What’s so funny ’bout peace, love and understanding?

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Nothing. There’s nothing funny about peace, love and understanding – though it seems that we don’t take them very seriously. I’m not saying that we don’t give them value. We do, we value peace and love and understanding in books and films and television shows, love songs and poems and theater and art and even church, sometimes. [I was brought up Catholic, so while I was constantly being reminded to love my neighbor the church leaders were busy condemning homosexuals and any woman who dared even considering abortion.] But do we take peace, love and understanding seriously? Do we treat it not only as something worthy to put on a poster, but something to aspire to? Do we teach our children, do we encourage ourselves, to put it into practice?

I don’t think we do. Not enough, at least. And I think it’s something that we need. I think it’s something we should be reminded of on a daily basis. Because we do think peace and love and understanding are valuable. Quite valuable. Songs and poems and Hollywood movies aside – we revere the likes of Jesus, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Dr. Martin Luther King. They are heroes, icons, people to learn from, examples of lives to aspire to. And I know I’m simplifying all of this, but these people (and many others like them) are so remembered because they embodied peace and love and understanding. In a world of violence they preached and practiced non-violence. Surrounded by enemies, they not only sought to understand them but they loved them. It is right and good that we value these amazing people and in so doing it is right and good that we celebrate their values. But we should also honor them and ourselves by following their lead. Each and every one of us. Each and every day.

I know it is hard. It’s extremely hard to embrace peace and love and understanding. It’s hard for me and my life is easy: I’m healthy; I live in the United States; I have a job (for now); and I’m a white male.  And I’m trying. Yet despite these factors it is very hard for me to love those with no love for me. It is very hard for me to try to understand people with views and ideals contrary to mine. It is very hard for me to work towards peace when I want to fight, to argue, to prove my point, to show that I am right, when I meet with resistance from others. If it’s hard for me, how hard must it be for those that don’t have it easy: those who are oppressed, discriminated against, the victims of violence and poverty? How hard must it be for those people to live by these ideals?

There’s a video in heavy circulation of Malala Yousafzai being interviewed by Jon Stewart.  She’s a 16 years old Pakistani woman who shot in the head by the Taliban because she spoke out for women’s right to be educated. She lived. And she still fights. What does she think about peace, love and understanding? She tells Jon Stewart that we must not fight our enemies with violence, we must fight them with peace, dialogue and education. Wow. Wow. This is a 16 year old. This is a woman oppressed. This is a woman who was nearly killed. And yet, there it is: peace and love and understanding. And more. Is there any doubt why she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize?

While watching the interview I couldn’t help but wonder if I was witnessing the early years of a future Mother Teresa or Dr. King or Gandhi. I hope that all forms of media will help us to see that this woman is a hero for all the right reasons and that we can and should strive to be more like her. I hope our children see that. I hope we all do. [I tried to embed the video here, alas my technical skills are lacking. Please click on “video” above and see for yourself.]

Please also check out the Malala Fund, an organization created to help girls in the developing world reach their true potential through education.

 

 

 

Good Advice

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Have you ever wondered, “What’s wrong with our world?”

What about, “What can we do to make it better?”

If you have so wondered, you should watch Tom Shadyac‘s documentary “I AM” . Click the hyper-link in the previous sentence or find it on NETFLIX.

If you haven’t … watch it twice.

Really.

It’s intelligent, moving, inspirational and, dare I say, important.

That’s all I’m going to say about it.

For now.

But I will add the following quote, which isn’t from the movie, but is thematically linked.

“The ‘norm’ for humanity is love.
Brutality is an aberration.
We are not sinners by nature.
We learn to be bad.
We are taught to stray from our good paths.
We are made to be crazy by other people who are also crazy and who draw for us a map of the world which is ugly, negative, fearful, and crazy.”

Jack D. Forbes, Columbus and Other Cannibals

(thank you BLACKOLOGY101 for setting out this quote)

Oh deer

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Last Tuesday night while driving through a section Maryland where suburban sprawl hasn’t completely spoiled the countryside I spotted a small herd of deer – herd sounds so large, it was really just a group of three or four – hanging about on the side of the road.  When I came to a full stop I locked eyes with a beautiful doe hanging in the amber light of the moon. One of her buddies looked my way but the others seemed completely uninterested in my existence. I took a picture with my aged iPhone, though the limited lighting and lack of flash resulted in hardly anything at all:

darkdeer

With the helpful polarization option on InstaGram however, this is what I got:

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I call it, “Ghost Deer” (not to be confused with the ghost deer of the Seneca Army Depot)

The picture is a little spooky. When I consider that the evening before I watched a deer get hit by a car, the picture seems a little more spooky.  And if I acknowledge that approximately 5 minutes after I took this photo I witnessed another deer take her final breaths, the photograph is whole lot spookier.

The evening prior I watched two deer dart across the highway. I noticed them, apparently, at the same time as the driver who hit the slow one. “Wow, look at those ….oh NO!” and the doe was wrapping up her violent and awkward tumble to the far right lane. The driver of the offending car seemed fine, the offended doe less so. Much less so. I hoped that she was able to shake it off and vault triumphantly into the brush. Maybe she did. And while I’m doling out maybes, maybe she is the very deer I photographed the next evening. And maybe, just maybe, what she was thinking that next evening while we locked eyes was, “See? I’m totally fine. “Deer” means “resilient” in Latin.”  I don’t remember much from my two years of Latin, but I’m pretty sure the deer has it wrong. I’m also pretty sure that Latin is not the only thing in this story that’s dead.

Back to Tuesday night. I took the photo, bid farewell to the herd, and drove away. Five minutes later, as I prepared to turn into campus I noticed an emergency truck, lights silently flashing, blocking the turning lane.  I pulled around and saw the driver standing in the headlights. I wish that I had looked at his face: did he show any hint of compassion or wonder or frustration? But I was too busy registering what he was looking at: a beautiful doe stretched out in the turning lane, her head resting uncomfortably on the curb. She was alive, but not for long: the position of her body, the bloody trail, her big, beautiful dark and ever darkening eyes made that clear. I moved on, pulled into campus, retreated to my room and prepared for bed. A few moments later I heard the gun shot.

Three deer encounters on two evenings. One creepy photo. Two dead animals. What did it mean? I recounted the events to Katherine. She was unconvinced that I had photographed an actual ghost deer (if there’s an app for that it’s not on my ancient iPhone 3GS), she offered, however, that perhaps my seeing so many deer (and so many female deer) in so short a time was a sign, a portent. So I looked into it and thanks to Google I found much on the symbology of deer.

From the site (that has nothing to do with picking up women at bars), Whats-Your-Sign.Com:

“The deer is linked to the arts, specifically poetry and music in ancient Celtic animal lore due to its graceful form.”

“The deer (particularly the doe, females) has the capacity for infinite generosity. Their heart rhythms pulse in soft waves of kindness. Match that graciousness by offering your trust to her. She will reward you by leading you to the most powerful spiritual medicine you can fathom.”

As set forth by Spirit Animals and Animal Totems,

“The meanings associated with deer combine both soft, gentle qualities with strength and determination:

  • Gentleness
  • Ability to move through life and obstacles with grace
  • Being in touch with inner child, innocence
  • Being sensitive and intuitive
  • Vigilance, ability to change directions quickly
  • Magical ability to regenerate, being in touch with life’s mysteries”

Beautiful. Not at all surprising, but beautiful.

Does any of this information elucidate my two evening deer-extravaganza? Was the universe conspiring to show me deer, to make me consider the deer? I’m not sure exactly what I believe, but I’m pretty certain the Universe is too busy to send me a personal message. I do know that these encounters affected me, stayed with me, gave me pause, compelled me to think on them and to write this entry. Maybe that means the deer is my animal totem.

According to a brief yet informative video at Whats-Your-Sign.Com an animal totem expresses an “affinity,  affiliation or connection to an animal,” and offers “messages of pure intent … pure information, guidance.”  Further, according to the video, the best way to connect to and strengthen one’s bond with their animal totem is “through observation, contemplation and meditation.”  I observed, I contemplated … arguably I’ve meditated on this animal and have even meditated on “what is my animal totem?”((1)) Does that mean the deer is my totem animal? I have the artist thing and the Irish heritage thing and the inner child thing but one would hardly call my form graceful.  Physically I’m much more badger-like ((ibid)). But I am striving for grace at least in behavior. As for my generosity, it is too, too far from infinite, but I am working to change that. Is that enough? Is that what this is all about? Is the deer my animal totem?

I don’t know. I’ll keep thinking on it, I’ll keep noticing. I do hope that I see more deer while I’m staying in Maryland. And, if the Universe is listening, I would very much prefer to encounter them whilst all parties involved are alive and happy and not in the middle of the road waiting for death. Which begs a final question: if the Universe feels that the deer is my animal totem, why does it insist on me seeing them die?

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((1)) A couple of days before meeting the deer my friend Andrus was trying to assign me a spirit animal. She was formerly of the belief that my spirit animal is a badger but is presently unsure. The badger is strongly affiliated with focus, tenacity and persistence – and as it has taken me a week to get this far in drafting this post, the badger may not be the right fit.