52 Thoughts: Seventh Thought

Photo by TJ Parker

In the last two weeks one friend suddenly lost his Mom and my honey’s Mom had some serious health issues and went into the hospital.  We are hoping the treatment helps her, that the doctors can fully figure out what’s going on, and that she can get on the road to recovery.  My honey flew out in January 31 to help her family.  That’s what you do.  You pull together.  You help.  You love.

I woke this morning with an overwhelming feeling of love.  Love for my honey and her Mom and Dad and my Mom and my friend who just lost his Mom.  Love for the rest of my family and my friends.  You are precious to me.  More than I could ever express in a blog post.

I also woke with this feeling that I needed to say something about the current climate in our country.  About how I feel about it, from a personal perspective.  Keyword, personal.

I hate divisiveness.  I’m always “preaching” togetherness and love because I mean it, I think those things, along with kindness and hope and joy are keys to life.  Both to our own personal living of it, and to our shared community, locally, nationally, and globally.  We are literally all in this together so we need to pull our heads out of our collective asses and get on with the business of working together.

I’m a patriot.  That means I can criticize what my government is doing, and should if I don’t agree.  We were founded on that principal.  Our right to disagree with our elected officials and call out any injustices we think are happening.  The fact that I don’t agree with what our current president is doing on many fronts is my personal opinion.  This opinion doesn’t make me unAmerican.  Not in the least.  In fact, it makes me an American.  We have that right here.  To disagree.  To call out.  And beyond that, we have a duty to do it.  I don’t mean we should just mindlessly repost memes about our politicians.  That kind of judgment and ridiculousness has gone on too long.  We need to be responsible about how we disagree, but disagreeing is an important part of our democracy.

I’m tired of playground tactics.  This crap about oh, they did it, they did it, so we are going to do it too.  Oh my God.  Grow up.  We all need to just grow up.  When the “other side” does something we don’t like, that we’ve found to be reprehensible, it’s not an excuse to then go and do the same or a similar thing just because, well, “they” did it.  Both sides do it, both politicians and the average joe.  C’mon people.  Grow a pair.  Pull up your big boy pants.  Quit reacting, pointing the finger, and being so childish.  You have good ideas that are your own, present them.  But don’t use as an excuse that the other side “did it” and now so will you.  If you think so little of the other side, why would you want to turn around and do something you found to be unacceptable.  It just widens the gap.  Creates further divide.  “They did it, they did it!”  Childish.  We aren’t on a playground anymore.

I care about the environment.  I’m tired of the climate change discussion.  There is climate change.  Yes, it’s occurring naturally, without man’s intervention, because it just is.  But we are also adding to it.  Making that change happen at a faster rate by putting toxins into the air.  Toxins we also put into the water and the land.  We need to take care of this planet.  Let’s stop talking about climate change and start talking about the planet itself, the environment.  We’ve gotten lost in semantics.  Holy hell, the Earth is the only one we have.   We want to treat it with respect, the respect it deserves.  You want to use it up without a thought about what that could mean for our children’s children?  Are you that arrogant and uncaring?  Get a grip.  Man is having an impact on this beautiful spinning ball and we need to try and make sure that impact is as minimal as possible.  Quit arguing about semantics.

Fake news.  My lord.  It exists.  On both sides.  So pull your head out and do your due diligence.  Quit reading your one or two sources that only support your point of view because you think only those sources are telling you the truth.  They probably aren’t.  Mainstream media is not the enemy.  Journalism has and always will help to shine the light and point our attention to things we should be paying attention to.  Sometimes we don’t like the message they send, but that’s life.  Since when do we want yes men and insular points of view to rule the land.  We don’t.  Again, grow the hell up and read.  Yes, I’ll say it again.  Read many sources, especially sources that disagree with your point of view.  Do your own research.  Be responsible.  Don’t just press send on meme after meme after meme without actually looking into the information you’re spreading.  If you just press send like a mindless automaton then you are a huge part of the problem.  YOU are encouraging the spread of misinformation.   Hell, let’s quit calling it fake news and start calling it misinformation.  That’s what it is.  Sleight of hand.  Don’t be gullible.  Don’t be an idiot.  There are good sources of information on both sides.  And mainstream media… just because they are printing things you don’t like to hear doesn’t mean what they’re printing is a lie because it doesn’t support your worldview.  Yes, I’m liberal, but I do read stuff from the right.  I want to know the point of view, I want to try and understand it, and I want to hear different points of view.  I don’t agree with what I read much of the time, but as I said somewhere earlier in this rant, not agreeing is part of the deal.

And speaking of just following along.  We should all be questioning and critical consumers of information.  Whatever the source.

I love the diversity of this country.  No one group or group’s dogma, religious or political, should have the final say about anything.  No one group should be able to determine how I live, who I sleep with, what I do with my body, etc.  You might have very strong feelings about these things, and I appreciate those.  You are entitled to have them, they are yours.  But since when did one group have the right to control me.  This country was founded on the principle that church and state should be separate.  Why?  Because there is more than one way to worship.  People pray to God differently, call God by different names.  Some don’t believe in God at all.  All of those beliefs are valid and no one of those groups should be able to legally make the other groups follow their tenants, their belief system.  Our spiritual beliefs should be kept out of government otherwise we run the very real risk of falling into a dictatorship where one group dictates to all other groups how they should live their lives, what is acceptable for them and not as to beliefs.  A suppression of beliefs is a very scary thing.

Speaking of fear… demonizing an entire group as the source of our woes is frightening. Yes, I’m talking about Muslims.  They worship differently than Christians do, people don’t understand their religion, but this difference, and a bit of mystery, doesn’t make them terrorists.  Terrorists are terrorists.  They come from all backgrounds, all religions, and are born in different countries.   The Oklahoma City bombing was carried out by a couple of white guys born in the U.S.  Both had been in the military and were upset about the FBI’s handling of the Waco, David Kuresh, situation.  My point is that we can’t look at only one group and demonize them as the source of all evil.  That’s happened in our world’s history before and it led to the execution of millions of people.  The Jews were not evil either.  Some people may read this and think I’m over simplifying things, and maybe I am a tad, but I’m an intelligent person, one who knows that just because someone is born somewhere doesn’t automatically mean they are bad.  Singling out an entire group for the actions of a few, that’s wrong, and it’s lazy.

We’ve somehow created a culture, or been led by the noses into it, that there is “the other” and “the other” is bad.  “The other” is evil.  There are things we won’t agree on ever.  That’s the way of it.  That’s how life works.  We all come from different places, have different backgrounds, grew up having our own unique experiences.  Those experiences inform how we see the world, how we think.  They should.  Our own experiences are ours.  Black, white, gay, straight, liberal, conservative, democrat, republican, disabled, abled, women, men, Mexican, Muslim, Christian, Asian, people in rural areas, city-dwellers, environmentalists, people from industry, conservationists, big business… it goes on and on.  We are different.  We come from different points of view.  It’s a beautiful bold diverse melting pot.  All points of view matter.  There is no “other”.  There’s just us.  And we need to start being responsible for ourselves.  Not following along with dogma because it’s supposed to be ours.  Because someone told us to.  We need to question.  Not just the beliefs of those spewing the dogma, what they are telling us is true, but ourselves.  We need to look inside, figure out why we are motivated the way we are.  Are we being responsible?  Are we taking responsibility?  Or are we just automatons.  Being controlled by our biases, or the biases of the people we are blindly listening to.

We have to ask questions people.  Of ourselves, our politicians, our media, our family, and friends.  We live in a community of diverse minds, we need to act like it.  To honor it.

That is all.

Shouting Out to the Void

970226_1264549013559639_2015577727281643272_nWe let ourselves forget we are all one people. People trying to be happy, to provide for our kids, to go on vacation, to pay our bills. We hug our children and grandchildren, laugh at silly jokes, watch movies, eat popcorn, tie our shoes. We want something better for our kids than we had, we want our grandchildren or future grandchildren to be happy, fulfilled, to find whatever success they might be striving for. We love our dogs and cats, fold our laundry, sleep, hug, cry, work in gardens, clean our houses, wash our dishes.

I don’t know when we forgot. I don’t know when that happened. Fellow man. Something you don’t hear much anymore. Do unto others. We might hear that some, but it doesn’t seem like people abide by it, or they do, but only sometimes.

Kindness, love, togetherness, a willingness to help each other. Without judgement or condemnation or a sense of being somehow better than someone else. I can tell you, you are not, I am not, better than anyone else.

I shout these things out into the world occasionally. Like now. I wonder if anyone is listening. If there’s anyone out there who feels the same. I’m filled with hope and sadness all at the same time. That’s life. Beautiful and ugly, soul killing and uplifting, all things at once.

Shouting to the void helps a little. At least, I say to myself, I’m putting out a positive message. I’m saying, out loud and in print, be kind to one another. Be gentle with the feelings of your fellows. Be empathetic. Be helpful instead of hurtful. Be understanding.

After 10 Minutes on Facebook

I just spent 10 minutes on Facebook and now I have to write a blog post.

Oi!  I can’t take it.  Politics, division, divisiveness, people being crappy, showing their dark sides, thinking it’s funny.  It’s not.

I don’t care who you support.  I have my opinion, know what I’m going to do come November.  I expect you do too.  Why must we, over and over, post things on Facebook that are cruel character assassinations of candidates.  I mean on both sides.  I just saw it from both sides.

If you post, post something that includes facts, reflects your educated opinion, or supports your position in a classy way.  What’s with all the personal attacks?  Where did common decency go?  When did it become OK to publicly deride someone?  Sure, public figures sort of open themselves up for criticism.  So, criticize them intelligently.  I’m so sick of the memes showing one candidate or another with some intended to be cutesy, but isn’t, superimposed quote or other additions.  My God people.

We are better than this.  Our culture, with social media, has sunk so low that people think this crap is funny, when in fact it’s bullying behavior.  What are we teaching our kids?  That it’s OK, if you don’t like someone, to post something terrible about them, disparaging about them, out there for the world to see?  That it’s OK to make fun of other people?  That just because you don’t like someone you can publicly humiliate them?  Because every time something like all the ridiculousness I just saw is posted, that’s what you’re saying to your kids.  That it’s OK to bully, to deride, to act like a total ass, to treat others with disrespect.  And then, later, when your kid posts something about someone because they don’t like them, what are you going to say?  No no, you shouldn’t do that.  I guess that’s just a case of do as I say, not as I do.  We need to teach respect, kindness, love.  We need to be teaching you can disagree in civil way.  You can not like someone, but you don’t have to make fun of them, and in fact you shouldn’t.

If the goal is to get people to change their minds politically, you’ve missed the mark.  What you’ve accomplished is showing you can be mean, you can be nasty, you’ve shown your lesser self.  I don’t want to see that side of you.

Again, you don’t like someone, fine.  You don’t like them.  Feel the need to plaster your feelings all over Facebook… fine.  I’d rather see what you’re up to today, get a little photo of your shoe or your workspace or your beautiful smile, but if you must post something, if you just have to dip your toe in the cesspool, then be smart, be kind, be classy about it.  Simply post a status message saying… I support this person, and this is why.  Or, I don’t support this person, and this is why.  Re-post an article you think makes a good point.  Keep the slander, the meanness, the jerkdom out of it.  Would you?  Could you?  Will you?  Won’t you?

Crap, I’m slipping into Dr. Seuss… that’s how serious this has gotten.

I guess it’s just so tough to go on social media and see posts from people you love that turn your stomach.  That make them seem different than the people you thought they were.

Elevate.  Rise above.  Be the people I think you are.  Please.  I can’t take it.  I just spent 10 minutes on Facebook and I had to write this post.

Maybe There’s Hope For Us After All

IMG_5153I believe we all basically want the same things, even if we don’t agree about how we might get them.  Trying to understand each other, giving each other simple respect as human beings, goes a long way.  We all have different experiences which inform how we’ve decided to live our lives.  There are many ways to happiness.  My way works for me, yours works for you, we can agree to disagree.  And if we can, if we can stop trying to tell each other what to do, how to live, if we can be forgiving and generous of spirit, we can be sympathetic, we can hope.

I’m not a religious person.  Spiritual, yes, religious no.  But even so, through my life I’ve been fascinated with organized religion.  I’ve taken classes, studied, and I’ve been exposed to religions of differing kinds through my family and friends.  I have seen people, in regards to their religion, be their best selves, and I’ve seen them be their not so best selves.

I never understood, growing up, why my Grandma on my father’s side played favorites with her children and her grandchildren.  Her choices seemed arbitrary, nonsensical.  There seemed to be no precipitating event or behavior that caused those choices.  I was, without a doubt, a favorite.  My brother was not.  When I was small I didn’t know this, or realize it, but then I grew.  I became aware of the behaviors of adults, of the kids around me.  I started to notice how my grandmother treated my brother.  It wasn’t good.  I was all cakes and smiles and praise and good cheer, he was insulted and degraded and made fun of.  When I noticed this, I started not wanting to go to grandma’s house anymore.  I loved my brother and I knew, innately, that my grandma’s behavior was cruel and mean and not at all acceptable.  I couldn’t get past how she could be so nice to me, buying me gifts, playing games, be so loving, and then be so awful to him.  He’d done nothing wrong, yet she acted as if his mere existence repulsed her.

My grandma was also very religious.  Religious as in talking in tongues, holy rollers, and tent revivals.  This never bothered me in and of itself, though it did scare me a lot when I went to church with her and the preacher was screaming and people were falling down in the aisles.  When I visited she would sometimes tell me stories from the bible, always choosing Revelations and emphasizing how if people weren’t good they would be branded and burn.  Scary stuff for a 7-year-old, but none of that really ever deterred me from seeing her, not even when she took me to a tent revival and had me saved by another screaming man.  I started not wanting to go see her on church days, but really I still loved seeing her.  Until, that is, I realized how she treated my brother.  Once that realization hit I instantly felt an incongruity.  I wasn’t more than 9 or 10, but I remember thinking how she was a person who espoused religious beliefs of love and faith and hope, but acted against them.  She was a hypocrite.  What I felt about religion told me it should be about love and understanding and compassion, not cruelty and judgement and disdain.

The other side of my family, my mom’s, wasn’t religious at all.  I found out later my mom’s mom had grown up in a religious household, but events happened that caused her to turn away from organized religion.  I think they all went to church as a family, for a time, but eventually that faded out for most of them.  When we visited my Mom’s parents religion was never discussed.  Instead we were taught to play chess and backgammon.  The arts were encouraged, books were encouraged, music was all around.  So was laughter and love and a very tight sense of family.

I grew up in a home with an atheist (my step-dad) and an agnostic (my mom).  We didn’t talk about religion much in our house, except when my step-dad mocked it, or my mom would explain that she thought, fundamentally, the tenants of organized religions were mostly good (do unto others, kindness, hope, love, compassion) but that organized religion, in the hands of some, seemed to be used to control, conquer, and judge people.  My mom, who treats people the best of anyone I’ve ever met, with respect and compassion and kindness, was and continues to be a great  role model for me about how to be a wonderful human.

Fast forward several years in my life.  I’d taken many courses on religion, read many religious books (large sections of the Bible, the Tao, Buddhist teachings, tenets of Hinduism, parts of the Koran, etc., etc.) and had formed what is the basis of my own spiritual thought.  No one religion encompasses what I think and feel, but they all actually have things in common, and have in their own way contributed to my philosophy.

I’ve had great experiences with people who are religious as well.  Being gay, this is a tough thing as many religious people condemn me for being who I am.  But, I have some wonderful people in my life, who are very religious, and have shown me, over and over, what love, truth, kindness, and understanding are.  Which is why I want to talk about my friend, Pat.  I met him a long time ago, 17 years or so.  We worked together, were office partners, and ended up loving each other like brother and sister.  He is a super religious guy.  Very much a man of his beliefs, very solid, very sure.  I respect him immensely for that.  As you can tell, I’m not a Christian person, and I’m gay, so our deep and abiding friendship was somewhat of a surprise to both of us.  And yet, it continues.  I have deep love for him, and I know he shares the same feelings for me.  He has been, at times, a youth pastor, a regular guest preacher, and very involved with whatever church he has belonged to over the years since I’ve known him.  He’s moved a bit so has had to change churches more than once, always finding a church home and always getting very involved with it when he does.  I also respect him for that.  He’s a man of faith, and his faith is strong.

Pat and I once had a very long very heartfelt conversation about my being gay, what he thought of it, and what he thinks the bible thinks of it as well.  At the time we had this conversation, which was several years ago now, he was not pro gay marriage.  He is a religious guy and he felt (and probably still feels) that a traditional marriage ceremony is inherently a religious ceremony.  I, who am now legally married to my partner of over 13 years, obviously disagrees with him on this point, but that’s OK, he doesn’t argue it with me.  We agree to disagree, which is OK too.  What he said to me that day, about my being gay, was beautiful.  He said that nowhere in his bible (and he knows it exceptionally well) does he interpret that people should be judged by anyone but God.  He said God teaches judge not lest ye be judged.  Judging, in and of itself, is a sin as great as any other.  He said it wasn’t his place to judge me.  He said it’s his place to love me, be kind to me, be accepting, and let God do what he will.  He believes that man is not God, and therefore shouldn’t think that he/she has the right to act as if they are acting for God.  I love Pat.  His beliefs are strong, and they don’t allow him to condemn me.  He would never do that.  He has often said he wants to bring me to his church and talk to the congregation about love, about our relationship, about how two very different people can form beautiful bonds with each other and how that’s what it should be all about.

This country, that I happen to love, was formed largely by people fleeing religious persecution.  People who weren’t able to worship and believe as they wished without consequence from their government, fled to a place where they could worship and believe as they wished.  We’ve somehow forgotten that.  If a person is not a Christian, in my experience, many Christians now seem to believe they have the right to tell that non-christian person they are somehow less than, and that they should, in essence, be cast out.  When did it become OK to judge?  When did it become OK to feel that because you believe a certain way you have the right to tell everyone else how to believe, how to be, what to do?  When did it become OK, with total arrogance, to feel that condemnation was a right anyone could have.  I don’t tell anyone what they should believe.  My feeling is that what works for you, as a person, as far as your belief system goes, is yours.  Your relationship with God, however you see him/her, is your business, your right.  I will not interfere with that, and I expect not to be interfered with.

I also expect that your religious beliefs, whatever they are, stay out of my government.  There was a reason for separation of church and state.  It was meant to protect us from any one group, who might gain power, from asserting its beliefs and wishes on to the rest of us, who could be in danger of experiencing consequences for not going along.

I know a lot of Christians now believe they are being persecuted.  I don’t see that, but I’m not them.  For all I know, it could be happening.  But here’s the thing, persecution because of religion has been going on for centuries. Since the beginning of religion.  Perpetuated both by and against people of varying religious beliefs.  I don’t think any one group, whoever you are, has the right to tell another group what to believe, how to live based on those beliefs.  Nobody should be discriminated against because of their beliefs, whatever they are.  If you have a set of rules, morals, tenants you live by based on your religion, more power to you.  I have mine, and they are no less real or valuable than yours.  As long as your beliefs aren’t hurting anyone, believe what you will.  We fear what we don’t understand.  When we fear we sometimes strike out.  When we fear we don’t always act as our better selves.  When we fear we create division and anger and hopelessness.  All things contrary to what I believe is the most important part of any religion and/or belief system… love.

I know there’s no answer, and I know some people will disagree with me, may even become incensed or angered by something I’ve said here.  And I guess that’s OK.  You are entitled to your opinion, to your feelings.  As I am.  But if you do get angry, remember this… I’m not angry with you.  I just want us to talk to each other.  To realize we are all just trying to get through it the best we can, with the most dignity, compassion, and love in our lives as possible.  I think, ultimately, most of us want the same things.  To be respected as human beings, to be allowed to believe as we wish without repercussions from our government or our fellow humans, and to live the happiest of lives possible.  If we can just meet at that place, with that realization, maybe there’s hope for us after all.

Looking With Our Better Eyes

IMG_1785I was just reading a piece I have in draft, one I never posted here.  It was a general rant about how much of what we read, see, are offered to take in via news and social media, is negative, derisive, and ugly.

I’m not going to post it.

I still agree with what I wrote.  How I’m tired of the negative, how I yearn for the positive. But I’m too old to be on the playground, and that’s what it feels like.  It feels like what it was to be out on recess, caught in the middle of some ridiculous name calling fight.  How those fights seemed to escalate into the absurd and how the passion for those ludicrous arguments seemed to escalate as well.  Escalation turned ugly, pushing turned to shoving, sometimes turning to blows.  It’s exhausting.

I want a revolution of thought, I’m getting bogged down without one.  I want kindness, ideas, offered solutions, compassion, a recognition of simple human dignity.  I don’t think I’m the only one.  I think most of us feel this way, even as we sometimes find ourselves participating in those playground-like antics.

What if, for a day, we posted only something positive.  The old adage, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.  If that’s you, post a photo of a sunrise or a cute puppy, or your grandchildren instead of that negative thing you are about to post.

What would that feel like?

I get up, I make my way to the french press and the tea kettle, I get my steaming mug of freshly made delicious coffee, I empty the dishwasher, I fold the laundry, I open my laptop to check email, then I head to my news feeds and finally Facebook.  I’m shocked to see news articles about new inventions and good deeds and how even though I may not agree with this politicians views on this or that thing, they have good intentions, or are good in this one area, or they’re smart.  I see that everyone seems to be posting how happy they are about this or that event, or friendship, or job opportunity, or the tasty hot meal they had last night.  I read about how this guy, running for this office, had this idea to solve this problem.  How interesting.  I hear that even though Democrats and Republicans and Tea Party people are staunch, they are fair, and understanding, and compassionate toward those who don’t agree with them.  I see kindness and forgiveness and goodwill toward fellow humans.  I see us disagreeing with respect.  I see sharing and helping and love.

Life is a matter of perception.  It always is.  We can look and see terrible things in our opponents, in the government, in each other, or we can look and see that even though we don’t agree it doesn’t make either of us a monster.  It doesn’t make either of us an idiot.  From there we can have reasonable discussions, we can listen to each other, we can gain understanding, and we can start to move forward, freed from the quagmire of distrust and finger-pointing and nastiness.  There is something to like in almost everyone.  Just as there is something to dislike.  We see what we want to see.

We can see the negative in things, in life, in each other, and we can dwell there.  If that’s the case, that’s what we will notice, that’s what we will pick up on first.  The problems, the differences, the ways in which things are not right.  Or we can see the positive in things, in life, and in each other.  We can dwell there.  In that place there’s forgiveness, problem-solving, things to build on, there’s hope.

It’s up to each of us to decide.  I’d just like it if I could wave the magic wand and for one day we helped without criticism, we offered opinions without disparaging someone else, and we talked about solutions with kindness, instead of venom and animosity.

I believe, with all my heart, each of us is doing the best we can in the world.  Making our way the best we know how.  Sometimes what we do is not that great, and most times if it’s not that great it’s because we faltered, or we were never taught a better way, or we ran into something that spiraled out of control.  We don’t know anyone else’s story.  We can’t presume to know.  We also can’t presume to think our ideas, our solutions, our way of doing things is the only way, or even the right way.  There are many paths to a good solution, there are many “right” ways.  Yes, there are wrong ways too, but we must make people feel safe in order to help them change.  We must make them feel listened to, just as we like to be listened to.  We can’t bully, or push, or strong arm people into our way of thinking.  Most of us hate being told what we should be doing, but we don’t mind being talked to, respected for our opinions, and offered other opinions in return.  We don’t mind a good chat.  We all feel we should be respected.  That doesn’t change with position or ideology or background.  We all want to be respected as human beings, and we all should be.

I don’t expect that we’ll all hold hands and sing Kumbaya, but wouldn’t it be great if we went at things with that in our hearts.  If we were open, loving, and kind.  If we all realized we were in it together.  Facing it together.  Because we are.  None of us are in it alone.  Everything we do, small and large, effects other people, and spreads like a ripple out from ourselves.

I can only start with me.  So this is me saying to me that I’ll try to be more present, more aware of what I say, how I say it, what I put out into the world.  I’ll picture the faces of friends and family, I’ll try to act with hope and kindness and understanding.  I will try not to judge.  I’ll try to be fair.  I will try to be a better listener.

Sure, we have a lot of problems, but there are also so many things that are good and beautiful out there.  Look around.  See them.  Feel what that feels like to see them.  To use a line from The Abyss, a movie I love, “We all see what we want to see. Coffey looks and he sees Russians. He sees hate and fear. You have to look with better eyes than that.”

Look with your better eyes.  Look with them, and see.

Excuse Me, Sir….

885049_10151628201270802_1338036815_oI’m not a man.

Though, apparently, I look like one.  Sometimes.  From the side maybe.  Or the back.  Or in the pancake line.

I can’t tell you how many times it’s happened this trip.  I was in a check-out line, or picking up pancakes at the griddle from the pancake chef, or walking into or out of a lady’s room and inevitably I got called sir or mistaken for a sir.  A few examples, hilarious as they are.  The woman walking into the restroom at the Wal-Mart in South Dakota who did a double take, sideways glancing at me, then at the restroom sign to make sure it was the women’s restroom she was walking into.  The guy serving beignets at the art fair cart who asked, “what can I get you sir”, who then looked me fully in the face and started to sort of sputter.  The time I was, once again, walking into a restroom at a gas station and a teen and her mother were sort of walking in tandem/following me in.  The teen said to her Mom, “a guy just went into the restroom.  Yes, mom, a man just went in.”  I knew they were talking about me.  I was just ahead of them.  At first they didn’t even come in behind me, then they did, but didn’t go into a stall, even though one was available, until I came out, looked directly at them, smiled, and said hello.  The mom said hi, then scowled at the teen.  I guess they didn’t want to go into a stall next to a man, if a man was in there with them.  Honestly, I don’t know why, I would.  I mean, if I have to go, and there’s an open stall, I don’t care whose next to me, I’m going in.  But then, I’m “the guy”, so maybe that changes my opinion about it.

I have a theory.

I don’t think we look at each other.  Not really.  Not in the eyes, not fully in the face.  We glance sideways and nod or say hello or ask how people are doing, but we don’t really look.  And because we don’t really look, we never truly see.  I feel this way not just because I was repeatedly called a man this trip, until people really looked at me, realized I was a girl, and then hemmed and ha’d and pretended they hadn’t made that mistake, but because I’m a person who does look people in the eye.  Unless I’m doing what I tell my honey to do occasionally which is, don’t make eye contact, don’t look at them, don’t engage.  Those are special circumstances.  Mostly both my honey and I look at people.  I’ve always loved that about her, and I know she loves it about me.  We are people who try to acknowledge other people.  And the people we try to acknowledge usually like it; clerks in stores, people walking on the street, receptionists, homeless people, the list goes on and on.  We look at people, both of us, but people don’t often look back, or at least they don’t initiate it.  They look sideways or down or off somewhere over the shoulder.  They don’t focus in, and in fact try not to.

Yeah, yeah… I wear boy shorts and t-shirts, my hair is really short, I probably even sort of walk like a guy, or not, I actually have no idea.  But, I sound like a girl, unless it’s late into the night and I’ve been around a camp fire and the man voice comes out.  I don’t think, when someone looks me fully in the face, they would ever wonder if I was a guy or a girl.  I guess I could be wrong, but that’s what I’ve been told.  Especially when I smile, which I’m doing most of the time.  And all of this isn’t really the point.  I don’t actually care about being called a guy, but I do sort of care about not being seen.  Not being seen for who I am.

I wasn’t seen because people didn’t really look, not at first anyway.  I had to work at it, say something to them, make them look me in the eyes, in the face, before they realized the mistake they’d made.  I saw it play out on face after face, time after time.  Fascinating.

It makes me sad that we feel the need to avoid each other, to not fully engage with our fellow humans.  We try to keep ourselves separate, and what?  Safe?  Unencumbered? We try to stay in our own little bubbles.

Next time, when you’re out and about, do a little experiment.  Look people in the eyes, smile at them, say hello, engage in some brief but witty repartee.  SEE them.  Let them SEE you.  The world is brighter and fuller and more expansive if we let people in, if we open ourselves up.  I feel this way, and it can’t only be me.  Trust me, the people you acknowledge, that you look at, talk to, most of them will like it.  Most of them will light up.  And you will feel awesome, more connected, free.

But then again, do you really want to take advice from a dude?  This dude.  I don’t know….

Rumination on Hate

10560688744_f669afe803_b.jpgMerriam Webster defines hate as, “a deep and emotional extreme dislike for someone or something”.  You might find it strange that a person who tends to write about kindness and joy and love would start a piece with hate’s definition, but today I was watching something, a story on the program Sunday Morning that I’d recorded, and it reminded me why I think kindness and joy and love are so important.  They are the opposite of hating and divisiveness.

The story I was watching was pretty benign, about a photographer who takes photos of lookalikes.  You’ve probably seen it going around Facebook, stories about this photographer and his project.  Today the story itself wasn’t the thing, what struck me most was the part about how the country of Colombia had commissioned this photographer’s work as part of an exhibit putting forward the idea of sameness and likeness, instead of difference.  The message they wanted most to convey was that we are more alike than we are dissimilar.  It’s an idea close to my heart.  This idea of sameness and likeness.

We tend to be afraid, apprehensive, and suspicious, of things and people unfamiliar to us.  It’s a natural reaction, or seems to be anyway, for us to pull back, be cautious, to see what’s different about a person instead of what might be the same.  It’s natural, yes, but it also creates barriers, divisions, and sometimes conflict.  Before really getting to know a person or a place we often begin to think the differences make them better than, or worse than, ourselves.  We categorize.  We judge.  We assume.  And sometimes, we hate.

I’ve felt this judgment in myself, and it shames me.  Yes, it’s natural, to be cautious of difference, but it can also be a band-aid for our wounded hearts and souls.  Our feelings of superiority over some people allow us to feel better about ourselves, helping us to feel so much smarter or aware, and ultimately, somehow, so much better than “those” people.  Our feelings of inferiority allow us to justify our anger about our circumstance and our feeling that that circumstance is somehow the fault of “those” people, somehow their responsibility.  I’m guilty of both.  So are you.

Now that I have grandchildren I think about the future, I think about the people they will become.  I want them to appreciate and celebrate the differences in people, in cultures, in themselves.  I hope they will grow up to a world that’s matured.  I hope they live among people who show kindness and live joyously.  I hope they find people who strive for understanding and live with love.  I hope they are those people.

It’s easy to get cynical when you watch the news and don’t agree with what you see, what you hear, but I still believe in the human heart, the human spirit.  I believe, seriously, that most people can be kind.  I believe most people prefer love over hate.  I believe we are more alike than we are not.  I believe most of us want the same things: to be loved, to love, to have a place we love to call home, to have friends and community, to not stress about money, to have good health and for our loved ones to have good health, to be safe, to be happy.  We all want these things.  So do our neighbors and the people we don’t agree with, and so do “those” people, whoever they are.

We are more alike than we are not.  And love, if we let it, will always win over hate.