Sometimes it’s too much. Whatever channel one might be swimming in starts to move a little too fast. Maybe it starts carrying us, or pulling us along, and we find we are drifting more than swimming. That’s when its time to get out.
Towel off, and find a warm place to sit, and survey what’s what. If you can’t get out, because things got deep fast, yell for help. People love to help. They will help you.
Once you are sitting, and dry and warm, and you don’t feel the urgency of preparing to drown, things feel more clear. Either the channel slows, or you will find resolve you didn’t know you had, or you will realize you weren’t breathing. Or, you will see it’s time to find a new channel…one free of pretentiousness. Here is a helpful guide, should you find yourself a little lost.
A – Assess before you preach. Some people don’t want to hear a sermon. When you choose to live an egalitarian life, pushing it into the pockets of others is not appropriate. Some people are happy a-holes. Accept it and leave them alone.
B – Bigot: a person who is intolerant toward those holding different opinions. Don’t be a “Bigot for Righteousness.” If you berate people for their beliefs, evoking bitterness in your wake, you should take a break. Bigots do not learn from other bigots.
C – Come on! Boundaries, man. (That is actually another B, so I am sort of cheating here.)
D – Don’t. If someone seems disinterested in your sacred message, please, for the love of all that you hold dear, don’t keep quacking like a duck. Just don’t. Don a smile, and move along, dude.
E – Egalitarian: of, relating to, or believing in the principle that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities. Really, egalitarian efforts can be sorted into two camps: the altruistic, and the ego-driven. If your ego is getting the best of you, egads, manage that shit. False egalitarianism is a badge of narcissism. Flower on, if you must, but we can see you.
F – Fighting. If you are fighting for a cause, and you start fighting with people you love, or people who are on the same freaking side, you have gone to far. If you are fighting against those who don’t believe the same as you, please revisit B – Bigot.
G – Give and take. Change and growth require give and take. Get some. And take some.
H – Happy. If you have embodied a cause, and you are not happy, a hiatus could be helpful. Some people combat hate with free hugs. These guys probably have hard days too, but hopefully more of them end happily.
I – Individuality. When someone does not think the same way as you, even if they are ignorant, or harmful, they are not an Idiot. Do not indict individuals with charges of Idiocy. It will indicate you are a lazy thinker. Sometimes I am a lazy thinker, this is my public apology to my Idiot friends.
J – Judgment. Maybe too easy…how about Jerkweed. If you jaunt around acting superior to others, you are a jerkweed.
K – Knowledge is power. When you wield your knowledge around, and keep shoving it at others, you lose your power. In fact, you kill the agenda, by making others roll their eyes at it. Also, people will accuse you of being a killjoy, and only codependent martyrs will be kind to you.
L – Love. Serve your agenda with love. Sometimes love is soft, and gentle. Other times, it is fierce and leathered. It can be terrifying to speak out with love. Standing up for love can even get you hurt. But in the end, if it was really love, you will feel the heart of a lion, beating from deep inside your liver. That roar will continue to loosen itself from your lungs, through your larynx, and over your lips. You will shine love, and even if people feel the heat of that love, and it burns them a little, they will peek back toward it once in a while, because love is like gold.
M – Men. Men embrace men (unless they are homophobic). Women do not always embrace men. We coddle them, or we castigate them. We do not look them in the eyes and acknowledge that they, too, know about love. We do not call them to join us, in finding our highest and truest selves. We assume they can’t, and we are wrong. Men, and women, are important. If you do not trust men, I do not trust you.
N – Name calling. Name calling is a distraction. See: I – Idiot. When we don’t know with to do, or say, about our detractors, we call them a name. This is nonsense. Do not add to the noise. Silence, and action, are nurturing. Speaking assertively is nobel. Try those, you may feel nicer, or less nasty.
O – Okay. It is okay if you come upon people who are not nice. It is okay if you cross paths with people who ARE nice. In short, some people are nice. Others are not. It is okay. One is not better than the other. (Obviously, you might disagree. This too, is okay.)
P – Peace. Peace is something you have to fight for. Against your own nature. If you are getting so bent out of shape that you have lost the peace, please look inside first. Then poke around outside.
Q – Questions. Ask them. Then, listen. If you get excited, and you talk over someone, quit beating yourself up. Instead, apologize for your exuberant brain-to-mouth zip line, and ask them to repeat what was said. Then, listen again. If you are listening, and you drift away, come back. Do it all again. Really listen, this is how we learn. (Q and L are good friends.)
R – Righteous: Morally right or justifiable; virtuous.
S – Self-righteous: Having or showing a strong belief that your own actions, opinions, etc., are right and other people’s are wrong.
T – Thank you, dictionary.
U – Understand. Seek to understand. When we try, really hard, to understand, we aren’t losing our opinion, our freedom, or our selves. We might, however, come away with a more universal understanding of the problem. We might come away with an ulcer. Either way, it could be useful.
V – Verisimilitude: the appearance or semblance of truth. Sometimes, we want to obliterate our opponent.
W – Why? Why are you getting so worked up? Is there a reason? Does it make sense? Then warrior on. If it does not, I wonder if you are living in the past. Something may have worked its way under your skin. You can wiggle it free, and then, working from today’s reality, you might not feel like you are at war. Unless you are, in fact, at war. If you are at war, I owe so much to you, and I am literally choking back tears right now, because I will not cry over this privilege…the privilege to be here, with my children, in my home and writing, while you are hot and far from home.
X – Xenophobia: intense, irrational dislike or fear of foreigners, or that which is foreign. Yes, this is a fear, and humans fear that which is not like us, and some more than others. This does not make us bad, it makes us afraid. When you choose to feed those fears, and let them make you into a hateful marionette…people can see only your fear, and not your strength.
Y – Youth. If you teach them every snake is poisonous, you are lying. If you are afraid of snakes, do not lie to your children and indoctrinate them with your verisimilitude. Now, apply this to the concept of xenophobia.
Z – Zeitgeist: the general beliefs, ideas, and spirit of a time and place. It is time for each of us to work a little harder.
Artwork: Atlas Unburdened, found metal sculpture by Ryan Beard, featuring salvaged barb wire from Fall Creek Cemetery in Fall Creek, Oregon.