The Courage to Make a Difference.

I have always considered the wars going on in our world. I live very far away from them but I know that they affect all of us, regardless. I watch the news shows occasionally, but to be honest, I don't always trust it. There is also the fact that I don't like constant negative spin by a lot of the media channels and thirdly, it does have a way of making me feel helpless. No one likes feeling helpless.

However, there is something about a photograph that can get into my system and never leave it. There is something true, something poignant. A moment captured, a reality revealed. When I was younger, I wanted to be a photojournalist. I had photos that I had torn out of magazines on my walls. Images that had captured me. My friend once told me as a teenager that I liked to be depressed because of the few images hanging there of children who were poverty stricken and maybe starving in Africa. It wasn't that I liked to be depressed, it was that I thought those children were beautiful and strong and deserved to be seen. It was a reminder of life and death and the human spirit.

I am and always have been a bleeding heart. I have witnessed the human condition since I was a child and wanted to help, protect and make people feel better. These are parts of me that are as real as the blood that flows through my veins. But I'm not a person who denies reality and I also have my dark side, shyness, anger and fear, to name a few of the demons that I've struggled with.

Recently, in this latest war that we are involved in, my mind was captured by James Foley, the first of the three recent beheadings by ISIS militants. And since then, Steven Sotloff and David Haines; although my attention has backed off because of a busy life and, honestly, just not wanting to be fixated on something that I can't control or know how to help. I'm guessing I'm not alone in these feelings.

My heart goes out to these men's families. These men who were only trying to help to better this world, to help the displaced citizens of that region. And when you start thinking of all of these displaced citizens and the life they are living, the heart cannot help but take a pause in it's beating for the uncertainty of how to handle so much? I saw recently some news coverage of food being dropped to people living in a camp and some of the refugees being urgently picked up by these rescuers who were accompanied by a journalist covering the story. All of them very much in danger of losing their lives by the ISIS extremists while doing so. 

Some would say, don't go there. I say, how can you tell someone not to go there when this cause is beating their very hearts? And how could it not? These images of what is going on are so much larger than any one of us. Lynsey Addario, a New York times photojournalist, recently described the importance of what she does and how she will do it again, despite having been kidnapped twice already by terrorists. "I will cover another war. I’m sure I will. It’s what I do. It’s important to show people what’s happening. We have a unique access to what unfolds on the ground that helps our policymakers decide how to treat certain issues."

Photo by Lynsey Addario for the New York Times. Click for more pictures and story. 

To quote Martin Luther King Jr., "Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality." The spiderweb of humanity, if you will.

I know why these people are there. It haunts them. And they have the courage to live what they are passionate about. I have only just begun to live this way, living my passions without fear. I have always been plagued by fears, since my childhood. But if I had not lived with fear as if it were a physical thing, at times, I may be one of these people putting my life in danger in a foreign land. And perhaps that was not my path. 

I quoted yesterday the quote by Rilke that says, “Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”

Wow. How to tie that into this story. Because when I posted it, I was thinking...'if only that were true' of what is going on in the middle east. And maybe it is. But even though I believe that everything can be figured out if the right people put their heads and hearts to it together, this is a problem that is quite large and difficult to maneuver. That quote resonates true for me on a smaller scale of our personal dilemmas with people in our lives. When placing those daily life images in our minds next to these images of war torn, starving and displaced individuals, one cannot help but think that we really need to step up to our non-survival problems in a bigger way. In our cases, "the only thing left to fear is fear itself." In cases where you are literally unsure of your minute to minute can fear not be touched, breathed, lived constantly? It seems like it could make a person go mad to have such a companion as constant fear.

Maybe that's how these ISIS people grew up, maybe they were violently abused or brainwashed, or something... I want to believe that these people doing these atrocious things could have been good if only it had been different. Actually, I do believe that. If they were born into a loving family, with loving belief systems, etc... etc...or exposed even at a later age to a different way. But they weren't. They are who they are now because of their experience, you are who you are because of yours, I am who I am because of mine. Yes, there is a core part of who we are, but if you grow up being treated like an animal, doesn't some of that animalistic behavior become who you are?

So now what?

I can only think to do my best and try to keep lifting myself and others up. One last quote, "to love. to be loved. to never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. to seek joy in the saddest places. to pursue beauty to its lair. to never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. to respect strength, never power. above all, to watch. to try and understand. and never, never to forget." ~ arundhati roy



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