To be honest: I’ve been avoiding you.
It’s been a long and challenging few months; challenging in a mostly positive way, but stress is still stress, and I haven’t had the words to really articulate what I’ve been experiencing.
That isn’t 100% honest, either: I have the words, I’m just lacking the readiness. So much of what I have to say lately seems very “woo- woo” to me- yoga and meditation and Buddhism and internal change, worldview and growth and expansion. I’ve been working on that Word Of The Year in a very serious way, and it’s been a wonderful ride. Every time I open my mouth to talk about this, though, I hear the words coming out and my inner critic shuts me down. You sound like a stupid hippie, she tells me. Stop being such a fucking Pollyanna is the constant refrain.
I love hippies, though. I love freaks and crunchy- granola types, I love artists and creative people, I love activists and yoga teachers and jugglers and musicians and magicians and actors and just plain old weirdos. I love my CSA and composting and Lisa’s amazing urban garden, I love wearing sensible shoes and handmade skirts, I love my job making things for other people to make their own things with, I love the cyclical concept of that work. I love to think about things like “cyclical concepts”. I love geeks and nerds and science- fiction jokes, I love color and noise and being outdoors. What the hell is wrong with being a hippie?
Why isn’t it okay for me to be a hippie, then? It’s what I am, and I know that, so why the reticence to discuss it?
It’s really about that Pollyanna thing, at the core of it all: this ingrained idea that if people knew how truly optimistic I am they’d dismiss anything I had to say. Even today, trying to explain how I see people (all intrinsically flawed, all intrinsically good) I found the words hard to say out loud. I know what I believe, and I know why I believe it, but it becomes hard to say in a world that is so busy being cynical.
I’m tired of hiding these thoughts and beliefs out of the fear of being laughed off, though.
In the interest of full disclosure:
I believe all human beings are inherently good.
I believe that when we behave badly, we are acting out of fear.
I believe Herbert was on to something good with the Litany Against Fear:
“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.”
I believe we can all be so much more than we’ve ever imagined.
I believe that there’s no single right way.
I believe we are all amazing.
I believe in small kindnesses.
I believe in the beauty of impermanence.
I believe that no one is past the point of redemption.
I believe that kindness, compassion and courage are more powerful than a gun.
I believe in focus.
I believe in stillness.
I believe it is always better to try.
It isn’t that I don’t see the horror of our current state. I see it. I’ve lived closer to it than most of the people I know; I know what it looks like, what it smells like, what it sounds like, and I know we can do better. In Afghanistan I was fortunate enough to witness individuals who had nearly no voice being brave in order to help people they did not know- because it was right, and at great risk to themselves. Soldiers, civilians, and Afghans all had these moments of pure, brilliant and shining generosity: willing to risk themselves for the sake of others.
I saw the other end, too; the stinking, cruel, brutal end of us, the part that rampages and rips and ruins, and that’s the genesis of my fear theory. Those people- the destroyers- they we all so afraid, and although it is hard, I struggle to view them with compassion. Somewhere along the way, something went wrong and they never regained their footing, and that is terribly, awfully sad.
There were more brutal moments than those of kindness and compassion, but the moments of goodness were so much brighter, better, more significant. Fear is small: it shrinks and hardens us, it kills new growth and strips us back to our core instincts- kill or be killed. Courage expands us: it puts us “out there”, allows us to see and be seen, to grow, to assist, to learn, to help and share and protect. It leaves us vulnerable to attack, working in direct opposition to our core animal instincts, and the decision to put effort in that direction is remarkable, beautiful, and can change the world.
I believe in us. I believe we can do better. I believe I can be better: I believe I can let go of these inhibitions, the awful creeping fear that someone might roll their eyes when I open my mouth. If they did, so what? It’s only a gesture: keep fucking talking. Keep saying it, keep doing it, keep living it, because this is mine, and this is what has been put to me to do.