The world just got a little darker

A demagogue with the emotional maturity and temperment of a child sits in the Oval Office, wielding the power that comes with the highest office in this nation, but lacking the desire to use that power to improve the quality of life for those less fortunate than him. With a moral code and ethical core that centers himself over everyone else, his only concerns are how he can best enrich himself (and with no concern about the legality of his plans, nor their impact on the lives of the ~330,000,000+citizens of the country he is accountable to).

America’s favorite fictional African-American doctor, who spend decades entertaining some with his humor and wit, while terrorizing others with his predatory, misogynistic behaviors (and simultaneously chastising African-Americans for not being respectable enough)  received a 3-10 year sentence for one of a litany of crimes he committed against scores of women during his time in Hollywood. Even if he is given the full sentence, it is barely a fraction of what he truly deserves. I hope the only time I hear of him again is when it is reported that he died in prison, where he belongs.

Yesterday, on Capitol Hill, a woman spoke about her sexual assault and a nation listened. Recounting the events of a horrific night more than 30 years ago, Dr Christine Ford testified that she feared she was going to be raped by the man who is now within spitting distance of becoming the next judge on the Supreme Court. Fighting against anxiety, she laid bare her soul in front of a group of old, white men whom she knows have no sympathy for the violence she faced (to them, sexually harassing, sexual assaulting, and raping women are rites of passage all boys go through and are behaviors that are intrinsic to all human males). Standing on the shoulders of Anita Hill and countless other women, I suspect Dr Ford knew the male politicians before her were not guided by the pursuit of truth or a desire for justice. Living in a patriarchal society, especially one with the high levels of sexualized violence as we have, it’s probably difficult to not see that men like these hunger for more and ever greater power. More influence. More control over a nation they feel is slipping through their hands. And of course in this specific case, Congress has already established that they don’t care if 45’s SCOTUS nominee is a rapist or not. They won’t lose a single moment’s rest.

Since he became President, it seems like the nation is going through one crisis after another, with no time to rest, relax, on engage in necessary self-care. I’ve felt like that since January of last year. The last week and a half have seemed worse, with people–especially victims and survivors of sexual assault–having difficulty keeping up with breaking news. Not because they are uninterested, but rather because so often the news triggers memories of their assault. On top of that, for many people who use social media as their primary or only way to interact with friends, article after article is being shared and spread and talked about, making it difficult for people to socialize positively and without stress.

Into all of that came a gut punch today. It was as if some great cosmic force enjoys watching us suffer and wants to watch us break, because in addition to everything occurring around the nation, many of my friends and I found out that a dear friend had died. While reading through my Facebook feed is not anxiety inducing or triggering as it is for many other people, I have been a bit on edge lately. Even still, I wasn’t prepared for the ton of bricks that hit me when I just happened to see what I thought was a random post from a friend. As I sat there reading that post, the tears just started flowing and the ability to deal with anything went dormant as fuck. But I couldn’t stay silent. He was my friend and I had to say something, so I did.  And I’m glad because doing so helped me focus not on the extinguishing of a bright, passionate light in the world, but on the fact that that bright, passionate light existed and touched the lives of others:

I…I…I don’t even know what to say. How to process that you’re gone. I do know that the tears running down my face and the sense of loss I feel are very real and put the lie to the belief held by many that online friends “don’t count”.

You very much did count, my friend.

You were one of those voices that I loved hearing from. You were at once both a sincere and passionate voice for justice and a kind, compassionate, generous friend. And while you were almost always ready to smack down bigotry in others, you never believed that you were “done”…. that you somehow evolved to the point where you’d overcome all your prejudices and biases resulting from a lifetime of exposure to toxic socialization every one of us undergoes from birth til death.

Your voice was unique and welcomed in our shared circles.

I’ll never forget how shocked I was initially when you placed a level of trust in me that seemed to come out of nowhere. To my mind it was puzzling. We hadn’t interacted much prior to your friend request, but it became quickly apparent to me that I had somehow gained a significant amount of your trust. You shared with me some very personal stories of things that happened to you, stories of people that you’d encountered in life, and you even shared some of your concerns and fears. Things made more sense when you mentioned that despite our relatively few interactions prior to becoming friends you had read many of my comments on friends’ posts in the past. It’s funny–some people will swear that you can’t know what people think, how they feel, or glean insight into their worldview simply by reading their comments online.

And yet, the basis on which you determined that I was trustworthy was reading my comments online. That realization brought with it the understanding of some commonalities between us.

I just looked at the last conversation we had, back on September fourth. I remember shopping for groceries when I got text from you on Messenger explaining why you hadn’t been online in recent days. But that wasn’t the primary reason you got in touch with me.

No, the main reason was to check up on me bc Hurricane Gordon was barreling its way in the direction of Northwest Florida and you wanted to make sure I had made plans to be safe. You impressed upon me the importance of treating disasters seriously, and I admit, with Gordon I wasn’t terribly worried about its impact on this local area.

Still, you wanted to know if I was going to evacuate and opened your home up to me, and if I was staying, you wanted to make sure I had enough groceries. That really stuck with me. That’s the last memory of you I have:a memory or warmth. Of caring. Of compassion. Of thoughtfulness. Of concern. Sincere, genuine concern.

I wish we could have met in meatspace. You were a bright, shining, spirited, passionate person online….someone with so much to share with others and the world.

I’m sad right now.
Incredibly sad.
Because you’ve been taken from the world when so many vile, disgusting, wretched, reprehensible, abominable people not only continue to survive, but thrive!

It’s not fucking fair.
It really isn’t.

But then, life isn’t fair. It isn’t balanced. It isn’t harmonious. It doesn’t bow to our whims and wishes. It doesn’t keep a ledger of the good and bad things we’ve done so that we can one day be repaid or punished by some unseen, unknowable, undetectable, invisible energy, being, force, power, or entity.

Life…living…reality is not like that.

In fact, as I sit here, with the tears drying upon my face, sorrow dialed down for a moment, I’m reminded that no one should expect life to be fair. We are none of us the center of the universe. And while ” the universe is hostile to life” is true to a certain extent, that too implies some sort of governing force that can experience emotions like hostility and then aims it directly at us. Thinking, feelings, sentient beings feel and experience hostility. The space time continuum does not. Life is neither fair, nor unfair. Neither good, nor bad. It simply is.

And we humans, we who have such short lifespans? In the grand scheme of things, when our lives are not even a blip on the Radar of Eternity, when the stars, planetary alignments, stellar forces, dark matter are not impacted by our presence, what does that mean for us? What does it mean for our role…our purpose for being here if we aren’t really that important?

What it means to me is that we have no purpose here. There is no ultimate meaning for us. There is no objective, absolute answer to “why are we here”. Not one that applies to everyone.

No, we are not here for any special purpose. “What is the meaning of life?” or  “What is our purpose in the universe”  ask the wrong question. It is not life that gives us any meaning or purpose. Our destinies are not charted by the motions of celestial objects that were middle aged when we emerged from caves. Life doesn’t have meaning or purpose for us. It’s the reverse actually: we give our lives meaning. To the extent that we have access to the elements essential to human health and happiness, we get to choose what our lives mean and what, if any, impact we will have.

Where some take life by the horns, feeling entitled to whatever they want, and running roughshod over the less fortunate or less entitled, you looked at that paradigm and said FUCK. THAT. You looked at the world around you and realized you didn’t want to leave it in worse condition than when you came into it. But you also knew that there’s a limit to what one person can do. What you did is take those parameters and worked within them to give your life meaning.

You came to realize that your purpose would not be determined externally, by the universe, but internally, by yourself. You weren’t about to define your life by focusing only on your well being and screw everyone else, thus leaving a trail of wreckage in your wake. You saw the ways in which the your life was made difficult by the choices of others and decided that was not the path for you. You chose a better way. A more scrupulous way. A more honest way. You chose a path in life that was defined in large part by a desire to be the change you wanted to see in the world.

Image of a cat with Ghandi's phrase "be the change you wish to see in the world..." accompanying it
If the world is not to your liking and you wish it were better, more just, more compassionate, or more moral, don’t just push for everyone else to step up their behavior and attitudes, Demand the same from yourself.

None of that means you were perfect or that you coasted through life with ease. None of it means you knew what path you were going to take in life when you burst forth into this world. It just means you made a choice about the kind of person you wanted to be and what role you wanted to play in the world.

Did these thoughts course through your conscious mind? I’ve no idea, but they were evident in your actions and beliefs and the choices you made.

I’m glad you made those choices bc they enabled our lives to intersect. Though you’re no longer here, I suspect you would agree with me when I say that our lives were made better by knowing one another and by caring for one another.

You’re gone now and I feel the waterworks ready to flow again and with them, the sadness. Oh boy, the sadness.

But this time those tears and those feelings are also accompanied by the knowledge that you had a positive impact on the lives of people around you. Including me.

Goodbye my friend.

I love and respect you.

And I will never forget you.

The world just got a little darker

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