This morning I read some truly impactful words which I want to share with everyone.
These words, which I have paraphrased and adapted to make them more relevant to my life and situation, come from The Education of Kevin Powell, written by Kevin Powell:
Definitions of manhood, mine or any other male’s, should not be based on the domination and exploitation of women and girls, ever, nor on the domination and exploitation of each other as men.
With this awareness I no longer take my life for granted, nor do I take the lives of others for granted. I am thankful for life, for my life, and I have found the strength to forgive myself. I’ve been damaged, I’ve been broken, I’ve been rebuked, I’ve been scorned, I’ve been unready for manhood, unready for my humanity.
I’ve made mistakes in my life, hurt people, and hurt myself. Out of that pain and trauma, I’ve found the will to live in a way that I did not think possible. Today and for the rest of my life, I believe in peace, I believe in love, I believe in healing, I believe in self-care, I believe in myself and I humbly ask that those I’ve disrespected or wounded in some way in the past forgive me, please.
I cannot say what the future holds for me, but I know that I want to live in a world in which life offers incredible opportunities to every human being. I want a world in which we treat every person with dignity with grace, with class. I want a world where people who do have privilege and power and great wealth also have great humanity; that they come to understand privilege, power, and wealth are spiritually and morally empty without empathy and compassion for those who are not them.
Today my life means nothing if I do not live it in service to others, if I do not help others, through my words, through my actions. I want to wake every morning without fear and face the world anew. I no longer want to live with self-doubt and low self-esteem.
I value myself and what I have to contribute to this world. I cannot control how long I will live and I do not want to. But I can control how I live, what I do, what I say, what I write, how I treat people, and how I treat myself.
We are created to be equals, to be one human race, to be loved, honoured, and respected, in spite of where and how we were born. We wish for it to be no other way. I know that my life, regardless of the troubles I have seen, has not been in vain. I can breathe, now, and I know now, that my life matters. If we can withstand our many falls and mistakes and efforts to sabotage and destroy our own lives, if we can withstand oppression, discrimination, hatred, and abuse from others, from those who have power but no love for people, all people, then maybe, just maybe, we can come out of the harshness and magic of our life experiences as better human beings. I am doing my best now, more than ever, to be better.
Finally, I can say I know what the right thing is, and I am doing it.
Not my words:
“Life is like carrying a message from the child you were to the old man that you will be. You have to make sure that that message isn’t lost along the way.”
When I was little, I used to imagine fine things, to dream of a world without beggars in which everyone was happy. Simple, subtle things. But you lose those things over the course of life. You just work to be able to buy things and you stop seeing the beggar and you stop caring.
Where’s the message of the child I once was?
Maybe the meaning of life is making sure that the message doesn’t disappear.
Yesterday, for the first time, I saw a photograph of the incredibly moving artwork Dark Elegy, dedicated to the victims of terrorism all around the world, created by Suse Lowenstein, the mother of a victim of the terrorist attack that brought down Pan AM flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerby in 1985. 270 people died.
The artwork consists of 74 larger-than-life sculptures depicting mothers and wives at the moment that they learned that their loved one had died. The women in their moments of anguish expressing shock, horror, sadness, despair, some anger, have all fallen to the ground. Some supporting others but all of them unashamed of their naked vulnerability.
And then, being me, I looked around and I thought, where are the men? Does the artist not know that the men are hurting too? Of course she does. But she knows how it feels to hurt as a woman, to grieve as a woman. This artwork is about women. How women express, remember and hold onto their sadness, not try to deny it.
And I imagined the men, perhaps in the field beyond the trees. What would that artwork look like?
I imagined that the men would be standing staunchly, their feet planted firmly apart, fists clenched, jaws locked, maybe down on one knee but never fallen to the ground.
Screaming through clenched teeth, “what the fuck? What the hell am I supposed to do with this? Anger, rage, fear, confusion?”
Defiant, maybe fearful, but never surrendering, never yielding and never falling to the ground. Keeping control of their thoughts and their bodies.
Men holding men up, stopping them from falling . This is what men do.
Maybe in Dark Elegy there is another message: ‘this is how we allow ourselves to grieve, we have the courage to let go of control, to fall to the ground and then find it within ourselves and each other to drag ourselves back to our feet, look the world in the eye and we carry on but we never forget.’
“Healing the crisis in the hearts of men requires of us all a willingness to face the fact that patriarchal culture has required of men that they be divided souls. We know that there are men who have not succumbed to this demand but that most men have surrendered their capacity to be whole. The quest for integrity is the heroic journey that can heal the masculinity crisis and prepare the hearts of men to give and receive love.”