The sad truth is that man’s inhumanity to man still continues to shock me. The shocking thing is that man’s inhumanity to man still continues to sadden me.
And in each instance, each story a scrolling litany of death death death across the bottom of the television screen and the right side of my Facebook page, I have to look away.
I’m glad that I can’t bear it. I’m glad that I can still feel shock, and sadness, and pain. It means that I’ve not yet grown a callus over my heart, or my soul. I’ve not yet hardened myself to all the awful things that life throws at us.
And I don’t want to. Because when that happens, it will mean that I’ll no longer feel anything. Not a thing. Not the anger and the pain that kicks me to my knees, but also not the joy and the hope and the love and the sheer amazement that life contains in all of its bright and breathless moments.
Don’t get me wrong: Hate scares the shit out of me. Especially blind hate, which I loosely define as hating something or someone because you’ve been told to. So you do, with no questions asked. Personal hate, directed at somebody you know for one reason or another, is still bad but not quite as scary. I get that I’m not everybody’s cup of tea, but I don’t think I’ve done anything worth hating me for. But if you hate me without even knowing me; if you hate just the thought of me because of my race, my gender, my religion, or my nationality, that’s just downright wrong.
Hate is scary as hell. Especially when it’s directed at you. I was once on an Israeli bus surrounded by an angry mob in the West Bank. More than two decades later, I can still remember the look in each individual’s eyes. They didn’t know me: It wasn’t personal. But yet, it was nearly as personal as the stakes can go–at least to me. They didn’t know who I was, what I believed, or anything else about me. But it didn’t matter. Their hate was blinding.
Most of us can’t even begin to contemplate whatever feeling it is that drives people to hate like that: to hurt others, whether that other is a puppy, a baby, or a dancer in a nightclub. Hate, it seems, is crippling to us, but not to the one doing the hating. We need to find a way to reverse that; to paralyze the hater and drive the rest of us to action.
In the meantime, while the solution to the violence that’s begat of hate is debated and prayed over and hotly contested on social media, take care of yourself.
Don’t harden your heart. Continue to bleed. Continue to cry. Continue to ache until you pummel the wall with your fists. It’s painful, it’s frustrating, it’s pretty darn futile. But it keeps you human.
Hate hurts, and pain is one of the most visceral emotions. Don’t let your response be withdrawal from the world. Life is a swinging pendulum–you can try to live, safely, in the middle, avoiding the rides up and the rides down. But in your quest to avoid pain, you’ll never experience those moments of unexpected joy and immutable peace, either.
The pink-hued awakening of a new day. The deep stab of love in unexpected moments. The fit of giggles over nothing at all. The serenity of the ocean’s waves.
Wouldn’t cutting yourself off from feeling simply be another kind of death?
If there is an astounding truth in horror and hate and our ability to be cruel beyond imagining to strangers, there is a stronger and quieter truth in the beauty and goodness that surrounds us every moment of every day. Look for it and it’s always there, waiting quietly, patiently… welcoming you home.
©2016 Rachel L. MacAulay All Rights Reserved