledged as having talent or being someone who has made a contribution. I have physical challenges that make my everyday basic living really hard. Some times I even do a little swearing fit because a piece of silverware I just washed falls out of the dish drainer and back into the sink again. But everyday I give it my best. I may not be able to solve the world's problems but I can give away a piece of artwork that inspires people and that makes my life purposeful. I don't have money to give buy I volunteer for United Way and a couple of other organizations and I do what I can. So if I can get over poverty without my circumstances changing and I can get through pain to bring encouragement to other people and I can find a way to live a life that is meaningful to me than maybe it isn't impossible. Maybe, no matter how fucked up things get, if we stop and do something positive and say something positive, we can change our world. Not the whole world but the small little part of the world we live in. I hope my words came out right. Its all from the heart.

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