Saturday, January 10, 2015

What I Want For You in 2015

 Life that was holding on in my neighborhood in France even as winter was closing in

Sometimes it seems the whole world is on fire. Last month I had vowed to turn off the news and change my home page on the Internet from an aggregation of news horribleness to I Can Has Cheezburger, the home of snoring bulldog puppies and cats who are not amused by their owners. Each day I’d obsess over yet another example of inhumanity worse than before and there was nothing that I could do to change it simply by watching television or reading every online article about every injustice or attack. Just a couple of weeks ago, a crazy person in my adopted city of Dijon drove through my own neighborhood – a block from my apartment building – running over people on the sidewalk in the name of his religion. It turned out that he was certifiably mentally unstable, so that incident seemed like a one-off. Whew.

This week, though, I found myself glued to cable news reports again. The attacks by home-grown French jihadists on cartoonists at the French satiric magazine, Charlie Hebdo, has left me worried about friends living in Paris as well as peaceful people I know throughout the world who just happen to be Muslims. Will my Paris friends be safe? Will the world be able to distinguish between Muslims who want to live in peace to raise their children and coach the grade school soccer team or work endless hours at my local kebab sandwich shop and those extremists who think they can kill everyone who doesn’t agree with them? Just as relevant -- is it necessary to direct such sharp humor toward something so sacred to a large part of a country’s population? With free speech also comes responsibility.

At home, my own community of St. Louis still wrestles with the death of Michael Brown and whether those in authority are setting up a system that privileges those in power and continues to oppress those who are disadvantaged by race, economics, or education. About the only change that seems to occur is that people “unfriend” others on Facebook because they disagree over another’s position. Or someone shows himself so rigid and outspoken about his own view that you can’t even begin to start a reasonable discussion about the issue and search for common ground. Why do we still seem to be fighting the same fights in my own country we fought last century? From which direction will the next protest come? Peace and Justice seem to require an eternal struggle.

And so I’ve gained an encyclopedic knowledge about cat videos as an escape.

But what I know about the world is that there are more people who work each day to build it up than there are people trying to tear it down. I think of the Ferguson Library, which, during the worst days and nights of protest in St. Louis, kept their doors open because children needed a safe place to go since the schools had closed down. I think about those people out there on these frigid winter nights searching for people who need a warm place to stay. I remember the wonderful people at my vet’s office who loved and helped my dog until her last day. I think about the people at the farmer’s markets my husband frequents who work so hard every day to be good stewards of the earth. I think about every teacher I ever had in public schools and every single one I know who stands in front of a classroom, willing to fight ignorance in children and over-interference by politicians. I think of the checker who I only knew as Mary who worked the early morning shift at my grocery store (and who died much too soon) and said to me at the end of every transaction, “Now you have a blessed day.” I think of all the people I’ve met as I’ve traveled who welcomed me and who’ve been open to all that was new and different, not taking new and different as an assault on who they were (although my French friends and I will eternally disagree about stores being open on Sunday).

In the medina of Hammamet, Tunisia.
What beauty we find when we open ourselves to something new.

--> The year 2015 has not begun on a great note. It’s probably still a good plan to wean myself off of cable news and do more than exchange it for cat videos. This will be a writing year for me because my MFA thesis is due this spring (yikes, I have to finish a book, not just talk about finishing one!). I miss writing my little stories for all of you on the Internet and connecting with you through them. It’s time to exercise more than the finger that pushes the “like” button on Facebook. I need to push many different keys on my keyboard to see what I can bring to the world. For now, though, what I want for you in this new year is that you find kindness everywhere you turn and that you have a blessed day. I’ll see you back here soon.

Yet sometimes it's good to rest your heart with the internet

How has your New Year been going so far? What are you most excited about in 2015? Are you a resolutions-type person? Tell us in the comments box about what 2015 will mean for you.


Nadine Feldman said...

Somehow I knew what you were going to write about.

When I think back about my childhood, I remember the Vietnam War, the race riots, Weather Underground. Our world was savage and violent then, but we didn't have the 24/7 news cycle or social media to amplify the noise. Are we getting worse, or does it just seem like it? I don't know.

The good news you write about is underreported. When we lived in Houston, when we had moments of despair we would walk over to Rice University to some event, and the brilliant young students there gave us hope. Now, in our small town in western Washington, we live among extraordinary people. One small example: Habitat for Humanity normally doesn't operate in areas of less than 50,000 people, but our Habitat survives and thrives with only 30,000 people because there's an extraordinary commitment.

I will be thinking of you as you finish your book, as I struggle to finish one of my own. I'm doing a lot of research and study to try to get better at my craft. It's exciting to watch your journey unfold, and I can't wait until you share the next chapter!

Unknown said...

A very thoughtful and beautifully written post, Julie. The rising up of the "dark" side of humanity just garners the forces, if you will, of humanity's best.

Anonymous said...

Martine said....I took the time to read your writing but I do not know if I understood everything because my English is very bad.
I think when everything goes wrong around us, luckily our little animal friends are there to give us some comfort, simply observe them and our smile come back.
Despite a sad start to the year in France, I hope 2015 will be a better year than 2014 for everyone. To this day, I remain shocked that people died murdered by terrorists in our country.
I have no particular resolution, I would just like to have the health to travel again and discover new horizons.
For this new year 2015, I wish you to be able to realize all your dreams.
Be happy with family and friends, be flourished with your write, and I hope that your work will be rewarded.
I wish I could read your book soon

Marsha said...

I've long been weaned off of national news of any kind. I don't really even watch my local news! It is all just so overwhelming with all of the bad things going on in world today. I just want to focus on things that make me happy like my family, my photography and Keith Urban (Julie you know this all too well). It's just too depressing to think of all the current events in this world. I want to hear or see good news...there is still much more of it than the bad but nobody wants to report on that! Here is to a new year with some lightheartedness, travel & friends!

Turkey Tours said...

Very nice article..glad to find your blog.

Julie Farrar said...

Thanks for all the thoughtful comments. I didn't respond sooner because on our one day of ice and sleet I slipped and have been nursing the pains from the fall. Nothing broken.

Like Marsha said, I think I want to focus on putting positive energy into the world right now. It's important to know and try to understand what is happening in the world, but it's also important to bring good to my little corner of it (like Nadine's Habitat). Have a good year, everyone.

Unknown said...

A heartfelt post, beautifully written. I find myself seeking out good news (or posts about about furry friends) in these days of terror and uncertainty. An overload of the bad news and frightening events can be too much to bear. What I want in 2015? I would love to see more acts of kindness, compassion, and brotherhood.

Vagabonde said...

The start of 2015 has not been great so far. A long time ago I read a book on population growth where they showed an experiment on rats. As the rat population increased, the rats became crazy, violent and finally killed each other off. I wonder if we are getting to this point. Since I have lived in the US I have seen how people have turned more and more violent with more guns and more conservative in their views with less tolerance – racism is not over, and intolerance against various religions or no-religion is strong. And global population keeps growing …

Lynn at Southern Fried French said...

A truly beautiful thought, Julie, merci!

Lynn at Southern Fried French said...

A truly beautiful thought Julie, merci!

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