I open at the close; Death and sacrifice

I open at the close.

I still remember the first time I read those words in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and had to work through the idea that Harry was going to die.

I remember feeling disbelief, rage, disbelief again and finally despair.

I had been through so much with Harry, and even though it infuriated me that it had come to this end, I had to accept the outcome because, after all, this wasn’t my story.

Luckily for me Harry ended up surviving, and all my emotional tumult was wasted. Yet even though I have re-read Harry Potter dozens and dozens…and possibly dozens more times since I was a child, every damn time I get to that part in the book I get super emotional. I realized a long time ago that it wasn’t about the fact that Harry would die(seemingly!), but more so that he was ready to make that choice. For someone that young to choose to die so that others would simply have a chance at a safer life was truly a beautiful ending for someone who had given all(albeit for nonsensical reasons due to the fact that half the stuff in Harry Potter is plain stupid, and I say this with deep love for the books!).

Self- sacrifice to something bigger than yourself is a difficult concept for many as we all live in such a narcissistic bubble these days, but it is the foundation of most hero stories and is what draws us to many of the characters in well known books and shows.

The idea of the hero is so pervasive because it touches upon a core issue for many of us, which is to push away that deep biological drive to save ourselves.  The hero does not want to die, but she believes that the responsibility to aid others is paramount and is worth dying for.

I think the world would be a very different place if each of us had something we felt was worth dying for, because it would give a deep sense of purpose to our lives.

In the end, death is the final chapter. Whether hero or villain we all must walk through its doors in the end. The reality of death pervades all life, sweetens it and terrifies the shit out of us.

The question is whether at the end of it all, we can look back upon our lives and know that, at the very least, we tried to stand by our beliefs.  Tried to figure out who we wanted to be, and strove towards those ideals.

And if you are one of those great souls who gives their lives in service to whatever your ideals are, hats off to you.

I will leave off with this little story pulled from the book bird by bird by Anne Lamott, because I believe innocence and the heroic many times go hand and hand.

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Knowledge begets responsibility

Someone has to start. Be the first to say “no”, that we can be better, have to be better.

To hold ourselves accountable, to reach for a higher standard, an ideal.

The question is what that ideal will be?

A certain level of safety is required for people to feel capable of striving towards other ideals, so we must begin with that first choice, the one to cause no harm to others. After we can begin to talk about the aesthetic, about beauty, about art, about how we wish to express ourselves.

We do require hardship though. Resistance is a necessary component to life. Struggle leads to a collapse of our inner beliefs, yet with the right conditions it also leads to renewal and a fresh, stronger perspective.

It helps to think about these basic tenets of life, because most of us are so distracted by the mundane tasks of eating and getting to work and hanging out with family and friends that we don’t take the time needed to really address these deeper issues.

As a society and as individuals we need to start thinking about why we have decided to live the way we are living, in a rational and optimistic fashion.

Societies tendency to lean towards the negative aspects of life and not appreciating any of the good is deeply troubling as people are becoming completely bat shit crazy believing that we are living in difficult times when the reality is for most of us we are living in the safest most desirable period of time in human history, ever.

So we need to acknowledge how damn lucky we are, yet still put our foot down and say no to those things which still need to be re-examined and changed or completely eliminated so that our children will have an even better future than ours.

So get to talking people, calmly and hopefully with a bit of research behind your statements, it’s our gift and responsibility to use the knowledge available to us to better our societies.

And please have fun while doing it because no one likes a grouch, take it from me.

The ethics of meat eating

I find the current focus on pulling away from eating animals to be quite strange.

Don’t get me wrong, I am completely against showing cruelty towards any creature, whether a mammal or insect or even plants.

We should all develop a greater respect for the natural world, but many others take that to mean we should never eat another animal, whereas I take that as another aspect of human ego attempting to elevate ourselves above nature.

Part of respecting an animal means respecting the natural order of the world. All animals, in one way or another, are a part of the cycle of life and death. Even herbivores will eat insects, and plants are sentient in their own way.

Everything in nature survives through the death of other creatures, whether through the fertilization of soil through the body of a dead animal or the feces leftover from another animals last meal.

Life to death, death to life. This is how the Earth functions, and trying to make humans into this special creature that can go past that is simply pure arrogance, usually coming about because of peoples intense inability to deal with our being animals and the inevitable endpoint of life.

Again, we should all strive to create a system where the animals we raise or hunt are treated as kindly as possible so that the lives they live are as peaceful as possible, but that does not mean that we can suddenly let them all loose and live in a utopia where death does not exist.

Everything dies, and most of the natural world dies through the actions of another creature.

Accepting this facet of life is the first step to truly learning a deep and profound respect for the existence of all creatures, especially those that feed us and nourish our bodies and spirits so that we may continue to live on this planet.

I hope people awaken to this fact one day, or at least have a better perspective when choosing to forgo eating meat.

 

Morality is not simple

Morality, when broken down to its most basic definition, is a conscious choice to respect anothers  right to safety of body and mind. After all, right and wrong only have meaning when one human is talking about something that affects themselves, other humans or living creatures.

Yet this must be tempered with the knowledge that life is not black and white, the system of values that drives us forward as a species is not simple.

Determining the best possible joy for all humans is difficult, especially when including other forms of life such as plants, mammals and even insects.

People make grandiose statements every day on social media, basking in the adulation of others as they simplify immensely complex issues into memes and soundbites.

Right and wrong are shifting paradigms that evolve daily depending on context and those of us who make them out to be just you’re either on my side of the fence or the other are just children refusing to accept the reality of life.

Don’t be a child, deepen your perspective of how life really works, then you can truly join the conversation about how to better the world that we live in.

 

Open minded or simply ego driven?

Many of us, myself included, could do with expanding our views on a multitude of topics, opening up our minds to differing perspectives, if only to really understand why we hold certain views of our own, and of course to sometimes re-evaluate and change those views.

Unfortunately these days, I see many people accusing others of being close minded, chastising them because after that person listens to the others opinion and still does not agree, they are told to be more open minded.

There seems to be some confusion here; being open minded does NOT mean that you have to change your mind and agree with someone just because they tell your their opinion, even if they make good points. In most cases there is not one way to view a topic and so this struggle to force someone to agree with you is simply a case of wanting to feed your own ego to feel right.

To be open minded means to be receptive to others opinions, to have the capacity to listen and find common points of agreement within a subject but not to fully agree with someone at all times. Fundamentally the system of values we choose to run on is a complex machine and it cannot be in sync with every human being around us.

If you find yourself in a constant state of anger or irritation when debating others simply because no one agrees with you the way you want them to, then I suggest you rethink your strategy and perhaps focus more on what you can learn from others to expand your own viewpoints and not care whether you can turn someone to your side.

Life should be a celebration of difference, perhaps not all things are equal, and some in my view are quite horrible, but overall we have more in common to enjoy then to complain about.

 

Finding our limits

We have become a soft society, seeking out ways to maximize our comfort and minimizing any kind of discomfort.

This may seem like a good thing, and it is in some ways, there is nothing inherently wrong with being comfortable and finding more efficient ways to do things, especially when it frees up time to do what you truly wish to do.

But unfortunately this seems to lead us to two different extremes.

There are those who wallow in comfort, never getting out of their comfort zone, and subsequently causing a myriad of psychological and physiological issues in the process. Then we have people who cannot seem to recognize that we all have limits and we need to respect those limits before our systems break down as well.

There is a fine line we must balance upon, the idea is to find your limit and very gently cross it, and then retreat and allow ourselves to adapt over time to a new limit and so on.

But many people just don’t take the time for the  introspection it requires to know your limits and overcome them in a healthy manner, while others simply never even begin the search in the first place.

Human beings are adapters, probably the greatest species to ever come into existence on this planet, because our limits, although many, are still radically small compared to the limits of most creatures on this planet.

We should be grateful for this, and push ourselves to be the best we can be, but within reason, and not to the detriment of other things in our lives, like our health and the health and happiness of those we care for.

Find your limits, push them, but remember that life will push back, and it is a hell of a lot stronger than we are.