We Need to Remember

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Photo by TJ Parker

“If we are to survive the most divisive presidency in generations, it’s up to us to climb down our family trees and better understand how we got here. It’s up to us to ask fellow countrymen “where are you from?” with a lot less fear and a lot more wonder.” – Bill Weir, States of Change

 

We need to understand what drives us, our opinions, our ways of being and thinking in the world.  Why do we denigrate people with views different from our own?  Where is the wonder? Where is the respect?  Where is the humanity?

I was reading the transcript from CNN’s Bill Weir’s program called, States of Change, Homecoming.  His show, one I haven’t watched all the way through to fully disclose, is an exploration of his roots.  They are interesting to be sure, but that’s not what grabbed me. What grabbed me was the thought that we have opinions, some virulent, strong, unchanged despite our best efforts to be open.  Why is that?  Where do they come from?  Shouldn’t we be interested in that?

It’s easy to pronounce our opinions, to put down other opinions, to think we know best and act as if we do by spouting and re-posting article after article or meme after meme putting other’s opinions, lives, views, down.  Way down. That’s low if you think about it. Our opinions are made.  Made from our experiences and our feelings about those experiences.  We forget this.  We forget to put that big old magnifying glass we so easily point at others back at ourselves.  We are, none of us, without flaws.  Our views, even though we might passionately hold them, are not rule of law, are not even always a greater truth.  They are just our truth, our views.  We forget that.

What I’m saying is, we should be looking at our own views, at ourselves, to really examine why we feel as we do, and then, shockingly, be open to others who might feel differently.  They’ve had different experiences, different influences, leading to different views.  It doesn’t make them, or ourselves, idiots. Just makes us humans with different opinions.  I can believe something to be true that you do not believe it true, and vice versa, you can believe something I don’t believe, that’s OK.  Different opinions lead to varying solutions.  Varying solutions solve our problems.

I was also watching coverage of the Harvey rescue efforts.  Two rescued sisters were interviewed.  During that interview, they said they thought it was beautiful that in these divisive times, when people are standing firmly on either side of an invisible line, both racially and politically, that all is forgotten and the community comes together, no color lines, no political lines, to help.  It is beautiful.  What’s sad is that we need some disaster to remind us that we’re all human, that we should and do love each other.  No qualifiers.

I don’t know what all this means.  I feel I need to shout out into the void occasionally to say, remember… remember to love.  Remember to be kind.  Remember we’re, most of us, just doing the best we can to live our lives.  Remember we’re different, we’ve had different experiences.  Remember that’s OK.  Forget fear.  Remember to have wonder. Remember to be fair.  Remember to be gracious.  Remember to be gentle with the feelings of others.  Remember.  If we can, if we do, everything changes.  Love prevails, even in small moments, or big ones, like what’s happening in Houston.

We need to remember.

Time to Look in the Mirror

 

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Photo by TJ Parker

We see what we want to see.  That’s part of the problem.

I was perusing Facebook, which I must say prompts many posts on this blog, and I saw a theme.  Negativity.  Plain and simple.

There were posts about “those” people.  Of one sort of another.  You know them, the idiots, the ridiculous, the terrible, the stupid, the crazy, the deluded, the poor things… them.   They seem to be everywhere, “these” people.  They must be.  Everyone is talking about them.

Then it hit me.

We are a beautiful lot, humanity.  A tapestry like no other.  Preferences, likes and dislikes, and ways of being in the world that differ from each other.  We are sad or happy, diet coke or Pepsi, Chevy or Ford, Republican or Democrat,  dressing on the side or on the salad, rural or city,  cream or taking it black, gay or straight, married or single, serious or silly, tomAto or tomato, and on and on and on.  We love our families the best way we know how, we want the best for our kids or grandkids, we want to earn a decent living, take vacations, laugh a lot, and we want the right to live peacefully, with joy.  Each and every one of us.

But it’s not that simple.  Because what I noticed today, as I was perusing, was that people see what they want to see.  They notice what they want to notice.  I bet they don’t even know they’re doing it.  We seize on information, posts, articles, videos, that speak to us.  Things that in some way support our world view.  There’s probably a theme to how we post, what we post, etc., only we don’t even know it.

We need to pay attention.  To ourselves.  Instead of looking out at what that idiot said or didn’t say, which by the way, in and of itself, that language on its own, is wrong.  I would hope no one would put me in a class of “those idiots”, just because I happen to align myself with a certain ideology.  But they do.  Friends have posted many things about liberals being idiots or crazy or wrong or disturbed or… it goes on.  I’m shocked by it, every time.  Just as I’m sure some of my more conservative friends feel shocked or hurt when a liberal friend of theirs posts something about those idiotic conservatives.  Let’s be honest… none of us are idiotic.  We just don’t agree with each other.  That doesn’t make me an idiot, it just makes a person with a different opinion.

But I digress.   This doesn’t just apply to politics.  I noticed it applies to many things… the videos people choose to post, the things they choose to put out into the world under their own names…. it’s interesting.  Are you a person who posts things that are generally positive, generally informative, upbeat, things that speak to beauty and light and love.  I’ve seen those people, and honestly, I hope I’m one of them.  Or are you someone who sees the dark and the crazy and the wrong in everything and then feels the need to put it out there?  And if so, why? So others like you can agree how bad everything is, or so that you can enlighten those of us who may be Pollyannas who try to look for the good?  I’m not being rhetorical.  I really want to know.

There are people who feel the need to fight everything, against life and what they see as wrongdoing.  I get trying to fight for what you think is right.  I get speaking your mind and your truth.  What I don’t get is a person coming across some debasing or derogatory or hurtful thing and re-posting it.  What’s the purpose of spreading that kind of negativity?  If you have strong opinions, if you feel things are wrong in the world and need fixing, find what you think are some solutions, speak to issues from the place of problem-solving, not finger-pointing.  Re-posting terrible things, some not even based on truth, just for the sake of talking bad about someone or something, is wrong.  You aren’t shining a light on them, you’re shining a terrible light on yourself.

We need to look at ourselves.  Decide if we want to be people who create solutions, who seek a more beautiful world for all of us, or are we people who debase, make fun of, and act from fear.  Who do we want to be?  How do we want to live?  What do we want to be putting out there into the world?  What do we want to be teaching our kids about how to be in the world?  Hurtful to others, or uplifting to others.  It’s up to us.

Look in a mirror.  Look at your personal news feeds.  Look at everything you’ve posted in the last year and judge for yourself.  What kind of person are you?  Are you happy with that?  If not.  Change.  Let’s lift people up.  Let’s inspire with kindness and goodness and love. Let’s try to speak from joy.  From positivity.  From a place of understanding, humility, and love.

I know there are things wrong in the world.  I know there are things that need to be changed.  One of those things is people calling other people idiots or other derogatory names.  One of those things is people being hurtful just, it seems, to be hurtful.  Let’s start being, and communicating, like intelligent humans.  After all, we are.  Sometimes I think we just forget ourselves.  Get swept up.  Let’s be better.  Let’s look with better eyes and hearts at a world that is a beautiful, wondrous place.  Let’s talk about that.

52 Thoughts: Fifth Thought

 

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Photo by TJ Parker

I’ve been thinking.

Today the sky is blue.  It’s cold, but beautiful.  The birds are at the feeders.  The squirrels are trying to get to the feeders.  The dogs are chasing the squirrels.  They picked up our garbage and recycling today as per usual.  I’m listening to music.  We’re about to head to the gym to do some circuit training, then we’ll go grocery shopping.  Tonight we’ll make dinner.  At some point this afternoon we’ll try to take the dogs for a walk after we put the girlie’s sweater on, she gets cold.  We’ll eat dinner and watch some TV or a movie, maybe one we will be picking up at the library as we do our errands today.  My honey will work.  I’ll do laundry, empty the dishwasher, clean up the media room.  We will pet the dogs and cuddle them.  We will talk and laugh and smile at each other.

I’ve been thinking.

It’s a great life.  We have a great life.  It’s nice to remember that.

52 Thoughts: Fourth Thought

 

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Photo by TJ Parker

We have to hold onto each other.

It’s simple.  We need each other.  We always have.  No one person operates in a vacuum. We should be concerned for our fellow man.  We should find reasons to love, instead of reasons to push people away from us.

We get nowhere in life by isolating ourselves.  By only listening to ourselves and those who agree with us.  By thinking we have all the answers, that we know everything.

Certainty is good, but it should always be tempered by an open mind.  We should always be open to other ideas, to new ways of thinking, and to the fact that others might not agree with us.  Certainty doesn’t make what we think better than what those who disagree think.  That’s a common error.  Just because we believe something to be true, it doesn’t make our ideas better than the ideas of someone who doesn’t believe the same thing. Arrogance is never attractive and is often destructive to relationships and to the world.  We have to learn to accept that our way is our way, it works for us, but it might not for someone else, and that’s OK.  It doesn’t make them less than.

We need to hold onto each other.  To take care of each other.   We just do.

52 Thoughts: Third Thought

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Photo by TJ Parker

Lately I’ve been struck by how much our culture has sadly moved to a do as I say not as I do philosophy.  If you want to relate it to politics, it’s both sides saying about the other that this or that has been said and it’s terrible, unconscionable, awful, then they turn around and say something equally as terrible, unconscionable, and awful and somehow that’s OK.  It’s as if people think they can say, post, write, whatever they want about a person or a thing, but others who might have an opposing opinion have no right or are somehow unamerican if they believe differently, talk about things differently.

One of the things I love about this country is the tapestry.  We are different.  We think differently about things, our lives, our problems, the solutions to our problems.  And just because I may disagree with you, or you with me, doesn’t make either one of us wrong. We just see things differently based on our personal experience.  This is where empathy comes in.  Or at least it should.

We get so caught up in our own stuff.  Our problems, our routines, the daily minutia of our lives.  Of course we do.  What’s happening for us on a daily basis can be all consuming if we are experiencing something tough in the moment.  It can be all consuming just going through a regular day.  Laundry and bills and work and dishes and cleaning the house and taking care of the kids and the kid’s schedules and our schedules and health issues and taking care of our pets and on and on.  It’s easy to be buried under it.  We have blinders on and get caught up in it all so that when we are speaking about something, looking at something and rendering an opinion about it, we tend to do it from our perspective alone. We forget that everyone else is going through the same thing, getting through it in their own way.  That’s millions of people and millions of perspectives.  Each based on their own philosophy earned from living their life.

So, what does all this rambling mean?  What am I trying to get at here?

We need to somehow remember that our opinions aren’t the only opinions.  That the views of other people mean something.  If nothing else they mean something to them. Honest criticism is good.  Honest criticism is necessary.  No one individual opinion matters more than another.  If you don’t like how I’m doing something, especially if it relates to you, or someone you care about, or a subject that matters to you, you have a right to speak your opinion about it.  I would hope you do it respectfully.  I would hope you would be genuine and sincere.  But I would hope you would say something.

Disagreement is good.  Calling someone out for doing something hurtful to others is good. Having a difference of opinion about how to run the government or raise your children or enhance education or clean up the environment is good.  It sparks conversation.  During conversation ideas are exchanged.  When we exchange ideas we come up with more creative solutions, we go at problems from more than one direction.  Things actually get done.

First though, we have to get over this silly notion of doing as I say not as I do.  Let’s instead do what we say.  Let’s expect that if we are critical, others might be critical of us in return. This does not make us unamerican.  On the contrary, it’s what makes us an American.

52 Thoughts: Second Thought

 

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Photo by TJ Parker

People are good.  Inherently good.  For the most part.

I believe this.  I always have.

We just got done watching the Star Wars films, by the numbers, not in the order in which they were made.  Why do I bring this up?  Because the whole Darth Vader story is that anyone, if they give in to anger, fear, and hatred, can become dark, can become a force for evil, for negative energy.  Conversely, it also teaches us that there is hope, even for people who may be angry and fearful and full of hate.  There is good in us all.  Some of us may have forgotten it or refused to see it, but there is good.

OK, yes, this is corny.  But, it’s true.  Maybe not for the Emporer in Star Wars, who was so evil he could not be moved toward good, but even for Darth, there was hope.  There was a part of him that was good.  I know this is a weird time to bring up a character in a science fiction film, but I believe science fiction is often a good predictor of, and reflection of, where we are going and who we are, or could be.  It’s why I love it.

Many people I know want to look on these as dark times.  I guess, from a certain perspective, they are.   I myself fight against that feeling some days.  Yes, they may be challenging.   Yes, there may be things happening in the world that don’t jive with a personal point of view, and that’s hard.  It may seem dark.  It may even seem like there are evil people out there trying to do evil things.  Some of that is true.  Some of them are indeed the Emporer.  But, I truly believe mostly they are just people who don’t do things the way I or possibly you think they should.  Does this make them evil?  Inherently evil? No.  It can make them scary, for sure.  It can make them seem dark, absolutely, but they aren’t evil.  Most of them anyway.

We need to be open.  To remember to act with empathy. To try and see people for who they are, totally, realizing they’ve come from a place of having their own life experiences, instead of as just for what they’ve said or what they believe about a certain thing.  We need to ask questions, to listen to the answers to those questions even if they differ from what our answers might be.

People are inherently good.  If we start from that place, thinking that way, imagine what we could accomplish.  Imagine a world where people gave each other the benefit of the doubt, instead of just doubting.  If people acted from a place of understanding instead of fear.  From love instead of hate.  Darth might become Anakin all over again.  What a happy twist to the story that could be.

 

52 Thoughts: First Thought

 

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Photo by TJ Parker

It’s 2017.  I’m happy about it.  I kept waiting for it, ready to start anew.  Ready for a reboot.

Last year was stressful.  Surprising and tense and divisive and nasty.  Many good things happened in my life, but I was greatly affected by everything happening in the world, and that stuff, the stuff splashed all over mainstream media, was frequently disheartening and disappointing.

K and I spent the last weeks of 2016 doing daily random acts of kindness.  It helped both of us to be more positive.  To look at things from a different, and more uplifting, perspective.  We vowed, going forward into 2017, we would continue trying to look at the world from the place of kindness.  Continue to do random acts as they presented themselves.  I think we will.  We both believe kindness is key, a necessity.

I was thinking last night about the news, being affected by it, getting upset, etc.  After all, it’s still there.  Just because we’re in a new year doesn’t mean it all miraculously goes away.  I have friends who are so passionate about the state of things they are still posting political stuff on Facebook and Twitter.  I get incensed about certain events, just as they do, but I don’t post them.  It’s not my way.   My way is to post things I believe to be positive, uplifting, and kind.  It’s a different way of going at things, which is OK.  Mine helps me, theirs helps them I’m sure.

In that vein I started thinking about the effect all of this information has on me. Bombarded with news reports and posts about news reports and political events and health crises and how this thing or that thing is bad for you.  It’s easy to get sucked in, to focus on it all, to think that those things have significant value in my life.  But honestly, they don’t.  Yes, I do care about the world, I am concerned about a lot of it.  I am.  And K and I will be volunteering for a couple of organizations this year in order to try and step up and do something productive and positive.  But if I spend too much time thinking every day about all of it I’m not living right where I am.  I forget to look at what’s good in my life, there is a whole lot that’s good.  I miss appreciating great sunsets and how beautiful the light is shining through the trees.  I am not present.

It’s so easy to be distracted, to look outside my life and focus on what’s wrong with everything.  But that would be a disservice to my life, and I definitely wouldn’t be honoring all the magic that exists in my every day.  The way to honor my life, to live it fully, to be present in it, is to notice the magic.  To soak up the moments.  To put my focus on the people and the sunsets and the smiles.  To pay attention when I’m having a great conversation, or when one of my grandkids laughs, or when my honey smiles at me a certain way.  To honor this beautiful life I have to be responsible for feeling it, being IN it.

So to hell with bad news, crazy politics, and all the negative crap.  I can’t change the whole world, I can only do my small part.   I will act with grace, or at least try to.  I will be present and faithful to this beautiful, amazing, glorious life I’m lucky to be living.  That’s where my energy needs to be spent.  On walks and dog loves and kisses and hugs and music and beautiful words and great meals with family and laughter with friends and taking photographs and writing and silly and kindness and joy and love.

This is what I will do. That is all.