"After I resigned from The New York Times over the summer for their hostility to free speech and open inquiry, I began to hear almost daily from such people. Their notes to me sound like missives smuggled out of a totalitarian society.
The passage above is from the article, The self-silencing majority. It is a great read. I was especially struck by it because it is a topic I wrote about recently. Ironically, I changed the word “censorship” to “sense-or-ship” in an attempt to outsmart Facebook algorithms that are increasingly censoring alternative points of view or diminishing the reach of people posting about controversial issues. I posted the following on August 6, 2020:
I can now look back on my life and remember times that I self-censored. I simply didn't speak up even though I had a very different view point or sometimes I purposely mislead the people I was with - I didn't actually lie, but I said things that led them to believe something about me that wasn't true.
I really feel that the most important "issue" of our time is learning to have hard conversations with people that are "different" from us. Over this past year I've lost one of my best friends because she thinks my beliefs are dangerous and irresponsible. Ironically, I had been open with her about our family's choices regarding vaccinations and we had kept our friendship alive for years in spite of our different beliefs. However, she was never willing to actually have the tough conversations about the topic even though I was ready to do so. When 2020 happened our friendship couldn't survive anymore.
I tried opening conversations with family too. I was again shut down. One family member said they didn't want to allow negatives into our relationship.
But for me, the negative is there now. I know how angry people are about people who dare to question our vaccine practices. I know because both of those people told me and reacted angrily. They say that they love and support my family and they just want to ignore the issue but is it really love and support if you have to hide and ignore parts of yourself? Is it love and support when people support government policies coercing your family into an unwanted medical intervention? Is that tolerance? Right now people like me are being portrayed in a way that is making others increasingly intolerant of me and my family. It is scary.
Consider the following passage from a great article written by a UVA student about tolerance:
"Tolerance is a two way street. We can scream all we want about the oppression of LGBTQ+ individuals at U.Va., but the fact remains — in Charlottesville, I have seen more hate and slander for reasonable conservative beliefs than I ever have about my sexuality. All struggles that come with identifying as non-cisgender and non-heterosexual are valid. However, we must start respecting everyone’s existence, as long as they are not causing harm — whether or not we agree with their political beliefs, their lifestyle or their religion. Respecting someone’s existence does not entail instantaneously slandering their character when they stray from our world view. This reaches far beyond my roommate — it is troubling behavior I see every day on Grounds. Consider this — nearly half of the electorate voted for Donald Trump. Do we really believe that half the country is comprised of genuinely hateful people?
We need to start listening to each other. We need to have the tough conversations. We needed to have them long ago, but since we didn't, today will have to suffice.
I’ll close with a quote from my beautiful and wise daughter:
“I think people need to learn how to disagree better.”
Tending My Garden
Yesterday marked two months since my friend DeAnna left this earth for a more peaceful existence. The picture above is from November. It had been almost 5 years since we were together, yet we were as close as we had ever been. DeAnna was a true soul sister to me. We could talk for hours. And how we laughed! Deep, fully body, belly laughs. I will miss our talks for the rest of my life.
DeAnna was one of the most beautiful spirits I have been blessed to know. In one of our last talks she told me about one of Voltaire’s writings and how he said we should all tend our own gardens. I love that so much.
Yesterday I deleted my Facebook account. Back in November I posted the following about Voltaire - I wouldn’t have found it without DeAnna:
“Il faut cultiver notre jardin: ‘we must cultivate our garden’ or as it has variously been translated, ‘we must grow our vegetables’, ‘we must tend to our lands’ or ‘we need to work our fields’.
What did Voltaire mean with his gardening advice? That we must keep a good distance between ourselves and the world, because taking too close an interest in politics or public opinion is a fast route to aggravation and danger. We should know well enough at this point that humans are troublesome and will never achieve – at a state level – anything like the degree of logic and goodness we would wish for. We should never tie our personal moods to the condition of a whole nation or people in general; or we would need to weep continuously. We need to live in our own small plots, not the heads of strangers. At the same time, because our minds are haunted and prey to anxiety and despair, we need to keep ourselves busy. We need a project. It shouldn’t be too large or dependent on many. The project should send us to sleep every night weary but satisfied. It could be bringing up a child, writing a book, looking after a house, running a small shop or managing a little business. Or, of course, tending to a few acres. Note Voltaire’s geographical modesty. We should give up on trying to cultivate the whole of humanity, we should give up on things at a national or international scale. Take just a few acres and make those your focus. Take a small orchard and grow lemons and apricots. Take some beds and grow asparagus and carrots. Stop worrying yourself with humanity if you ever want peace of mind again. Who cares what’s happening in Constantinople or what’s up with the grand Mufti. Live quietly like the old turk, enjoying the sunshine in the orange bower next to your house. This is Voltaire’s stirring, ever relevant form of horticultural quietism. We have been warned – and guided.”
I am finally ready to really embrace this philosophy... or at least move towards it. Facebook is a whole lot of ego - even when our intentions are pure and good. We want to change the world which means changing other people. We get angry and aggravated by people - strangers - who don’t understand us. We let them live in our heads and take up too much space in our lives.
Today I am much calmer than I have been in a long time. I have my little plot to tend. It’s cloudy right now but I know it won’t be long before the sun shines again. I have 3 beautiful children who have been entrusted to me. I literally don’t have enough minutes in the day to do everything I want. My family is my garden. I choose to invest my time, energy, thoughts and life in them. I am so tired tonight after a full day of cultivating - it feels wonderful. I will always be grateful to DeAnna for all of the lessons I learned from her and especially this parting gift she gave to me.
What is your garden? How can you choose to cultivate it today?
Fractured... Fragmented... Divided... Broken.
If you visited me today you would find me healthy, happy and tanner than I was a couple of months ago. Life is Good, there is no question. My family has been extremely fortunate to take the challenges of 2020 and turn them into opportunities.
Mike has worked from home for a year now. Funny how he resisted this change last year. He was determined to keep going into the office as long as possible... which turned out to be approximately 3 days. 😆
What we found over the coming months was that we all really enjoyed him working from home! We get to see each other so much more. We can touch base throughout the day: we eat lunch together and go on more walks. I can even do some errands or appointments more easily now that Mike is more available. Life slowed down even more (and we were already living a very slow paced life compared to most before this!)
But then we decided to cash in even more on this opportunity by moving to Florida. Now we enjoy lunchtime walks almost every day and weekly visits with Grandma and Grandpa. Stresses seem to melt away in the Florida sunshine.
So yes - My Life Is Good.
But life on Planet Earth? It’s very much a mixed bag still. And to pretend that isn’t so would be the greatest hypocrisy and epitome of privilege. My personal world - what an outsider would see if they could observe on a daily basis - is pretty wonderful. But inside I often feel like the Susan pictured above on the left. I took that picture of myself after I cried for hours and hours. It was September 2014 and one of my best friends had suffered a tragic loss - one of her best friends was hit by a bus and instantly died. My friend had already suffered much in her life - traumatic divorce, a parental custody struggle that lasted years and her sister’s suicide all within a short span of time. I couldn’t believe how unfair life is. I wept for her and her pain. I wondered how much one person could bear.
This same friend of mine took her own life 2 months ago, January 22, 2021. She had reached her limit.
So the picture above represents to me how Fractured I feel sometimes. The pain and grief of the world is overwhelming right now - it is such a stark contrast to my daily life. And I am grateful that I am able to experience this contrast because I know not everyone is so lucky. I also know life moves in cycles and pain and grief will one day become personal again. So I strive to stay in the moment and do my best...striving to make myself as whole as possible, because I believe that is the best way I can do my part to heal the world.
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.