Our Apathy Bled Out: on Paris

I was shocked and devastated to hear of the bombings in Paris. And today, as I reflect on the tragic events and the overwhelming worldwide reaction of shock, grief, and a show of support, I cannot help but notice our collective silence surrounding similar events in other parts of the world.

I do wonder why I and many others were not as shocked and devastated by the bombings in Lebanon and Turkey. Why did world leaders not hold press conferences or Facebook turn our pictures into the flags of each country in shambles? Why did we not amplify our shock and anger and grief through every channel of social media available to us? Why did we not stand in solidarity when faced with the reality that other countries have also been bathed in the blood of those targeted in similar acts of terror?

Surely, among ourselves we can get to the bottom of this inconsistency within the human spirit. Certainly it is not mere ignorance which has dictated our passive response to other events of equally startling and horrific proportions.

Could it be that we are weary of headlines from war torn countries and have, thus, become calloused to the grievous acts of violence inflicted upon our brothers and sisters in the Middle East? Or perhaps we are so caught up in our own nation’s entangled history – so accustomed to justifying the violence our own people have inflicted – that we do not even identify the victims of attacks in the Middle East as our “brothers and sisters” and therefore, no longer mourn the atrocity of a rising death toll in countries like Lebanon and Turkey.

Maybe we have grown so comfortable with gross generalizations of people groups that we have, therefore, pinned all of our nation’s trauma on one pocket of the world and adopted an “eye for an eye” mentality which makes us numb to any tragedy that transpires in that region of the world. Maybe we have muted shades of grey and instead, filtered the world into lenses of black and white in which some people groups are inherently “good” and others are inherently “bad.” And in doing so, we have carefully measured our internal reactions to gross miscarriages of justice and blatant terrorism on soil other than our own because we have pre-determined who is worthy of our compassion and who must categorically remain an “enemy,” lest our view of the world break down.

And to be blunt, what happened in Paris fucked up our worldview.

Our sub-categorizations of humanity have cost us our empathy. And our seats of privilege have weakened our compassion. We have numbed our senses and in turn, our sensibilities, and continue to exist as if the earth is not running with the blood of innocent and unsuspecting sacrifices on the altar of human hatred.

We thought we could casually ignore the devastation of mass murders around the world. We thought that under the guise of warfare, those killings somehow were to be expected. And in the midst of our mind-numbing expectation of death and dying, we were completely blindsided by the blood which spilled in the streets of Paris.

Maybe we do not have words for the heaviness we perpetually feel as we read headlines of brutality from all over the world. It is possible that our minds and bodies and hearts can no longer contain the trauma or death and dying – of the hatred running rampant in the world in which we live. Perhaps we are a peoples who long for justice and yet grow weary with each new wave of darkness which threatens to extinguish the light of hope we so cautiously carry within ourselves.

But something broke our collective resolve. Something got through to our numb and calloused approach to much of the devastation throughout the world.

Paris – “the city of love” – is a place which represented an idealistic and peaceful state of being. To many, the city is confined only to images of the Eiffel Tower and the whimsy of imagination. Paris is a city that has been romanticized in countless forms of literature and art.

And amidst a world ravaged by war, Paris stood as an icon of endurance and innocence – a beacon of hope and cultural preservation within a world of ruins. And now Paris is running in blood.

We are shocked. We are devastated. And our worldview is being peeled back in layers. Someone didn’t play by the rules. Someone didn’t care about our safe and sacred spaces. And in confronting that brutality, we also have to confront the notion that we sanctioned off some places where violence was acceptable to our fragile minds and designated other spaces as sanctuaries of the earth.

We must consider the injustices within ourselves that contribute to a world where a bombing in Paris shocks us but a bombing in Beirut goes unnoticed by mass media. We must search within ourselves to see which ideas of humanity have incapacitated us to mourn for atrocities in all parts of the world. 

A friend shared this quote with me today:

This is what terrorism is occupied with as well: making real, palpable violence surface in opposition to the invisible violence of security.” – Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation

So perhaps now, we must allow ourselves to merely sit in the heaviness and darkness of this single tragedy – recognizing that this is not just an isolated event. Perhaps now is the time to consider our own passivity and grieve our role in the perilous divides within the human spirit. How do our experiences of security contribute to our lack of empathy for those who are attacked in spaces which appear to be less “safe” and “secure” than Paris? And why does an attack in Paris trigger so much more fear and empathy from us than an attack in the Middle East?

These are heavy questions. Death is devastating. Our worldview is fractured. And we are at a loss. But we have not lost our resolve. So even as we sit with these heavy questions, in the face of such darkness, may our hope and love outweigh our apathy and hatred. And in our tears and prayers for Paris, may we also weep and pray for those whose city name was never shouted in remembrance. 

diamonds in the desert


For the one who I feel I’ve known since before the foundation of time…I’m always cheering you on. Love you, Luke-aa.

—————————-

Light dweller,

you reside in the light

and you cannot leave it.
you are the poetry of the earth

rising like rays

which warm each living thing.
there is strength in your heart

and love in your breath

and every gentle sigh

is a cascading of wisdom,

of healing

falling from your holy lips.
man of dust and clay

rising from generations

sojourning on to the nations

with a promise

a hope

a reckoning,
do not grow weary –

for water will be sent to refresh

your parched spirit

bread to fill up the hunger

of your majestic soul
and your beautiful mind

will feast on the visions

of angels

as you rest by quiet waters.
oh know

even Jacob and all his dreaming

couldn’t light a candle

to all the waking from within

all the dreaming into life

inside your chest.
sing, oh Bethlehem

oh star brightly shining 

for Love is here

falling out of your eyes

like diamonds in the desert;
hush now, restless dreamer

your trail is marked

by miracles.

a love letter

Dear one,

Language has tried to possess you. Don’t let it.

You are not defined by the labels which attempt to explain or confine you.

You are the rhythm and cadence of every step your body has ever weathered, the majestic wonder of each syllable of your brave and beautiful name.

You are the fulfillment of every dream your heart has taken hold of – the melody of every song your soul has ever danced to, in both joy and sorrow.

You are light dancing like fire in eyes aglow with hope and merriment and adoration, awakened by the power of human connection and love and divine inspiration.

You are both dawn and dusk – a waking up and a coming to rest.

You are the ocean in its vast and breathtaking wonderment and you are the desert in its burning and terrifying splendor.

You are the immensity of the sky, the elusivity of the wind, the majesty of a cascading waterfall.

Do not crawl into the boxes or hide beneath the labels the world has constructed to keep you from experiencing your fullness, you captivating creature of light.

You are more than language, more than moments, more than the steady pulsing of your body’s own beating drum.

Grow up and into wonder, dear heart. You are braver than you realize and more beautiful than you could ever know.

And amidst the chaos of constructs which seek to capture your senses and keep you from light, may this Love letter find you breathing deeply – basking in the beauty of a Love which both holds and frees you to be all that you are – which fills and floods you until you overflow the earth with joy.

-to all the hearts in mending

break before we mend (on grieving)

I’m not the best at following rules, but there are some things in life that I wish were a bit more clear-cut. In recent days of watching friends grieve and after a season of much personal sorrow, I’m learning that grief doesn’t play by any rules. And through many failed attempts, I’ve learned that we cannot propel ourselves into any particular emotional or mental state beyond the one in which we most naturally exist, especially in seasons of grieving. 

For those of us who have managed to avoid or outrun the intensity of our emotions for some time, news flash: those bottled up feelings tend to catch up with us by inflicting physical consequences which eventually force us to uncover the source of our emotional – and now physical – strife. This type of reaction may take us by surprise but the reality is, sometimes we aren’t cued into our unprocessed trauma and grief until our body tells us it has had enough.

The hard truth is this: grief does not have a prescription or an expiration date. It can neither be dictated to us or medicated with definitive hows and whys nor given a cut off date. Grief is its own dictator and it dictates the actions and behaviors of so many of us in different seasons of our lives. It is wild and unpredictable and almost always startles us with its raw intensity. 

I have noticed that some people try to comfort those grieving by commenting on how strong or brave they are in the process. But to grieve is not to be strong or brave or heroic; to grieve is merely to be human. 

I used to think strength was the equivalent of never crying and never being emotionally affected by traumatic events. I was wrong. Strength is not measured by our ability or capacity to withhold or suppress emotion but by our willingness to navigate the dark depths of feelings which we feel too weak to endure. And while grief does not necessitate strength, I have found that the toil of grieving almost always produces strength. 

The strength produced through grief is not one which boasts an immunity to pain, but rather, it is a fierce and beautiful inner strength built on a foundation of awareness and recognition of our fragility and emotional sensitivity as humans. And I’m learning that by sitting in that place and giving in to the tears and the fears and in some cases, being rendered motionless by the weight of our aching, we are actually aligning and caring for ourselves in the most healthy way possible. 

So here are just a few things to keep in mind when we are grieving or walking with others who are neck deep in grief:

It is okay to be incapacitated by emotion and sit in the heaviness and pain of it instead of trying to push it down or propel ourselves forward.

It is okay to feel powerless to make even the simplest decisions.

It is okay to put down the phone and not feel guilty about the texts and calls that are adding up because we merely lack the emotional energy necessary to engage with those who are well-intentioned with their words and calls.

It is okay to ask for help and it is okay not to know what to ask for.

It is okay to admit that many of our questions have hollow and empty answers and that life seems far less colorful than before and that we can’t even consider the light at the tunnel without first wading through the long, defeating darkness.

It is okay if our grief consumes us and it is okay if our grief comes in waves – unexpected and blinding and terrifying – and ebs and flows, broken up by happy moments which give us life.

Our ability to experience and express emotion is what distinguishes us from any other living being. There is beauty in the breaking, but we must break before we mend. Mending takes time and the love of dear ones who are willing to sit with us in the hard silences and meet our needs even when we don’t realize what those needs are. Mending is a process and not always a point of arriving and it is so important to have grace with ourselves (when we are the ones grieving) and grace with others (when we are supporting those grieving) as we navigate the messy process.

Life is a funny melting pot of depths and heights. Sometimes we are the broken-hearted. And sometimes we are the ones who have the privilege and honor of loving broken hearts back to life. But in either case, grief is a messy and scary experience and connection and love and grace are the only things worthy of sustaining us through the seemingly never-ending and always present darkness.