Extend your love bubble

The blessing/curse of the empathic poet is that you are constantly searching for meaning in the pain of life. It’s not comfortable. Sometimes you have to ponder for a loooooooooong time before you come to any conclusion and sometimes it happens like a lightning strike.

That happened to me today. I almost literally stumbled across a truth about life. And I think it revealed to me the purpose behind the thing we all want in spite of how vulnerable it makes us.

Love.

How did it happen?

I was on my way to work. About a block away a young man carrying a rake who was obviously getting ready to work in one of my neighbors’ yards (in the 95-feels-like-150-degree heat) stumbled. He recovered quickly and looked around to see if anyone had seen. I immediately pretended to be looking straight ahead, not at him at all, and sent him a reassuring thought. Didn’t see anything. You’re safe.

I immediately wondered. Why did I think “You’re safe”? And I realized that’s what we all want. As we stumble through this world full of sharp spikes and tripwires, all we really want is to feel safe. And that’s nearly impossible to achieve, especially in this day and age when you just might be caught on camera and if you are, your stumble might go viral.

I recently made a playlist of songs that make me feel like everything is going to be okay. My life sometimes feels completely messed up. I have even been glad I only have another 30-40 years of it (if I’m lucky). And my life is a good one. I have people to love and who love me. They cushion some of the blows, guard me against some of the spikes, and pick me up when I trip.

And that’s why I think I’ve figured out what the purpose of love is. Love is like a bubble around us, one that gives us a sense of security. Safety. The thing is, if we do love right, it can give others that same sense. Even those we don’t know. Imagine extending your bubble of love to people around you. There are people in need all around us, whether they’re tripping over a rake or hurting for some deeper reason. Maybe you can’t actually help them. Maybe you don’t have resources beyond what you need yourself.

But instead of laughing when someone stumbles or posting someone’s misfortune on the internet for “hits” or “likes”, you can send them a reassuring thought. “It’s okay. I got you. You’re safe.”

Imagine if we could all feel safe?

Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye

The Right to Write, the Right to Speak—for others and ourselves

person with body painting

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

If you have read my blog recently, you probably saw my firm opinion about The Nation editors apologizing for publishing a poem written by a white guy in Black vernacular (AAV, AAVE, whatever). I believe—still—that the poet has the right to write (and publish that writing) for other races, so long as he does it well. I haven’t actually seen anyone critiquing the poem saying the vernacular was used incorrectly. Mostly it’s been woke white people saying a white person shouldn’t use it at all.

Moving on from that, however, I was thrilled to read an article in The New York Times entitled “Go Ahead, Speak for Yourselves” written by Kwame Anthony Appiah. I have no idea if Mr. Appiah supports the right of Mr. Carlson-Wee to write in Black vernacular or not. However, I liked his take on representing for different cultures. It seems these days that we’ve simplified things a little too much. We’re “woke”, so Black people speak for Black people, gay people for the gay community, and white women for white women.

But what do I—a middle class suburbanite raised in a lower income household—know about a white woman raised on a farm? If I express an opinion “as a white woman”, does it represent everyone from my retired next-door neighbor to my daughter (who is very different from me and will, by the time she is my age, have had very different experiences throughout her life than even some of her peers)?

As a writer, I feel the limitations of this. I strain at the bonds of being a Southern white woman forbidden to write or empathize with other cultures, even when I do my best to learn about and experience those cultures. It’s a multicolored world and we all have a portion of that rainbow in us, whether we’re Black transsexuals or white Southern GRITS or straight Mexican men. I believe if we all learn to embrace that rainbow and take more of it into ourselves, we will grow not only as individuals but as a united human race.

That’s why I stand up for Mr. Carlson-Wee’s right to write and empathize with a race he did not grow up in, even when he and his editors did not. That’s why I will continue to write from the perspective I am drawn to, regardless of what color that person’s skin is. I hope someday I will have the skill to write from the perspective of someone who is truly different from me. I will keep working toward that goal, improving and expanding the boundaries of my empathy.

Because that’s what writers do.