Off guard moments

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I get on the bus this morning, my mind present yet far away. The morning is lovely. I think I’m going to watch the sky today. I have a book in my bag that I have loved on for weeks. Reading the last chapter though means saying goodbye and I don’t want to say goodbye. Read More

Friday shots: the thing about strangers

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The thing about strangers is that they are strange. In the way strangeness can only be – uncomfortable. The way of crinkled fabric on tender skin  or sawdust on the tongue.

These people we meet and sit together in rooms to do things together we have never done together before. We bump into them on street corners and in alleyways, in coffee shops and hallways of office buildings. We stand next to them in elevators and on escalators, feeling their breath. Smelling them. Every movement they make intensified in our own body.

We grow taut at the intimacy of various coloured bodies that are all around us. We imagine exactly what is not about these bodies precisely because they are separate from us, not our own. It is easy to do that.

I saw a stranger today. As I do every other day.

He crossed the road at just the same time I did. Our feet hitting the white and black lines in the same single moment. The synchronicity of our steps sounded louder than their separateness.

He smiled. I smiled. It was a moment of recognition. I see you. I see you too.

As I walked away I thought only of his smile. The way it tore into my world and made me warm from the inside. I forgot that he was someone I had never met before. A stranger. Instead I fell into his humanness as he and I pulled away from each other.  He was me even as I was him. And there was nothing strange about that. It was familiar. Like coming home.

Because the thing about strangers is that they are us.

Friday shots: solidarity

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At the end of the day we huddle together. Not for lack of warmth or company but for solidarity. For the common and difference in us.

We have trod the same muddy paths of the day. We sat on rectangular desks in little cubicles in big office buildings that claim to shape the world for the better. But we also met on the roads less travelled of superhero moms and creatives.

I know your pain, just as you know mine. Intimate they are. It doesn’t matter that sometimes we are strangers on a train or our eyes melt into each other across the cold, lucid space that tries to force us apart as we pass each other on the street.

I may not know you but we are from the same tree. And we are standing here together.

How to live in a country

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Today is my birthday.

What is more important though is that my Mom did all the work.

But also that I am here. Here in this land, 6 927 miles from the place I first called home. Here. Far, far away from the savannah grasslands and the unfathomable blue, blue Zambian skies.

There are blue skies here, too. In this city.

Melbourne. She is elegant beyond belief. Yet, she is also shrouded in aloofness…a denial of the mess that lives at the core of her. She doesn’t want you to see so she pushes back so you can behold her from a distance. Always at a distance. Those who blend into her being fall into step with her here. Walking in oblivion and bliss. She rewards those who do not go looking for her mess; who concentrate on her beautiful elegance.

So another birthday reminds me that I am here. In this city, and this country I have called home for the last six years.

In the last ten years I have lived in three different countries. Their boundaries invisible yet so clearly marked. The textures of each unique as they weave in and out of every corner of the defined edges, the demarcations. A history imprinted and collected in a body of people who breathe in the same air, eat the same food and share the same stories that the only way left to be is to form a common identity, a national characteristic.

Each country claims pre-eminence and significance. This is the thing of countries. The shovelling and jostling – it is the thing as it is. Each claims to be special; to hold a people, different and unique.

The truth is, people are pretty much the same everywhere. At the core of us is a beauty and a mess that is universal, which no geographical boundary can hide or erase. This is the point where countries become illusions and delusions. And the fact that I can live in 3 different countries and still be me, with the same old issues proves this point to me.

Here is where the delusion begins: the unconscious belief that somehow we choose where we are born, that somehow we put in an order and God is this big people-making and country-shaping Being who scampers to work at our very specific request of birth country.

No. We are not that brilliant.

Our national heritage is given. It is not earned. It is not chosen. It is not a right nor is it an indication of where you stand in the human devised chain of hierarchy. Contrary to how we express our nationalities, they do not confer any special human abilities on us. As much as we would like to think so, it is anything but.

This fact alone should pump out the dross and bring us to our knees in humility. Yet, humility is the one thing that every country on the face of the earth lacks greatly. I can’t change that. I’m just one small girl who turns a year older today.

I can remind you though that the thing that makes you human in your country is the very thing that makes me human, here, in Australia. And that child in Syria you see on TV, huddling itself in the cold.

And that humanity comes before you are handed paper documents with your name and country on it.

Being human is the number one problem every country in this world is facing. It is the mother of all problems. Not doing it right and well is what has led us to this historically catastrophic point.

I don’t know how you live in your country. But I hope it is with humility; with that acute awareness that your country does not make you any more special than that guy down the road in another country. I hope this awareness fills you with gratitude for things you have. The things given: life, God and home. I hope you don’t shy away from the mess that lives at the core of you and the country that houses you. But that you face it, head on, with grace and compassion. I hope you will offer the same to others. And I hope you teach your children to do the same.

I hope you pay attention to yourself. To your humanity and everyone else’s.

As Socrates reminds us, our humanity is not given to us by virtue of belonging to a biological species; it is something we rise to. And this is how you live in a country.

May we all rise to the occasion.

 

 

The pledge

Way of the heart

The world is hurting.

I know this because I am right in the midst of it. Just like you.

Sometimes I stay up at night listening to the wind. And the voices it carries. There are cries and sirens and I wonder about the people connected to those sounds. And other times, there is this surreal stillness. The night is silent. Everything quiet. Breathing. Alive. Well.

Much of the pain of the world is behind closed doors. In people’s houses. In their living rooms and bedrooms. In their hearts and minds. We all share in that.

But then, every so often we are catapulted into the open wounds of the world. Into those parts of her that no longer make sense. Where the whole humanity thing is suspended in a timeless vacuum. Some of the those parts are falling apart at the seams, coming undone, bleeding like that is the only thing left to do.

Syria comes to mind. The Central African Republic, Yemen, Sudan…India.

See, humanity’s wellbeing…it matters to me. It matters greatly.

I am invested in it. Deeply so. I wish I had the eloquent words that would explain this to you…in leaps and bounds right to the core of you. That you wouldn’t question me. That you wouldn’t disregard my regard. That you wouldn’t think me crazy. That you wouldn’t shoot me down.

But there are no words.

However, I have faith in you dear reader. That even though you might not fully understand the pieces of my heart, you will still let me exist. That you will still show up with me in the world.  That you will let me make this pledge:

I will make it brighter. Wherever I step into. Wherever I speak my words into. I will make it brighter for someone else.

I tried to hide from my responsibility.

I hid from you. From the words. From myself.

I didn’t want to overwhelm you. So I went in search of a rational explanation for the words I weave together. The words I send out into the world. The words I leave in your bosom.

There is none. No rational explanation.

And so here I am. I will just be. And I need you to just be. And maybe in our just being we can do something about the hurting world.

We can notice the pain. We can notice the indifference. We can notice the apathy. And we can move away from that. From building walls to protect the happiness of some from the misery of others.

We can learn to practice empathy. To love like it is the only thing we were created to do. To find our humanity and to warmly extend to someone else.

This is radical.

This will take a lifetime.

But it’s too late for isolationism. It’s too late for pessimism.

The threads that connect us cannot be severed. Flimsy they may seem but they are the wires of life. The blood vessels that pulse beneath the skin of the world linking bodies and souls across time and space. And one day the fate of this our world will be felt by all. At the same time.

It will be beautiful.

It will be disastrous.

But those links will become evident. Undeniable. Raw.

Until then I will make this pledge:

I will make it brighter. Wherever I step into. Wherever I speak my words into. I will make it brighter for someone else. I will be properly human.

First things first

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First things first – this is going to be hard. Sometimes you & I will want to bail out. And we are always free to do so. But the world needs warriors with strong but tender hearts. People who are willing to hold up their torches in the dark so we can see where we are going. So we can bring a little warmth and comfort. So many wounded people out there, so many. And I want to gather all of them together, hold them. Each one, special & rightfully their own self. I want them to be a little less wounded, a little less lonely. That is just how my heart is wired. And I take this responsibility very seriously.

So first things first – we suck at this.

We suck at being human beings. Most of the time. And the sooner we can face this truth in the face, the better for all of us.

There is nothing shameful about it. The only shame exists if we just sit here & pretend this thing don’t matter. If we don’t do what we can.

I was walking around today thinking about what it means to be a human being. Trying to find the perfect words to wrap around you, to entice you with & seal your sweet little hearts to my cause. My feet hurt from all the walking. Then I realised, I didn’t know.

Yes, I said it. I don’t know what it means to be a human being. With all my intellectualism & deep heart knowledge I cannot distil you & me into a wonderful sentence.

I know this though – it’s definitely not some of the things I see in the world. It’s not the unforgivable breach between the rich & poor. It’s not the way the orphans, the children & the widows have no warrior looking out for them. It’s not the way we disregard one another as human beings believing that some are more human than others.

Hell. to. the. no. Being a human being is none of that.

We often forget how interconnected we are. And I don’t mean this in an airy fairy kind of way. But how each person’s presence on the planet has real consequences for another.

We pass each other on streets, in buses, trains, shops. We build things for one another. We sell things to each other. We rub shoulders in queues, on beaches, in parks. We start families together. We fall in love with each other. How can we then be strangers to one another?

There is no strangeness here. We strip that off. Strip it naked. We remember our commonality is stronger. is sacred. And our differences are beautiful, added to be enjoyed & not ridiculed. We start here.

We put away the shame & the fear & the shallowness. We renounce all the ways we don’t know how to be human. I’ll start;

Hello, my name is Sunshine and I used to be a lousy human being.