Thursday, April 18, 2013

peace to all

Hasn't it been a strange and imperfect week?

You look at the newspaper and it's heartbreaking—ranging from difficult to impossible—all around, in country after country.

And you sit with your boy as he struggles through pain and you feel it as though it's your pain.

And you're tired and you'd like life to be simple, but it isn't.

And the laundry pile is huge.

I was sitting on the edge of my bed this morning, thinking, "Today isn't going to be easy."

Once upon a time, I would lie down on days like these, and let the hard take over.

I looked at the sky and the trees and heard the birds. Sky was a cloudless blue. Trees were green and wild. Birds were talking, telling each other stories.

And I got up.

Today I got up and took some laundry downstairs and that was a small, good thing.

Today, my son, who just got braces yesterday morning and was up all night in pain, just put on some Miles Davis. I'm writing to the music that makes my son happy.

Today I read a blog post where the person suggested we focus on being kind. Being patient. Breathing deeply. Yes, I thought.

I've had some strange times this week, interacting and, for the first time, debating/respectfully disagreeing with people online. I am usually very agreeable on social media, so this felt new for me: kind of fiery and peaceful at the same time. The people I have "debated" with I respect hugely, and I have not wanted to seem argumentative. But I have wanted to share an alternative view: my view, my truth.

I am finding that I'd like to speak, and speak, and speak my truth more. And, of course, let people speak theirs in turn.

Already I write about animal suffering a little on this blog, but not often. I "like" things that relate to animal rights on Facebook, and every now and then, I share information I feel is important to read. But there are more things I care about. Things I am quiet about because I don't want to push an "agenda" or have this blog become political or be about "causes." But what I care about, and the change I want to see in the world, really matters to me. People are making huge changes happen in the world by speaking out. Why don't I, more?

For some reason I've been thinking about Gandhi a lot recently. What would he do? What would he say in the face of the NRA's agenda, and bombings in the US and drone attacks in Pakistan, in the face of factory farming, hunting in National Parks, of people living lives of judgement and hate… all things I find difficult to bear?

I believe he would speak, and speak, and speak, his truth.

He would BE the change he wished to see in the world.

So this is the change I wish to see in the world. The change I try to live daily:

People putting kindness and compassion above all.

People living in, and accepting, equality.

People prioritising peace, and the lives of others, over "centuries-old rights" and "this is how things have always been."

People seeking non-violent solutions for conflict.

People protecting the voiceless.

It's not how a lot of the world is right now, but I keep hoping. And getting up in spite of things. I keep choosing kindness, compassion, positivity. And writing my truth.

Here I sit, on this day that's turning out to be not so hard after all…with a cat on my lap, listening to jazz. It's just started to rain and I can hear it pick-pocking the verandah roof outside.

I will write words I care about. I will feel sadness and confusion for the people of Boston. I will feel joy that marriage equality has been recognised in New Zealand. I will mourn another bombing in Iraq in the days leading up to their election. I will be baffled and deeply disappointed by the Senate choosing not to change gun laws in the US. I will march against live export when Animals Australia brings the rally to the city of Sydney. I will hug my children.

I will get up in a minute and put the laundry on. Give my son some more pain relief. Make him some more soup. Listen to the rain.

And send, as always, love and peace, to all.

People in the public gallery of the New Zealand Parliament, 
singing the Maori love song "Pokarekare Ana" 
moments after same-sex marriage legislation was passed. 


  1. Such honest heartfelt words. I hear you and understand how you feel Helena. A good mantra (and one you live by already): Be the change you want to see!

    1. Yes, and yes! I feel better for speaking, and for putting my thoughts out there :) Thank you!

  2. The challenge for our global society is to learn how to peacefully coexist when one person's change is in direct opposition to another's. For me to be the change I wish to see (I love this quote and use it often) can "pit" me against you....if we let it. I enjoyed our dialogue last week. We can agree to disagree and share our opinions in a way that creates discussion rather than closes the door on it.

    I think that as these issues are legislated, (marriage, abortion, gun rights, etc) it naturally pits one person against each other because those laws affect the way we live and affect the change we wish to see. If it is legislation that supports our views, we are elated. When it is not, we feel deflated, or angry, or at times subjected to a law we fundamentally oppose. How can this not create conflict among people?

    I don't know the answer. I don't believe a lawless society would work and I don't believe that the current one (where even the size of soft drinks is up for legislation) is working either. I do believe that open, honest, respectful dialogue is the way to begin to work on healing our world's problems.

    1. I completely agree that respectful dialogue is key. Seeing the other side is key. Sharing opinions is key. Trying to find solutions together is key. Yes, Jessica :) And I enjoyed our dialogue last week too. I could imagine us over the dining table, talking, disagreeing, agreeing, respectfully and with kindness, for hours.

      I think it's fascinating, the idea that my "change" is different from yours. I feel another blog post coming on. Maybe after I've written about my son's new braces, and our holidays, and, and, and…

      Thanks for your thoughts here. I really appreciate you posting them.

  3. Helena, this post is beautiful and inspiring to me. Social media can be tricky. I mostly keep it positive and light because so many issues polarize people. Us/them. If we are right, you are wrong. This sometimes keeps me from using my strongest voice because fueling these separations doesn't serve me well as a sensitive, respectful person. BUT, I admire people standing up for what they believe and I do it in small, quiet ways often. A huge YES to your statements of the change you wish to see/be.

    My blog is such a personal family blog that there, too, I am quiet about strong beliefs. I once posted about my girls playing an imaginary dress-up wedding where they decided they'd both don dresses and have a lesbian princess wedding. I thought it was lovely that in their playworld, marriage equality already existed. I lost at least a 'follower' or two after that. (oh well, I'm not in it for the ratings :)

    This long comment all tangled up with my own emotions and experiences, is really just meant to say that I appreciate your voice, Helena!

    1. I feel a huge YES for your comment too, Nikole! What lovely honest gentleness you have. I haven't written about a number of my thoughts on current issues in the past, because they are such hot topics, and I don't want to weigh my blog down in debate or by standing on a soapbox. But this time, the rise and rise of feeling was so strong that I had to speak.

      I so appreciate your comment here, Nikole. I totally remember that post when your girls had their princess wedding! :) I, too, feel very lucky to have your words in my life.

  4. Wow, people hugging and kissing in Parliament, and singing!! Thanks for sharing the video, and of course, your voice.

    1. Yes, wasn't it beautiful, beautiful, beautiful? Thank you, Jackie :)

  5. The United States is a country unlike any other, and what allows us to remain that way are the protections afforded to us by our Constitution. Our rights are not given to us by the State; indeed, the state derives it's power from the people.

    There are many, many, many reasons to oppose gun control - the extremely compelling crime statistics, world history, an understanding of American history... Those who are in favor of taking guns out of the hands of the American people and putting them solely in the hands of the government either are naive enough to think tyranny no longer exists, or they hope to be the oppressor, not the oppressed. Guns are not inherently evil, just as baseball bats and knives and pressure cookers are not inherently evil. People can be evil. We can't legislate the evil out of people, no matter how hard we try. And evil people don't give a fig about the law.

    Recent history is filled with many chilling examples over and over again; where they take guns, state-imposed tyranny brews shortly. In fact, I recently read a statistic that stated the number of defenseless people rounded up and exterminated in the 20th Century because of gun control (see the Soviet Union, China, Cambodia, Uganda, Germany, Turkey, Guatemala, etc) is 56 million.

    “To disarm the people is the best and most effective way to enslave them…” – George Mason, a Founding Father of the United States and contributor to the Bill of Rights.

    Liberty is a precious, precious gift, and it must be safeguarded.

    I breathed a sigh of relief when the Senate refused to pass those draconian measures.

    1. Hi Deb,

      I respectfully disagree with you. We could have an extraordinary conversation about this in real life, don't you think?

      I live in a country with very strong gun control legislation, but I don't think we are living under state-imposed tyranny here. I would be very interested to see your source for the statistic of 56 million exterminations directly linked to gun control—I am all about understanding opposing sides to my own opinions and would be interested in reading the study that came up with that figure.

      Guns were specifically created to harm others, no? I personally feel that any measure that helps regulate whose hands guns go into, and regulate what kinds of weapons are out there, would be just one of the steps towards saving lives. Other vital measures should include: helping others who are mentally unwell, helping those who feel voiceless, and listening to those who are frustrated and might seek to harm.

      I don't think a disarmed population, in terms of being individually armed with guns, is an enslaved one. I think we would be disarmed if we had no voice, but even then, I would not take up arms to be heard. I would work to be informed, to be kind, to listen, and find a non-violent way to speak.

      I think liberty is beautiful. For me, the greater beauty is seeking peace and choosing non-violence above all.

      Much peace and good wishes to you, Deb.

    2. “…any measure that helps regulate whose hands guns go into, and regulate what kinds of weapons are out there, would be just one of the steps towards saving lives”

      Ah, there’s the rub. Who gets to decide whose hands are the right hands and whose hands are the wrong hands? And why should I think their judgment is better than my own?

      There are two parts to the gun control debate: the broad philosophical overview that informs opinions, and the nitty gritty of what it means to own a gun as an individual.
      In broad strokes, the general idea behind gun control is not, in truth, a disarming of everyone; it is the selective disarming of private citizens only, therefore granting a monopoly of force in the hands of a select few - the government. This violates the tenets of democracy, a concept wherein the distribution of power leads to a healthier society. The concentration of power among the few, such as we see in dictatorships, can lead to corruption and exploitation of the people. Gun control is actually a gun monopoly. A true global anti-gun movement would see all the power concentrated in the hands of governments. History teaches us that governments are not always (or even very often) benevolent. If the balance of power is swayed in favor of governments by disarmament of the people, the use of force is likely to only become more aggressive, tyrannical, and dangerous, ultimately resulting in the people of the world being in a perpetual state of surrender to those who control the guns. Concentrations of force in governments often leads to genocide, democide, mass murder, whatever you want to call it (you may be interested in the research of R.J. Rummel). It is arrogant and naïve, and - not to put too strong a point on it – a luxury granted by the freedom won for us by someone else, to presume that tyrannical leaders no longer exist, or could not come to power at some point in the future.

      As far as the impact on everyday life of gun control in the United States, the ultimate end result of gun control is to criminalize those who would act in the protection of oneself or others, whilst doing little to stop psychopathic criminals, who, by definition, are not law-abiding. Statistics easily bear this out if you care to research crime rates in those states with strict gun control laws vs. those states that issue concealed-carry permits. Chicago, for example, has some of the strictest gun laws in the country and yet is now more dangerous than Afghanistan. Washington DC has banned handguns, yet has a much higher crime rate than neighboring Virginia, where concealed-carry permits are issued.

      Guns do not, by their mere presence, turn average citizens into butchering lunatics; nor are butchering lunatics turned into normal citizens if guns are removed.

      May we forever be blessed with living in an age of peace. I hope to never need a tool of self-defense, but would not hesitate to use one in the protection of myself, my children, or my country.

    3. A "tool of self-defence" has so many forms, doesn't it? My tool would not have the power to kill dozens. My tool would probably be words, or a call to those who are employed to enforce the law.

      And here's the real rub for me. I WOULD hesitate to use a gun in the protection of anyone. I would hope we all would, at the very least, hesitate.

      Deb, your points are all solidly argued. And I could take all your points and with my own research and statistics, coherently and with passion argue against each one. I don't agree with many of your points, but I don't believe that makes me, or anyone who might disagree, arrogant, or naive. I am guided by the pacifists who surround and have gone before me, by the positive impact gun control laws have made in my own country, by the living, listening, responsive and life-saving nature of much legislation, by my belief in the democratic process—the intelligence of my elected officials and their guiding community—by my own intelligence, and by my unwavering faith in compassionate non-violence.

      You and I are mothers, together…And we want the best for our children. I really wish we could talk in person on this issue that we both care so deeply about. I send you respect and so much peace, Deb.

  6. So many issues - it can feel (to me, and so how must it feel to a child?) that things our out of our control and that there is no way we make a difference. But knowing that kindness outweighs wrongdoing.

    And knowing kind people like you, Helena make me think about my own words and actions just that little bit more - so your words make a difference :-)

    1. Thank you so much, Ingi. Yes, there are SO many issues, aren't there? Sometimes it's overwhelming for all of us, children and adults alike. What do we do, especially in weeks like this, that seem so crazy the whole world around?

      I go back to hope and kindness every time. So many of us choose hope and kindness first, don't we? And that in turn creates more hope and kindness in me, and I pass that on and receive it, and on, and on, creating a cycle of compassion that is beautiful to see. This is what I focus on, as often as I can.

      Thank you for your comment, Ingi. It really means so much to me.

  7. Helena, I always get happy when people quote my blog posts ;-)

    I think you and I see some things the same, like equality in marriage ;-) I am not sure if you read my BIG post where I shared that I have been a gay rights activist for over twenty years. My best friend in high school is gay. I was the first person he came out to. I know it's not a choice. I know he was created that way. Twenty plus year ago, when I started this walk with my friend, I never thought we would have come this far this fast. It fills my heart with joy to see so many other people feeling the same way.

    It's funny, truly. I have been thinking about quitting blogging or finding a new platform because I am not a conservative and I am so tired of reading about things that seem so hateful and hurtful to me, things that seem so narrow. I respect everyone's right to their opinion and to live their life the way they want--as I KNOW you do, but sometimes it gets really difficult to read about or feel part of a community where you really don't fit in. This post made me realize that I am not alone, so thanks.

    As for the gun control, I used to think like you (I am not saying that in a negative way). I grew up shooting guns for target practice (my dad thought it was good for coordination, etc.) and I knew they were incredibly powerful and that scared me. I went to the Million Mom March in DC when Allie was a baby. I ask everyone whose house we go to if they have a gun and if they do, if it is locked up. I don't like guns. husband's great grandma is Anna Colt, her father invented the Colt 45. My husband's family feels differently than I do and I have changed my views a bit over the years because of conversations with them. I still don't like guns and never plan to shoot another one in my life or have one in my home. I don't want teachers having guns in classrooms or malls or public places. But, I feel so strongly that not everyone has to feel the way I feel about things and to each his own and freedom is so important and being able to do what you want as long as it doesn't hurt anyone is important and so I have to feel that responsible gun ownership for those who choose it should be within the law.

    1. Theresa, thank you for that blog post—it was really lovely to read! For some strange reason (that I don't even understand!), I didn't link to it at first, but it is linked now. :) Thank you so much for your words; they really were inspiring.

      I know what you mean about feeling relief at not being alone. I am always open to hearing other views, but it is really nice when your thoughts resonate with someone else, and that "connection" happens. Isn't it? What a beautiful story about being there for your best friend in high school. How lucky he was to have you there! And yes, the changes fill me with joy and hope, too.

      I figure if I write the things I care about, and if I meet every view with open-mindedness and a compassionate heart then my personal well-being is taken care of, and I like life more. And that makes me a better parent, better person to be around, and a better advocate for peace, compassion, and love, love, love!

      I'm gaining so much from these conversations about gun control. I'm looking into other viewpoints, doing more research, learning so, so much. I understand your point of view, your family's history, and how you have come to feel the way you do today. And I think there are many ways people could find points of agreement on this issue. No-one wants to be in danger. No-one wants to live in fear. Most of us can be responsible, intelligent guardians of our selves and our families. No-one wants to live in a world of violence. Every reasonable person talking about this is on the same page—we all want the ones we love to be safe.

      For me, that safety would involve a society actively, intelligently, compassionately, and respectfully protecting its people, moving away from violence and towards thinking as a community (and not simply as individuals with rights). I would have us collectively working to remove weapons that have the power to kill dozens in minutes, working to get weapons out of the hands of the mentally unwell, helping those who feel disempowered and unheard, those who are struggling and frustrated. I would have all of us listening, listening, listening.

      Thank you so much for your thoughts, Theresa, and for your kindness. I really appreciate you writing here.


I love hearing from you! Thank you for your heartfelt, thoughtful responses—they lift me, and give me light.