I don't know how to even begin to address this, or if I should, but here goes. This update comes with a trigger warning for self-harm, serious illness, and hate. But also maybe some hope.
My mother is sick. Really sick. She's waiting for another lung operation (she had a double lung transplant six years ago), and last week I learned that a virus is putting that in jeopardy. Her lung capacity is declining and I don't know what's going to happen. I've developed my own cough, which is just a cold of some kind, but because she's immunosuppressed I can't be with her. I've been recording her life story for posterity, and to show to her future grandchildren that she may never meet. I don't understand what the universe looks like without her, and I can't imagine that any offspring of mine wouldn't have the benefit of her love. It seems so incredibly cruel.
Later last week I learned that a close friend took her own life. The news doesn't appear to be public, so I won't share further details, but I'm very sad that she's gone. I'm also sad that I didn't do more to help; I wasn't always there when she reached out and wanted to talk. Unfortunately, I've known many people who have decided to end their lives, and this has been true for all of them. I was busy, and I always wished I could have spent more time with them.
Finally, when I was flying back from a short trip, I learned that a former co-worker, Tess Rothstein, was killed while cycling in SoMa. We weren't friends, but she was an enormously positive presence. And it just seems so wanton; so meaningless. She had so much to offer.
And then, today.
I can't imagine what the families and friends of the people at the two mosques in New Zealand feel like today. There are no words. I just wish them peace and love. It has been hard to think about anything else.
There's a lot to be said about the media-aware way in which it was done, and there's a complicated discussion to be had about the complicity of technology platforms. This is not that piece. Today, all I have to offer is solidarity.
And indeed, if we can't offer solidarity, what is the point in us? What is the point in having a society if we can't be there for each other?
In the aftermath of the atrocity, members of Canadian right-wing communities discussed being "colonized by people they can't relate to". Ignoring the obvious historical irony, and the intentional misuse of the word "colonized", imagine being this scared of people who are different to yourself. It's not human nature; the vast majority of people are inclusive and compassionate. It's petty small-mindedness if it's anything, with a core of terrified racism that I almost pity. It's the same sentiment that had protesters in Charlottesville chanting "the Jews will not replace us". In many ways, it's the same sentiment that has led to Brexit, and Trump, and all the tiny aggressions towards anyone who is not a part of the straight, white, male mainstream.
Last year, I needed to get a DNA test to determine whether I was likely to die of the same incurable illness my mother has. The experience - and the experience of supporting her through this suffering - was clarifying on multiple levels. I've carried grief with me for years, and it is likely to be a part of me forever (as I suspect it is for most people). But grief can be acknowledged; it can guide.
I find joy in people. Life is precious and special, and we should celebrate the time we have, and the time we have with every person in our lives. I heave learned so much from the generosity of people, and I can honestly say that my friends and family make life worth living.
And I find joy in purpose. I want to make the world more peaceful, more inclusive, more empathetic, more kind. I am not arrogant enough to think I can change the world in a big way - but maybe I can nudge it, even if it's only in a small way. There is no purpose in glorifying yourself, or serving your own self-interest alone. I find that to be a morally bankrupt and emotionally hollow ideology (and I have to imagine that its proponents are incredibly lonely). If we can't stand in solidarity with humans, and work to improve every person's life, what are we for? Why are we even here?
I'm not religious; I don't believe in nationalism or patriotism. I'm a person, here to stand in partnership with every other person, regardless of belief or origin. We're all interconnected; we're all interdependent. Even if one were to be a fundamentally selfish person, that connectedness would suggest that helping others, and lifting everybody's quality of life, would be the correct thing to do. It's in all of our interests to work towards peace, inclusion, equality, and kindness. Yet that's not where we're at as a species.
These small, scared people will not win. The sadness will not win.
Being generous, having purpose, working in service of others; the truth is that all of those things make you happier, too. I need to get so much better at this. But it's clear to me that it's the right direction.
Rather than be responsive to hate, fear, or tragedy, I want to be proactive with love, with everything in my work, and everything in my life.