On Fear and Love

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

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

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.


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