A Sea of Bodies

I’m struggling today. There is a sea of bodies surrounding all of us, but it’s largely been ignored.

I don’t even know how far back I have to go to start counting the bodies. Is it Columbine? The eradication of Native Americans? Neanderthals?

No matter where these tragedies occur, the sea of bodies are still collecting, forming an ocean that is becoming increasingly more difficult for the general public to ignore–but I’ll be damned if they aren’t giving it their all to quietly sweep it under the proverbial rug.

I’m going to be as blunt and brutally honest as I can about all of this.

When this happens on American soil, Americans (media/politicians included) weep. When it happens on foreign ally soil (especially those in good standing), Americans weep and “pray for ____.”

When it happens to Pakistan and Turkey, pack up the fanfare; let’s go home. ***Cue mindless scrolling on Facebook. #ignorethosewholookliketerrorists

Sure there are those who will “Pray for Turkey,” but forget about seeing the masses weeping with them. Forget about the media plastering it everywhere.

Just forget about the people of Pakistan and Turkey–they look too much like ISIS.

I actually saw people on Facebook saying things like, “Good! Let them blow each other up! Saves us the trouble.”

THAT attitude is precisely why world peace hasn’t been achieved.

Hear me now:

Inevitably, when something happens at home or on friendly soil abroad, we weep for a day and the conversation turns to gun control, immigration reform, or mental health. But until individuals (you and I) recognize that hate cannot be eradicated by guns, wars, or doctors, the process of hatred will continue. The status quo will not change.

Until we recognize a person is more than their religious beliefs, more than their color, more than their gender, more than their sexual orientation, that they are indeed a person, there will be no change. People will be killed because they’re not “normal.”

It baffles me to think that we are soaring through the universe inside our solar system on a rock that miraculously contains life, yet we somehow still believe that we have control over something! It boggles my mind that we can’t recognize that–that life is sacred–that we’re all part of the human race.

Killing one another over the inconsequential only proves the ignorance of mankind and its fruitless endeavor for control in an uncontrollable environment.

What should be celebrated and found to be beautiful, our differences, are precisely the things ripping us apart.

What’s happened in America, Paris, Belgium, Pakistan, and Turkey are indeed tragedies, but it’s what happens in our every day lives that spark those tragedies.

When you encounter someone who believes differently, looks differently, or lives their life differently, remember that you’re both blazing through our galaxy at 514,000 miles per hour, and by some miracle, you’re both magnificent, exquisite, living beings.

Weep with those who weep. Mourn with those in mourning. Protect the innocent being ridiculed because they’re “different.” Don’t turn a blind eye to the sea of bodies.

Stop hurting one another–especially with silence towards hate and injustice.

Safe Spaces

It occurred to me at some point along my journey that people need safe spaces–places where they’re able to remove their mask and be fully themselves.

Living in the wilderness of north eastern Minnesota has its perks. The wildlife is beyond incredible! This morning I was gazing out my picture window watching the deer feeding in my yard. Last spring I got to see a doe, fat and pregnant , quickly followed by two adorable fawns weeks later.

I’ve had the pleasure of watching the momma doe carefully teaching the two fawns. Their cute spotted bodies soon turned to thick, heavy winter coats, and they followed her all winter long.

They’re still with her today, but now one of them has turned a majestic golden color, and has sprouted a couple of antler buds on his head. They’re beautiful creatures.

One thing caught my attention this morning, though. As I watched them grazing, I noticed them flinching almost continually.

My mind began to wander, and I played out the life of a deer in my head.

How terrible it must be to have to constantly look around for danger! My two dogs are occasionally part of that problem by chasing them around, but there are also wolves, coyotes, bears, hunters, cars… things much more dangerous than my two yippy pups.

A deer’s entire existence is laced in fear, but they always have a fallback.

Without hesitation, anytime I’ve seen a deer get spooked, it immediately retreats to the cover of the forest–to its safe space.

Like the deer, we’re hardwired to seek out these safe spaces.

Some of us may find our safe spaces among a group of friends or family, at home, in church, in a Facebook group, at work or school, around like-minded people, or somewhere else.

This is why we find it so disturbing, like a punch to the gut, when tragedy strikes. When events like the Orlando shooting, Columbine, Aurora, Paris, 9/11, and the OKC bombing happen, it ushers in chaos; our “safe spaces” have been breached, and we feel compromised.

It’s easy to want to point fingers, too. Attention is quickly turned away from the victims and placed on things like guns, “gay agenda,” or worse, blanketing entire groups of people as suspects.

Of course extremists like the KKK, ISIS, and the like exist, but we have to be cautious when identifying them. Just because someone identifies as a person of the Muslim faith, it doesn’t make them a terrorist.

It’s not about them anyway.

The response your experiencing is because a safe space has been invaded, and the reminder of exposure has been brought to your attention. Just as the deer wandering through my yard have the impulse to run, so do we.

Instead of defaulting to a fear-based reaction and getting riled up, I’d like to encourage you to recuse yourself from the situation by retreating to your own safe spaces.

It’s okay to separate yourself from tragedy. It’s okay to escape to places where you’ll be loved. It’s okay to only surround yourself with those you trust the most.

It hurts to see safe spaces be invaded. Those killed in Orlando thought they were in a safe space with like-minded people. Students of Columbine were safe at school. Folks at the Twin Towers were just going about their daily routines at work.

We’re left with painful memories. We’re left scared, feeling helpless and vulnerable.

But don’t make the mistake of hurting others in your grief. Please remember that the victims have friends and family who need your love and support. Remember that the victims aren’t the problem. Remember that the suspects have loved ones who may be grieving.

Remember that placing the attention where it doesn’t belong may only make things worse. Remember that reacting in fear is less powerful than responding with love and kindness.

Remember you have safe spaces to run to, and either get alone or be surrounded by loved ones. Remember that everyone else around you is also acutely aware that they’re also exposed.

Remember that you are a safe space for someone else. Gather up your babies, hold your friends and lovers closely, find your safe space. Remember hate can be overcome with love. Remember that.

Fear Is A Bitch.

A friend posed a question for a group of us to think on the other day.

Existential angst. A Western luxury?

My answer to the group was that anxiety isn’t a ‘luxury’ by any means, but it’s certainly prevalent throughout the Western culture.

That got me thinking, “Why is anxiety so common?”

It doesn’t take a genius to figure these things out. The answer to my own question is every bit as common as anxiety itself.

— Fear —

It’s everywhere.

Let’s cover some of today’s fear driven topics:
1. ISIS (interpreted as all Muslims/Syrian refugees) want to destroy America.
2. The Mexicans are going to take over America–“Build a wall!” (I guess the white Canadians are okay)
3. The “gay agenda” is stripping our freedoms, and God is going to destroy America like Sodom and Gomorrah.
4. Transgender people are rapists creeping in bathroom stalls.
5. Believing differently about–or rejecting belief in–God/Jesus could mean eternal torment.
6. The NRA says “Obama wants to confiscate our guns.”
7. Democrats are dictators.
8. Rejecting the Bible, in part or the whole, is blasphemy (but worshiping it is okay).
9. Equality (women in leadership, women as pastors, LGBT marriage/rights, #freethenipple, legalizing immigrants, minimum wage, etc.) will cause civil unrest and lead to the collapse of the economy.
10. Money (do I need to add to this?)
BONUS: 11. Speaking up (giving one’s opinions/thoughts, being true to one’s self) could mean being shunned.

These are just a few fear driven examples, and you undoubtedly were able to think of a few that could be added.

People are so attached to their fears that they will lash out in anger when they’re challenged. Don’t believe me? Pick any one of the above examples and post it on Facebook and see what happens.

When a person’s fear is challenged they’ll react negatively; it’s a coping mechanism–one we’ve been trained to use–and it stirs anxiety.

Why? Control.

Control is how we keep people around us and the masses subjected or how we offer ourselves the illusion of peace.

Let’s go through an exercise and see if what I say is true.

Total acceptance of every word of the Bible as God’s word is required. It’s otherwise seen as opposition to God, and you may be subjecting yourself to destruction of some kind.

Guess what? I disagree with a lot of the Bible.

Afraid of what I just said? Did it cause a reaction inside you?

How about this:
I voted for Bernie Sanders and joined the Democratic party this year.

I have gay friends, and I’m excited when they meet or marry their partners!

One of my favorite Facebook friends is the mother of a beautiful transgender girl, and I wear an “I’ll Go With You” button in support of transgender people (pssst… there may be LGBT people in your family, or you may give birth to them one day).

I sauna naked with my friends–men and women (I don’t with certain people out of respect); I think topless beaches are okay, too. I also support the #freethenipple campaign.

I’m a feminist.

I believe there’s life outside of our planet, and I love science. I believe our planet is millions/billions of years old.

I believe President Obama when he says, “I do not want to take your guns away.”

I think Donald Trump is a deplorable xenophobic, homophobic, misogynistic racist.

I think we should have an open border policy–Mexican and Canadian.

I believe white privilege is an accepted, unspoken American reality that most American’s don’t know exists because they’re either white or privileged.

I don’t believe Jesus was supernatural.

I don’t believe in the “end times.”

I think hell is a made up idea used to control people in order to get them to act or believe a certain way–and it works.

Am I an atheist? Nope, but I have dear friends and family who are, and I won’t EVER try to convert them. I’m not concerned for their eternal outcome.

I swear… a lot.

What kind of responses did that conjure up? Anger? Sadness? Anxiety? #same?

Fear is a bitch.

I want nothing less than to pull the veil away from your eyes to reveal the tangled web, the matrix that exists and its headquarters centered around fear. Fear is not God’s way; it’s man’s way of controlling others.

Think about it. If the news media didn’t report on anything fear related, there wouldn’t be any news today! (Bob Ross’ reruns of “The Joy of Painting” would be a great substitute for those time slots)

Let’s go through one final exercise.

Imagine the entire world, all of it, living in complete unity. I know this can be difficult, so I’ll try to paint the picture.

There is absolute peace–no wars, no fighting, no guns, no bombs stored for a rainy day.

Governments are a bitter memory existing only in history books.

Equality isn’t an ideal held by one group; it’s at the foundation of the entire planet–the standard by which we live. Men and women are equal, racial differences are celebrated, love is love, gender identity is understood, children are fully people. Each person has a “seat at the table,” and “the table” is round.

Religion is accepted everywhere, by all people groups, as “God is Love,” not “I’m right, you’re wrong.” No one is trying to “win souls,” or convert anyone else. Each person’s beliefs, or lack thereof, are respected and honored.

Chasing wealth is silly because money is no longer the pursuit of anyone. Owning more “stuff” and being selfish with possessions is wasteful, extravagant, and boring. Each person is comfortable and content with their lifestyle of simplicity.

Being successful isn’t a selfish pursuit to be “on top.” Success now directly affects each person in the community because they’re counting on each individual to provide for the good of the community based upon their skill set. There are farmers, builders, shippers, cooks, geeks, musicians, actors, doctors, etc. each offering their goods and services for the benefit of all.

When a person’s house burns to the ground, the entire community shows up to rebuild it. While the new house is being constructed, the family is taken in by the community, cared for, and loved.

Life is sacred and honored with the highest regard–all life. Animals aren’t kept in feedlots and treated inhumanely. Bugs aren’t killed with pesticides, or plants with herbicides. Trash isn’t thrown into oceans, rivers, or lakes. In fact, all “trash items” are 100% biodegradable or recyclable because the earth is recognized as a living, breathing thing. Disdain for any form of life is unthinkable.

There aren’t fences, county lines, states, or territorial borders of any kind. All are welcome to come and go wherever they choose. People are welcomed with open arms into every community they visit.

Angst isn’t a continual emotion to be battled. It’s a rare emotion that is quickly relieved by the outpouring of love freely given by the community–shame and bullying don’t exist.

What feelings did that conjure up?

Perhaps there are still feelings of anxiety around what you’ve been taught to fear, such as accepting all religions, equality, or being a tree hugger. If so, it only emphasizes my point about the controlled environment that exists.

Whatever the case may be, this is my dream. It’s a dream of peace. It’s a dream of true love. It’s a dream where necessity consists of community. It’s a dream rid of fear and control.

I want to spend the rest of my life around people who are love-minded and in pursuit of that dream; where being controlled by fear isn’t an option.

I’m choosing my tribe–a tribe of community, love, peace, acceptance, and equality. Are you in my tribe?

UPDATE:

I wrote this post last week, before the shooting in Orlando. My heart is broken over the blatant disregard for life.

I’m also disgusted by the fact that the shooting immediately led to another damned gun debate.

Friends, it’s not about whether or not we have stricter gun laws, although it wouldn’t hurt. The bigger issue is the hate, intolerance, bigotry, and fear that burns inside of some people.

Sadly, not even the worst mass shooting in American history will change the hearts of many. Even More disturbing, religious extremists–Muslim, Christian… pick your poison–will continue to hold tradition in higher regard than the Love they claim that drives them.

Last I checked, Jesus didn’t teach extremism except where love, tolerance, acceptance, and peace were concerned.

#lovewins