Tuesday, 6 June 2017

More hugs, less hate

It seems impossible to think that only a few days ago I was sitting in front of my laptop trying to pen out my thoughts on what seems to be a surge in terrorist activity lately, and yet here I am once again thankful that my loved ones have escaped harm.

I’ve been fairly quiet over the last two months when it comes to the events taking place in the world. Why do I use ‘2 months’ as my indicator? Well, that was when the world was temporarily outraged by a chemical attack that took place in Syria. Sure, I spoke out briefly when it came to the incident in Manchester a few weeks ago, but other than that, I’ve been keeping close-lipped. It’s not that I don’t care, or that I haven’t been thinking about it, but, in fact, the very opposite. 

You might recall a previous experience about Syria from my time in Manchester, when a course I was taking concluded with a Syria focused presentation and partial viewing of one of the most brutal, honest, and heartbreaking documentations of this horrific situation. I would once again encourage you to watch the video below if you want to understand why the many refugees can’t simply “go back to their own country”. However, please be aware it is quite graphic and at times very difficult to watch. Viewer discretion is advised, and viewing my children should not be permitted.

Sadly, the incidents that have taken place in the wake of the Manchester bombing seem to have been silenced by the fact that they, once again, did not take place in a Western part of the world. Of course, the recent incident in London is an exception to this silence, but one that further proves just how little “we” care about places for which we know little or have already cast aside because “that sort of activity happens all the time there, and nothing we can do will change that.1” But where was this outrage when Kabul was under attack last week? Where was the call to action when various groups of those observing Ramadan where targeted?

I don’t mean to sound cynical, but, it’s hard to suggest that this selective care is merely a coincidence. The issues that led to the little international attention that has been received on these non-Western incidents have stemmed from civil unrest that took place long before any news coverage began to display the horrible tragedies that have taken place. And, if we’re really honest with ourselves, our Western status carries a lot of the blame. It’s also greatly related, I believe, to these recent tragedies in the UK, and previously throughout Europe (France, Belgium, Germany). We can’t be dropping bombs and interfering in countries where we have no business being and not expect retaliation or uproar from the countries impacted by our “we know what’s right” decision-making.

So, how do we change the current trajectory? How do we make this better? I don’t have the answers, and I’d be willing to bet that no one with the actual power to do something about it does either. My greatest wish is that we could just all have one massive global hug and come to an understanding that though we may have some differences in culture, language, or beliefs, we are all fundamentally the same – we’re all from the same human race, after all. I said this in the Manchester post, and I’ll say it again here – Imagine a world where people acted with compassion towards others not in their hometown, country or even continent, the way they would if a tragedy happened to hit there. Imagine if every time these events happened we showed kindness instead of fear, negativity, hate-speech, etc. This is what I long to see in this world, and it’s not going to come easy, if ever. But, I’m willing to fight for it, even if it’s just me. Because, I want to live in a world where people are at least trying to make it a better, happier, safer place. So please, I beg of you, less hate, more hugs!

-the Orange Canadian

1And yes, I have had that conversation with fellow Western folks… too many times to count over the last number of years.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Late Fragments

I recently finished a book entitled Late Fragments by the late Kate Gross. The book was originally recommended to be by a friend from my Masters, Megan. A friend who also happened to know Kate. I gave the book to my brother as a gift for Christmas, or his birthday, or something like that, I can’t honestly remember, and decided to bring the copy back to Uganda with me.

A snap of the book cover.
The gist of the book is a memoir of sorts written by Kate who is the final stages of incurable cancer. She is the mother of two young, twin boys, and she is using the words enclosed in the book to tell them about her life and the acceptance of her pending death. It’s written over a series of ten chapters, and shares a very raw, but beautiful perspective on life, death, and the love a mother has for her two boys.

I opted to start this leading up to Death Day and I’m really thankful that I did.

The book itself, is easy to read. There is a real honesty about it, checkered with moments of sadness, humour, and just plain ‘ol good storytelling! Kate looks at various aspects of her life, and considers how things could have been if the unfortunate were not taking place. In a heartbreaking sort of way, I found the whole book to be quite refreshing. In some moments wishing my own mother had had enough time (or known for that matter) to piece together something similar1 for us.

And, while there were many parts of this book that spoke to me2, the following quote is the one that really triggered something:

“But amongst the discarded toys is what once made us happy, those passions and talents we indulged as children but which have since been put aside. So it turns out you aren’t a chart-topping pop star, or a prize-winning artist. Making model aeroplanes doesn’t pay the mortgage. You are better suited to a Saturday morning run around the park than the Olympics. Who cares? We don’t have to excel at something for it to matter, to make it a part of who we are. Something doesn’t have to be functional to be important.”

Perhaps on my own path to self-fulfilment and overcoming grief, this just clicked. So many of the things I used to love doing as a child and into my teen years are no longer a part of my life. In fact, I think writing, sleeping and eating are really the only things I’ve managed to keep hold of – and even those I don’t really do right! But that’s not really the point, I suppose. No, I think it’s more about the things I have given up for one reason or another, such as singing, riding a bicycle, or just being outdoors and playing3Somewhere along the way I lost that drive or passion, and it makes me sad. I’m not sure when that took place, or if I even want to reignite those talents and pastimes, but thought it worthwhile to reflect.

It’s funny, in a way, how much of what has been taking place in the last few weeks is almost a cyclical reflection. First Mother’s and Death Day, then the incident in Manchester, the beginning of my first (and most likely only Ramadan), and now the completion of this book. It’s amazing how much of my present life is interlinked with my past one. How, despite the changes and concerted efforts to become a healthier, happier, more positive person, I’m still somewhat running from the very things I have been for most of my life. How when I first lost my Mom I wanted to act on crazy – foolish, even – impulses, but circumstances didn’t permit4.

Over the years, I lost my passion and love of music because of an embedded fear of failure, of not being the right fit, or having the right look. But magically upon her death I just wanted to life…fearlessly. And for the most part I do. I make myself do bold, adventurous things. But just as she states throughout the pages of her book, it’s not always possible. It’s hard to live every minute of every day – especially if you’re not wired to function that way.

So maybe my take away from the words found within these 234 pages, is that it’s okay to nit have it all together and figured out, so long as you live when the moments come. Either way, I would highly recommend giving this book a read if you’ve lost someone, or are about to be lost yourself.

-the Orange Canadian

1Although I suppose we could say she did given by the number of ridiculous or silly recipes she left behind for us!
2Another powerful part of this book is the Postscript at the very end. It is written by Kate’s mother after she has passed. It’s beautiful and inspiring, while also heartbreaking.

3Which in this case is more about social acceptance of a grown woman playing Power Rangers with the neighbourhood kids, I supposed!

4In most cases thankfully!!