An Open Love Letter

“If you are pained by external things, it is not they that disturb you, but your own judgment of them. And it is in your power to wipe out that judgment now.”

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

It has been quite the horrific and surreal past couple of weeks for Orlando. First came the shocking news of the murder of Christina Grimmie, a beautiful and talented young singer many of us watched blossom on NBC’s The Voice. Her death was a senseless and terrifying reminder of what can tragically happen with fame. Then just the next day, also in Orlando came the bloodthirsty tragedy that befell the gay nightclub Pulse, and murder of forty-nine souls committed by an Islamic extremist. Two days after that at Orlando’s Disney World theme park, we learned of the gruesome death of a toddler snatched at the shore of a lagoon by an alligator as the little boy was wading in shallow water. So much to bear for one city within such a short span of time.

In the last two of these tragedies, there was blame, recriminations, anger, even an immediate and repulsive, “I told you so” by a male US presidential candidate within hours of the murders. Inside the same day of the killings the battle lines were already drawn by the sanctimonious rhetoric of the pro-gun, anti-gun and anti-Islam positions. In the wake of the shootings, my mind has been littered with feelings of bewilderment, helplessness and bitter sadness. To the parents of the dead toddler, my heart bleeds for you both. Not only have you endured an unthinkable horror, but also you have undoubtedly heard the shock and consternation on social media and the airwaves accusing you of not properly caring for the welfare of your child directly resulting in his death. Who can say that to these grief-stricken parents?

If only the Pulse patrons had weapons, the killer would have been eliminated sooner therefore saving lives, says the same male US presidential candidate! If only Muslims were banned from entry to the USA this tragedy would never have taken place – ya, by the same male US presidential candidate. If semi-automatic weapons were not for sale, this wouldn’t have happened. If the government did its job the murderer could not have made the legal gun purchase he did. Now the world knows what Israel goes through, so do something about the Islamic terror network! How could those parents not have held their child’s hand, AT ALL TIMES? Why didn’t Disney have proper alligator warning signs posted by the lagoon’s shore? Disney should have neutralized the known threat that alligators on their property presented. The blame and judgements have been incessant. And also deeply troubling is us. We are a big part of the problem. We become apoplectic. We take sides but zealously only one side. The polarization is now of epidemic proportions. For example, why can’t we be against the existing US gun laws and at the same time also seeking legitimate solutions to the dangerous radicalization of Islamic fundamentalists? Must it be a zero sum game? But that argument has been an impossible one to have this past week or so. By ostensibly assigning cause to unlike positions, proponents of the other accuse you of being soft or worse, ignorant of their raison d’etre and vice versa.

So what is all this? It is fear. Fear of what you may ask?

It could be very much related to our general anger at strangers. Anger at ourselves. Frustration with others. Intolerance of others. Self-loathing. Hating others. And Confucius says, if you hate then you have been defeated.

My fear is only a self-reflection of what I desire. My fear is rooted in wanting something I cannot have. My fear is for the future and the uncertainty that awaits. My fear is that I expect you to behave in a certain way – and you don’t. My fear is that I know what you are thinking. My fear is that I see what is not there. My fear is that I don’t understand the understandable. My fear is that you can’t understand me. My fear is that I see me in you. My fear is based on ignorance. My fear is that I am dependent on what I hate, what I want and what I see. But the answer is love. Love of oneself – fully, completely and without preconditions. The more we love ourselves, the less room we have to fear anything. So my promise to me is hopefully found in my fulfillment to you. If I am pained by your actions, I now know that it is not you that needs to change, it is I.


When I met Malala’s parents – part 2

“There was no judgement at this event. Despite the genesis and reason for it – there was none. Neither were there political nuances. There was no blame. Just love and it was so beautiful. “

Last week I penned the above in my blog regarding the delightful experience at a gala event and meeting Ziauddin and Tor Pekai Yousafzai, the parents of 2014 Nobel Peace Prize award winner Malala Yousafzai. And as I reflect upon that week, prior to and since, the theme that rumbles most with me, with my soul, is love.

You may recall the other experience I had with that old buddy of mine in the piece I wrote about “sleeping naked” and describing himself to me simply as love. If you are thinking something that is NOT there then please go quickly and read that one too! In the week that ensued I received an email from him and the subject line read, “Bad news”. The body of the message informed me on the untimely and extremely sudden passing of his younger brother. I know that were it not for that earlier encounter, the tragic news would not have arrived in the timely manner as it did. My friend was to pass through Toronto Pearson airport for a connecting flight to join his brother’s family in their grief and for the funeral – over 3000 kilometres away. Though we only had about fifteen minutes available to us between his customs call and the connecting flight – I had to be there. Eerily related, earlier that morning I was randomly introduced to a song that stirred me. And in response to it, I shared a blog I had written last February, which also contained a song, Disturbed’s cover of The Sound of Silence.

Reading that piece that I wrote several months ago and listening once again to that song – I must be up to 51 times by now – I knew that it was necessary to send it to my friend right away. As he walked into arrivals where I was waiting for him, his tear-filled eyes spoke volumes to me. He had Wi-Fi on the plane and read my piece and listened to that song on the short flight to Toronto. Who knew that a trigger I received only a few hours prior would lead me to presenting to him just what he needed at that time. I had reached into his soul and touched it and he touched mine. The truth is, I needed it more than he did. He certainly was love. I am still working on me.

Muhammad Ali passed away this week. We all know that tens if not hundreds of millions have been deeply impacted by his life. But not all. For some, bitterness, hate and intolerance are regretfully still a part of their core. And good old social media was at it again, happy to provide a platform of hate in the wake of the death of The Greatest. Some couldn’t care less for a “boxer” who died, especially a “boxer” who spoke certain unappetizing words 50 odd years ago. But Muhammad Ali was much more than a boxer. He was to become a game changer, one perchance without an equal. And love became a part of Muhammad Ali.

What I gleefully observed when I met Malala’s parents, was far-reaching opposition to hate and anger when they have as much a reason as any to harbour those feelings. I have been blessed to be able to see much love all around me. Not everywhere, but what I have, I am grateful for.

Love is a positive emotion. Not loving or not hating is neither positive nor negative. Apathy is that state. Apathy is not love or hate. Hate is a negative emotion. So the opposite of hate is love and vice versa. And both are choices we can make. Anger, a close relation to hate is ugly. Look into the mirror when you are angry – what do you see? Furious at what Ali said in 1969? Loving yourself is the start. The love allows forgiveness into your heart. Maybe that is what my friend meant when he said he is love.