Ten Thousand Days

The Power of Words

June 14, 2016
Photo by Jamie Street. Words by unknown graffiti writers

Photo by Jamie Street. Words by unknown graffiti writers

Gratitude, Joy, Oneness and Service (Day 663 – Day 668)

On Sunday, I was wrapped up in my own world.  I didn’t see the news until late in the evening.  I had things to do for my upcoming move, and the only time I had for Facebook was to deal with a difficult decision to ban someone from a memorial group who could not stop himself from attacking another member.  I know that anger masks deep pain, and so it was a difficult decision to exclude someone when I advocate working with Oneness. But no pain justifies continuously acting out on another person.  Without seeking to understand, he would lash out and, like children in a schoolyard, others would join in the cyber-bullying with a barrage of words.  When did we stop listening to one another, and engaging in dialogue? When did we start becoming so incensed by different opinions?

I was exhausted and I just needed a break.  I decided to take a trip to South London, on a mission to give an energetic ‘au revoir’ to a London friend, who isn’t here to do it in person.

He is the artist of one of my favourite pieces of street art that was tagged immediately after it was painted.  When I first went to photograph it, right across the face of the character was scrawled in black paint: “Gay.”

I have always been drawn to words on walls and they have the power to offer an alternative perspective that seldom gets expression, and to remind us that there are other ways of being. Lately, there has been a lot of tagging of streetart in London, by graffiti writers.  But this tag hurt me, because it wasn’t a staking of territory or a protest against gentrification – which are a part of the street art/graff/community dialogue.  No, this was HATEFUL.

The sexuality of the artist, the shop owner and the property owner are not something I know. If I don’t know, then it is likely that the graff didn’t know.  Most likely, this was not an overt personal attack directed at someone believed to be gay.  But it is still a hateful act.   It reflects a culture that allows words about sexuality to be used in a derogatory manner, as a means of bullying.

This morning I was watching the news as I was doing chores.  A very popular American sitcom came on.  Three times in the first five minutes, I heard characters use the word ‘Gay’ as an insult to their friend’s manhood.  I don’t watch this program, but it hit me in the heart, as I saw how they were hiding behind ‘comedy’ to perpetuate the acceptability of this form of bigotry.  Bigotry and bullying is not righteous, hip, edgy or funny.

Like feminists, the LGBTQ community has made gains in the UK, Canada and now America but backlash ensues, in subtle and not so subtle ways.  Yes, in many countries, the LGBTQ community faces more open hostility than in America, but hidden hostility and backlash is perhaps more difficult to fight because it is so hard to identify, define and achieve consensus.

Perhaps if any good has come of the Orlando murders, it is highlighting the backlash against the LGBTQ community, just as the Montreal Massacre did for feminists in Canada.  Some will try to silence the dialogue and will point to the changes in the law that give rights to the oppressed.  “Stop complaining,” they will say.  We must not be silenced.  In the Montreal Massacre, the attack was characterised as the act of a madman and not the targeted attack of women in a previously ‘male domain’ of engineering science.  I am grateful that in the 27 years since L’École Polytechnique, leaders have learned that mass murder can be the act of a madman and be a targeted hate crime as well.

 

You may wonder what took me to see that particular piece of art, on this particular Sunday, before I knew about the Orlando shootings.  And, I wonder as well.  For months, I have had this draw to go photograph the piece again and because I am leaving, I reasoned it was now, or never.  For some reason, I felt (or maybe just hoped?) that the piece had been cleaned up by one of the artist’s friends.

When I got there, I had to wait a half hour for the shop to close.  As I waited, I had a moment of stillness watching the evening sky as the quality of light changed with the weather.  It was beautiful.

When the shutter finally came down, I saw that although the art had been tagged with a graff’s name, the hateful tag across the face had been removed.  I let out a “Yay!” and explained my delight to the manager.  We admired the piece together for a few moments and commented on the craftsmanship of the details, before he was on his way.  He took my hand and said he hoped we would meet again.  Do not tell me that street art does not bring people together.

It gave me so much joy!  And as I delighted in seeing the piece restored to its glory (save for the graff tag that happens on the street), it started to rain.  And then, it turned to a downpour.  When I lived in India, I celebrated the monsoons, and standing in the downpour in South London, for a moment, I felt that the world was rejoicing along with me, at the sight of one less hateful thing.

I am grateful to the artist, and to all street artists.  These artists infuse our communities with love and light through the beauty of their art.  They are an integral part of creating the new story of Oneness and Life.

Knowing that I’m leaving London and may not see the artist for a very long time, I am grateful that I was able to create a happy memory, re-visiting the piece.  I believe that there are forces that are trying to extinguish the light and love in the world and they not only perpetuate violence, but they also rob the hope and faith-in-humanity of people of good intention.  With this moment a part of my day, I later learned of the horror of Orlando, and I did not despair.  I was able to send Reiki as a service to the victims and their families and, because it felt right to do so, to the artist that had painted that shutter.   I was unable to sleep; I have rarely felt the “pull” of the recipients so strongly as I did that night.  The world needs so much healing.

I know that many people struggle to find meaning at times like this.  I don’t pretend to have any answers, but for me, I have learned that the only way to combat division and bigotry is through Oneness.  Attacking members of a religion who have perverted and selectively edited the words of their Prophet (Peace be upon him) to justify bigotry and murder will itself be a backlash against a whole religion.  It will not end the culture of bigotry. I don’t know what will end bigotry in our world, other than a growing movement of Oneness. But, if there is anything I know, as a crafter of words, it is this: our words have power.

As the ancient yogis told us: thought becomes word and word becomes deed.  If we want less targeted murders, less workplace discrimination, less religious, gender, sexuality and politically based violence, we can begin by observing and altering the language we use, to change the way we think.  We must be mindful of our rhetoric in response to this horrible event.  Together – and only together – we can buff out hate.

 

For what are you grateful, today?

 

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