I was walking home on a beautiful, sunny afternoon in February. The air was an illogical 70 degrees, the birds were chirping, the plants were all reaching through the soil. It would have been a beautiful and perfectly ordinary spring afternoon – if it weren’t February.
I had checked on my child as she was playing at the neighbor’s house. She was having a great time, even though her brother had hurried home with tales of a fight between he and one of her best friends. He and his sick older sister were now both happily watching their personal, portable screens at home, enjoying all the comforts of modern America.
Nothing was wrong. But as I walked home, I began to experience something…different.
“I’m saying, don’t worry…about a thing…” The lyrics began to filter through my mind.
But as they did, I began to remember violence. Struggles. As though I were watching it on an old TV, these images overwhelmed my sense of sight as I continued walking the familiar street.
Demonstrations from the 60’s and 70’s became demonstrations of today. Prayers and solidarity faced tar gas and fire hoses, both then and now. People ran for cover, not because they were done protesting, but because their body wouldn’t allow them to stay. Nothing had changed, although the weapons against resistance improved.
The horrendous attacks of Wounded Knee, the Trail of Tears – these played out before me. Then I watched as Natives of today were beaten, subjugated. Contexts played out: diseases, destruction. Blankets were exchanged for alcohol, as disease disenfranchised each generation in turn. But I saw strength rising in the latest generations. I saw them confronted, harmed, but fierce. Strong.
Villages in Africa were torn apart by violence as literally no one ran to their rescue. Rape and murder destroying whole families. The blood looked wet to me, the children crying for help were audible. The guns rocked the leaves. Families were divided, and cities ignored their plights, allowing the few survivors the courtesy of dirty corners in alleyways to get back on their feet. Religion would alternately step in to help and lead the next charge, never controlling its bipolar rampage.
The song continued, though, as I tried to hide its beauty from this horrible experience. I tried to stow it away, separate it. But it refused.
“Cuz every little thing…is gonna be alright…”
The Natives I had seen were praying safely in their villages, seeking balance, improvement. They were living, continuing, hoping for the best.
Protesters were plotting a next trick, then hiding in their safe places to compare notes. Nothing was easy, but people were continuing. They managed to blend in with the complacent, allowing more comfort than the isolated reservations, but with just as much trepidation, and a greater likelihood of being attacked. Potential enemies surrounded them everywhere they went.
Africans were rising up together, realizing that no one would rescue them, so they had to rescue themselves. As they tried to take the guns, they were shot. But Nelson Mandella’s messages rang through. In time, peace encroached.
Violence and power became visible to me as a kind of cancer on a worldwide CAT scan. Centers, clots, of this bizarre virus showed itself as the people who were drawn to it, the financial benefits and comfort such an alliance could offer, and the horrible effects it had on outsiders. It was invasive, and attitude and a teaching. One could take what they wanted. One could insist on their rightness. If you are friends with the most popular girl or the biggest bully, you thrive the most. These alliances spread the virus.
The gatherings of hate, violence, power, subjugation, and selfish apathy appeared as bad cells, trying to dominate the petri dish of their environs. The surrounding cells fought each cluster as white blood cells do, but many more perished in the fight than those that continued on afterwards, victorious.
“Woke up this morning… Rose with the rising sun…”
I didn’t realize I had been singing the words slowly until now, but suddenly I heard my own voice over the din in my head. I still hurt inside at the idea at this amazing song was becoming so very…corrupted. But I couldn’t stop.
As my eyes scanned the houses I was passing, I realized just how much each house was a contortion of what the earth ever, ever was before Humanity. Were blocks of clay designed to be stacked up, with rubber and copper threaded between them? We moved food between continents. We brought in clothes, furniture, decor – for what??
When cockroaches do something similar in our homes, we destroy them. We consider it vile, disgusting, to picture them living inside our walls and changing our intentional architecture. We are freaked out if we have bees living in our ceilings, ants invading our gardens and kitchens. Mice, moles, raccoons – the list goes on. Only pets may remain. If anything else resides on “our” property, we are offended, rightfully so, and defend our territory with chemical warfare, traps, death, or at least relocation.
Yet we are the greatest invaders. We invade every nook and cranny of this world, and if it rejects us, we change it, “fixing” it until it can make us comfortable. We invade, considering it our right, our privilege, destroying any who stand in our way. Whether humans protecting their own rights and privileges – as they perceive them – or simply a matter of calling in the exterminator for invading bugs or animals, we protect our environment from its original and/or rightful owners. We are entitled to our conquests.
But Mother Nature, the greater Being that is our living planet, is the one who is truly invaded. Should she call in the exterminator, for us? I felt her discomfort with the cancers of cities along her coasts, where ecology could no longer survive, where her processes had been frozen in time, replaced with human prosthetics of what nature once was. In my mind, I watched as She helped the destruction of the white blood cells I had seen before, taking out the virus that was these invaders. She removed them completely on a scale I could never condone, taking along many of the healthy cells in the process of removing the malignant tumors. She was relieved that Her body was healed, oblivious to the sadness others felt at the loss of life. She didn’t intend us harm, but She couldn’t offer us help. She could only help Herself, her plight was so dire.
“Three little birds…were on my doorstep…” My voice rocked me a little, as I realized that the song was resonating positively with the images I was seeing. Despite my assumptions, it felt like somehow there was no conflict between the two.
I fought this sensation, knowing that the blood, violence, and destruction I was witnessing was something inherently at odds with the meaning of this song. But was it?
I remembered the story of how Bob Marley had gotten his start. He lived in a war-torn country where music controlled the people, who in turn controlled the government. People would march into radio stations with automatic guns and hold the DJ at gunpoint until songs were added to the roster. There was no way to get airtime without threats and violence. Bloodshed was common, but the fight for peace is rarely otherwise.
Could such beauty come from such struggle? But then, history shows it has rarely been any other way…
As I watched on in my mind, the earth began to heal. I saw her centers of damage and destruction become places of healing and growth, both literally and figuratively. Yes, rampant destruction had taken place, but it destroyed the destruction, as it were. The people who avoided destruction lived off the land, within the boundaries of what the world had to offer. They did not live on as hunters and gatherers, which I thought at first, or at least not everyone did. Those who did loved it, spending time as one with the beauty of nature that had been so nearly destroyed. Villages quickly formed, or even continued on in new ways, and many areas were repurposed for this new world virtually intact. Some cities continued as though nothing had happened.
Yet here, now, many people are already living this way. Many people already have this experience to offer. The sensation of these future villages – one of love, understanding, comforting each other as is, for the joy of a shared experience – is one I often see around me now. That enlightenment – a literal lightening of the load – was visible now, if one knew where to look.
“Singing sweet songs…their melodies sure and true…”
The bloodshed. The violence. The fighting, uprisings, downtrodden, destruction, and hate reviled. The changes of the world around us, embodies in the human experience. Hell, the human experience dictating the changes of the world around us…
This was only a few moments of my life, but it was so visceral. So real. I felt the machete in my hand, watched the children sobbing, alone in the world; I saw families divided and whole cities destroyed. I watched as those that could call themselves my enemies struggled, fought, and mourned, and I mourned with them. I did not rejoice at any loss, and I did not want the pain.
Internally, I screamed at the universe for another way! Any other way to find peace. I fought the images, begging for a an alternative.
Suddenly, a calm filled me. I remembered a series of books I had read by Laurell K Hamilton, where the heroine had to survive terrible circumstances in order to change them. But more than that, the people she loved had to suffer in order for her to do so. She couldn’t prevent their misery, but she explained that if they had to go through such pain and heartache, she would not allow them to feel alone in doing so. If they couldn’t make it stop, then she would not avert her eyes or try to “make it stop” for herself. She would share their experience, and when it was done, she would help to heal them. But she would also understand the full effects of those who had done the harm, and know the evil she faced, so she could prevent it from every happening again.
I realized – I need to not avert my eyes. I need to ride along for this. I need to not worry – gnaw at uncomfortable truths in a state of helpless fear and stress. Worry will literally get us nowhere. I need to shed the shackles of the experience, and instead stand. Witness, so that I can help. Know the full burden of the damage being done – so that I can do something, and more than that, to see the real truth of the experience.
“This is my message to you.”