Love and Wonder

I loved technology when I was a kid. In middle school, I entertained myself for hours by teaching myself HTML code and photo manipulation. While the internet ultimately played an integral part in my addiction, it was also a creative outlet and a tool for inspiring positive change. I started my social media campaign, Human Too, in that same spirit of positivity and I feel incredibly blessed to have creative license in my career as a web content manager. However, the drawback of working with social media platforms is that you actually have to use them.

Sometimes I wonder if there isn’t some element of futility in trying to harness social media for benevolent purposes. The part of me that teeters on the edge of needing a tinfoil hat -but I don’t think is too far off the mark – cynically believes that technology is not only a drug contributing to the achilles’ heel of civilization, but also a means by which the masses can be easily manipulated. That’s some serious 1984 or House of Cards shit, but it’s tough to refute. The difference between me and other cynics is that I still think it’s possible to live a contented and meaningful life in spite of the disillusionment.

When you turn on your TV set or scroll through your newsfeed, it seems as though the world has collectively gone mad. And maybe that’s not far from the truth. The world doesn’t make sense. There is an element of absurdity to the whole concept of human existence. But when you unplug and stop to consider the realm directly outside your window, the picture is likely to stand in stark juxtaposition. Maybe you hear the traffic or the crickets. Maybe you watch your neighbor get the mail or water the garden. Maybe the breeze blows. Maybe someone on the street coughs or waves or speaks indistinctly. And maybe, in that moment, everything is okay. So which version of reality is the most accurate?

If you choose to invest yourself solely in the digital narrative, it’s easy to view the world as an angry, hostile place. And sure, people are angry…but mostly we’re afraid. I can only speak for myself, but my buttons are most easily pushed in terms of my identity as a gay person, a woman, and a police wife. “How will you hurt me? What will you take from me?” These are the questions behind my own personal brand of rage. My fears are immediate and acute and frequently supersede my consideration of my global brothers and sisters. We are all self-preservationists in our anger. We are driven by and united by fear.

All of that is not to say that self-preservation is bad. The instinct to survive is what makes us human. Fear is human. It is merely an observation that we share a common ground.

In a climate saturated with the threat of nuclear war and simmering racial tension, it’s only natural to feel like our existential terror is somehow unique. But millions of people have experienced or are currently experiencing the heaviness of wartime. Millions of people have experienced plagues, famine, natural disaster, genocide, and the collapse of civilization. Millions of people have held their lover and wondered what kind of earth their children were destined to inherit. We have been fearing the end since the beginning. It’s part of the package deal when you occupy this planet.

I used to get very upset by the idea that there is no life after death. I don’t know what I believe anymore, but I think it’s highly likely you simply cease to have consciousness. I believe our energy leaves an imprint on a place. I also believe in the fabric of the Universe – a divine thread connecting all living things – but beyond that, I cannot say for certain.  The only reason the uncertainty bothers me now is because I can’t bear the idea of not seeing my wife. I guess if we don’t have consciousness, we don’t know the difference.

These are heavy thoughts. Perhaps you’re thinking: “What’s the point?” And here’s where the cynics and I diverge. The point is that you are conscious in this moment. The point is that you have the ability to love and to be filled with wonder. Our purpose, in my view, is to love and wonder.

Early in my college career, I spent about five minutes as a philosophy major. Looking back on my notes, I found a page that declared “the meaning of life is awe”. If you can maintain your sense of awe, you have unlocked the secret of living. It’s hard to say how that bit of insight came to me, but I have subscribed to the ideology ever since.

Addiction numbs our consciousness. Our drugs of choice block us from feeling love and wonder. We die prematurely.

There’s a reason Buddhists strive to be “awake”. There’s a reason yoga and meditation advocate for the present moment. The “now” is all we have. It is the only time in which we are able to love and be loved. It is the only time we have to consider the profound and miraculous beauty of our delicate existence. The precariousness of our position is what makes it breathtaking.

I don’t think anything needs to “come next” for this flawed and absurd life to be more than enough. We don’t need to do anything for life to have meaning…we need to simply be. I have often sat by the ocean and reflected sadly on the idea that the dead no longer have the capability to inhale the intoxicating air. It is a gift to experience the wonders of this wild earth. I think the real question is whether we receive it or we reject it.

The activity of appreciating the morning light is not just for poets and painters – it’s for humans. If all I do with the rest of my days is exuberantly behold the sunset and love as much as I can, I have achieved the “it” for which mankind toils. If all I do is celebrate wildflowers, a good meal, clinging rain drops, a shy smile, cool summer grass, and all the other remarkable minutiae…it is enough.

I am sober. I am awake. My being vibrates in the truth of the moment.

The cards are stacked and it’s hard to say how the deck will scatter. I don’t know if anything I do will ultimately make a difference. But I know that my being has purpose. I want my voice to be a whisper in the din: “Wake up”. Don’t die without living. Don’t live without meaning.

The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks

A couple of Fridays ago I was sitting in my grandmother’s living room. She was nursing a cup of coffee and I was downing a Monster energy drink. We gazed out the window and beheld the brown Spring landscape dropping off into tidal water. One might expect there to be a large gap in perspective in our inter-generational gaze but there was none on that particular afternoon. We had been discussing social problems and current affairs with a mutual sense of horror and helplessness.

“What a nice thing to talk about with your poor grandmother,” one might say. There are, of course, happier topics to be discussed but, then again, how can these issues be avoided when we are bombarded with political corruption, war, poverty, pollution and, perhaps worst of all, The Twerk every time we turn on the TV? For a woman whose heart is full of love for her children and grandchildren, the future can look understandably grim.

This leads to the question of how to navigate recovery in today’s troubled world. Anyone – addict or otherwise – might feel like popping a Prozac or thirty after spending five minutes with the newspaper. Or considering the vile amount of garbage littering the beach. Or talking to someone in social services. Or…

Let’s stop there.

These spirals into doom and gloom can be extremely dangerous for the addict/alcoholic (please note that when I use the term addict, I use it to encompass addictions of all kinds – not just drugs). If we’re happy, we use. If we’re sad, we use. If we’re angry, we use. If we’re bored, we use. Any excuse to dump More into the internal bottomless pit.

So how do we not get pulled into the outward negativity and enjoy positive and content lives despite the chaos?

As I frequently say, I can only share what has worked in my experience:

I ask myself “What can I really change?” and the answer is always unequivocally “Me”.

I cannot overhaul Washington, clean the entire ocean, end poverty, cure disease, and establish world peace. But I can make my own world beautiful. I can be the kind of person I’d like to meet. (Sometimes I’m really not, truth be told. Progress not perfection!)

I can plant a garden, adorn my house with flowers, smile at someone in the grocery store, write, take a hundred photographs, or throw around a ball. I can kiss a baby, pet a dog, bake cookies, read poetry, clean out my closet, or stop and notice the stars. I can spend hours with a good coffee and a good friend. I can drive for no reason other than to look for the sake of looking. I can do my best to be a good world citizen and, having done that, accept the world for what it is. I can fill my own space with love.

What’s the best way to get love?

Give it away.

Maybe it sounds corny. Maybe it sounds cliché. Maybe it sounds over simplified. But I swear it works.

When the world seeps into me and taints my spirit it is because I choose to let it. I am not a victim. What I think becomes how I feel.

Obviously I don’t do these things perfectly. Sometimes my spirit feels weary and broken down. However, if I remind myself to choose love and make my own world beautiful, I feel right as rain.

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I’d love to hear some of the ways you choose love and stay positive. Please leave a comment and share.

*The title of this post is a quote from Tennessee Williams. Original source of the graphic is unknown but the credit does not belong to me.