We Have To Start Somewhere: On Michael Brown, Ferguson, And Our Social Duty


[protected-iframe id=”b4e027f8cdb76fdf2e8a27457214b6ee-7369149-65382727″ info=”//instagram.com/p/rsX23xGu0r/embed/” width=”612″ height=”710″ frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no”]

I’m angry. I’m angry that the rights of too many in Ferguson are being egregiously violated. I’m angry that people fear so much that which they don’t understand that some will literally have to pay the price with their own life. I’m angry that Michael Brown was gunned down for walking and existing as a black man. I’m angry that someone who brought so much joy into the lives of so many felt his only option out of his pain was to permanently remove himself from life. I’m angry that hate and ignorance and a foolish devotion to being “right” governs how people treat each other.

I’m angry that love, compassion, kindness, trust, respect, and understanding are not our default priorities, but are last on a long line of other harmful priorities. I’m angry that hate and intolerance have become so matter-of-fact that we hardly blink when they are splayed in front of us.

I don’t know why loving each other seems to be the most foolish pipe dream. I’d settle for tolerating each other as a stop gap for now. It’s strange to me that writing about love and compassion feels braver than writing with snarky adulation about the things I hate and don’t understand. I find that I am far too quick to lay upon judgment than I am to lay upon understanding and empathy. It feels natural to judge and be intolerant than it does to love.

About eight months ago, I attended a lecture in Los Angeles where renowned spiritual teacher, Marianne Williamson, speaks every Monday night. The lecture focused on how, no matter who we are or what role we play in our lives, we are responsible for the aggressive nature of our world. Simply, she said that our violent or negative thoughts toward each other contribute to the negativity of the world as a whole. When we, for example, curse the person who cut us off in traffic earlier that day, we are throwing more wood onto the fire. When we hate and judge others, they are tiny attacks on them, the start of a battle, and those small battles add hate into the pulse of the world.

This lecture made me angry. The guy behind me was kicking my chair and making a lot of noise and I was sour about it. I was prickly as all hell. And I wanted to turn around and punch this guy and I wanted to storm out of the lecture and call bullshit on this whole theory. My tiny insignificant thoughts were contributing to the shitstorm that is the hate in this world? Please.

Yet, as I stayed in the lecture and Marianne explained more, I begun to understand that, if we are all connected, then we are all responsible. In my annoyance at the guy behind me, I felt rage and hate toward him, that tiny battle she lectured about? I was in it. I was at war. We are all called to leave the world a better place than we found it. No matter what career you take on or life path you find yourself walking, your purpose on this planet is to drag yourself through the mud that is the constant barrage of hate and go forth into the small sliver of light. It’s not easy. It demands healing and growth and the growing pains and uncomfortableness that comes with both of those things.

I think that there’s a natural response here to Ferguson and Robin Williams and after the outrage is a feeling of helplessness. There are actual things you can do to help, such as petition government officials and send out the number to a suicide prevention hotline (1-800-273-8255). These are steps to take and important ones to send out.

Beyond that, there is a call here to every single person out there and that is a call for more expansive love and compassion. This is a reminder that we are all connected and we are all in pain and we are all suffering. Some more than others. If you are suffering less right now, give more to who needs it. Give love until you feel you cannot give love anymore. Shower compassion and kindness and be steadfast against the siren call of hate and mistrust.

In times like these, it may be impossible to see the good and the light and the love. It may seem foolish to think those things exist, that there is a bit of light in any of these events. Yet, there always is. And we must trust that there always is. It’s not easy and it feels like a band-aid solution to a systematic problem, but we must start somewhere. We can start by giving more love than feels comfortable, by wearing our hearts not just on our sleeves but on every last inch of our bodies. We can start by choosing to understand instead of choosing to judge. We can start by channeling our anger and our outrage into something productive and loving and worthwhile and important and purposeful.

Because, we all have a purpose here. We all have a reason for being in existence. And, if your only goal in this life is to add love more than you add hate, then you will have left this world in better shape than you found it. Imagine the world we’d live in if that was everyone’s goal. Start now. That is what you can take from suffering and tragedy. That is how you can fight against the helplessness of these events. That is how you can truly change the world and make a difference that matters. Be the light and the love that you currently do not see or feel.