9 Lives to Live By

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Over the past few days there has been an insurmountable volume of literature generated about the harrowing Charleston Shooting. I’m not here to repeat or to rant about something I don’t have the authority, and frankly, the knowledge to write about. That being said, I’m here to write about what can be done.

This is a prime example of our ideals not matching up with reality. Our country prides itself on equality, acceptance, and freedom. But what we fail to recognize is that our country is also built off of slavery, genocide, internment and modern manifestations of racism and violence. It’s sad to see our dark histories making it’s way into the present. Humanity hasn’t lived up to its ideas and it’s our job to make these ideal pillars of tolerance a reality.

Shooting other people isn’t a humane act. We don’t wake up one day knowing how to pull a trigger in front of innocent civilians. We don’t wake up one day knowing how pulling that trigger will affect millions of other people, on top of the victims.

We learn things by example, just as we lead through example. Learning isn’t always a direct course- it can be a winding path, full of little things that make someone feel a certain way, and in turn act a certain way. Learning is witnessing somebody spit on the sidewalk. It’s listening to somebody gossip about another. It’s seeing somebody bully a peer. It’s hearing somebody curse out loud. It’s watching someone crash a plane.

Most children grow up naïve, without a filter. I myself was one of those kids. I cursed on my own accord simply because the adults that surrounded me said those things. I picked it up just as I picked up the sport of lacrosse. We pick up these little sports or notions of anger and impolite behavior. It’s a chain reaction.

That being said, learning can also be the good things. Watching your loved one survive surgery. Seeing a man pick up trash from the ground. Hearing others say thank you. Smiling when people hold the door open for you.

When we take the politics and religious implications out of this “unspeakable” yet highly spoken about event there is still a clear racialized sentiment. This is why I think instead of reading the countless articles, Facebook statuses, Tweets, and emails regarding Charleston we should physically be doing something about it. We’re sitting at our laptops reading about other people’s reactions, and somehow forming our own convoluted reactions based on what we previously read. Initially, I don’t think an honest response could be written down about this catastrophe. Shock can’t be expressed in mere words. It’s a feeling.

Instead of relying on others to learn actions, we should start setting examples for ourselves. The bottom line is that we can’t live life by watching others. So today, and for the rest of our exceedingly unique, cherishable lives, however long they may be, we should appreciate our similarities and our differences. Take a look around you and find answers beyond the latest news article. Find nine people (strangers) and appreciate them in honor of those nine people who unfortunately aren’t simply strangers anymore. Face each person with your utmost respect. Look at their appearance and absorb their wrinkles, their calloused hands, and the unique smell that every person seems to carry with them. Then look past the appearance and see that they’re just like you. Human. Speak to them, compliment them, and you might even learn a little bit about yourself.

I think part of the reason why all of this is happening is due to loneliness. We’re isolated in the confines of our headphones, sunglasses, and reading material. We shy away from human interaction these days because there’s easier, less complicated ways of entertainment. We stare at monitors in order to play video games with strangers. What ever happened to playing a pickup basketball game in the park with a group of people you barely know? There’s no spontaneity in our lives anymore. Most of us live comfortably, routinely, and happily through life. But there are others who suffer from the loss of human interaction, of physical familiarity and chatter. It’s easy to succumb to everyday technology by constantly utilizing its bountiful offerings. After all, we live by the phrase, “stranger danger.” And this is true, to an extent. But we can’t live in fear of each other; instead we should be fearful that we didn’t meet our soul mate or best friend simply because of this preconceived apprehension.

So after you’re done having a conversation with whomever for however long, tell them to find eight more people whom they know nothing about. Tell them to speak kindly and genuinely. We all have our own issues, our own problems we face. We don’t realize that help can be found in others, if only we take the chance to ask for it.

Now each person that receives this newfound sentimentality will gain nine more lives to live by.

On a closing note, it’s sad to ponder, but I think we already know that there’s always going to be another person with deeper hatred. Just as there’s always going to be another person with more wit, another person with more beauty, another person with more creativity. So how do we stop the unstoppable? We can’t see beyond a crystal ball. There’s no telling when or where the next somber episode could take place or how it could be reasoned with. I’m not foreseeing bad omens or anything like that. I’m simply stating that history repeats itself. But how do we stop the bad history from undergoing an endless tunnel of inhumane corruption? Unfortunately, the times give no answer to this question. But to begin, I think in order to prevent it from happening we need to start talking and stop watching.

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