On Fear and Love

Photo by Nick Kenrick
Photo by Nick Kenrick

I’ve not posted here for a while. I had lost my way. Sometimes the only thing to do is to retreat into your shell, hide away, let the storms of fear and despair pass. Maybe I’m still lost, but it helps to turn up to a blank page, to coax the swirl of words inside to organise themselves into a pattern I can make sense of. Like a ribbon threaded through beads of thoughts.

I wonder sometimes, if what drives me to this place of quiet is the world, or if it is me. I’ve been told before I feel too much, think too deeply. They say, to harden yourself is to protect yourself. I don’t believe that. To feel is to stay human, to harbour hope for change. I’d rather that than fall into a well of cynicism. Still, it’s easy to lose perspective, to magnify our fears through the lens of individual realities and passions.

But oh, how dark the world feels. This week alone, within the narrow sphere of my awareness – who knows what horrors those in war-torn countries, or who have fled their homes are enduring – there has been the murder of 49 people at the LGBT club in Florida, the killing of Christina Grimmie, the rising tensions and vitriol on both campaign sides of the EU referendum, the hooliganism at Euro 2016 where there could be so much joy, the murder of a French policemen and his wife in their home, and the savage attack on Jo Cox MP outside her constituency surgery.

Photo by Maarit Lundbäck
Photo by Maarit Lundbäck

It reminds me of the Warsan Shire poem:

‘Later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered

I didn’t know Jo Cox, not personally, although I wish I had. Like Berta Cáceres, she was an activist killed for her beliefs in the most brutal way, in a place where she should have been safe. It’s more than that though. I’ve been trying to understand why her death has left me with such a deep welt of sadness. It’s because she was a young mother. A woman full of compassion who lit the way. But her death also jolts me from my cosy blanket of cynicism, my creeping lack of faith in politicians and the agency of politics. Jo’s story reminded me about the deep culture of public service in this country, how inside the bubble of Westminster, there is waste and egos, but also passion, integrity and determination. I’m sorry I had forgotten.

Photo by Nick Kenrick
Photo by Nick Kenrick

It’s easy in the day of social media to let our perceptions be distorted, to allow single voices to be amplified, to forget about the silent ones. We build our tribes and shore up our prejudices pridefully. It’s easy to stick fast to our own viewpoints, to focus on projecting our own ideas rather than listening and trying to seek out complexity. The world may feel dark, but the good is always there. We see in the outpouring of grief for Jo Cox, for Florida, that there are millions who mourn with us, who carry out acts of kindness that we don’t see or celebrate, but which have ripple effects beyond what we perceive.

I will take hope and compassion over fear and division any day. I will take words over weapons. I will take quiet voices over the ones which shout the loudest. And increasingly, I’ll take big labels over little ones. My religion, my sexuality, my nationality, my skin colour, my politics and my life choices are all secondary to my humanity and our collective right to be safe and build our futures.


4 thoughts on “On Fear and Love

  1. As always, I can relate to so much that you’ve said. (And as always, your thoughts are beautifully spoken!) I too let things get me down and send me to the “quiet” place you speak of–I usually call it a turning inward or withdrawing.

    I love that poem…it hits exactly on the feeling of overwhelm from all the pain and suffering we hear of, as well as that we don’t hear of, in the world. My reaction is frequently one of not just grief but grief mingled with guilt about how I can possibly be justified in enjoying things in life when so many people are suffering. It’s a continual path of what my friend calls (adapting the Rilke quote) “living the question”…I try to stay open to ways I can help others in need and to the feelings of grief for their suffering even as I enjoy the pleasures and blessings I’ve been granted in my life.

    Like you said, we can choose to look at positives like hope and compassion–without ignoring the sadness and pain or explaining it away with simple, prejudiced labels and trite so-called answers. We can look for the rainbows in the rain and enjoy the sound of the thunder while it booms over us. Life is not all darkness and pain; it is also light and joy. It’s hard to accept both, but it’s what I’m trying to learn to do.

    It helps to know I’m not alone on this path! :-)

    1. I often try and use our privilege in discussions about being generous in kind and in spirit to others. It’s funny how many don’t even realise how privileged they are. I return to that time and time again, how our fortunes are set almost by accident of who we are born to, and where. Thank you, for making me not feel alone. Sometimes, retreating into quiet doesn’t help at all. It’s why grieving in public, with flowers and memorials, so alien to some, seems so natural to me. It gives me hope, that togetherness. And yes, yore right about the balance, the rainbows and the rain. They go hand in hand xx

  2. You and I seem very much in the same place these days. I suppose it’s an abundance of empathy. I wonder, though, how so many seem to lack that critical ingredient that the rest of us who have it must suffer so much.

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