An Unlikely Trinity
Originally published July 7, 2016
I got my patience and I’m making do
I learned my lessons from the ancient roots
I choose to follow what the greatest do
We’ve been through, and continue to go through, so much turmoil and loss these days, it seems to be the norm as we move from one tragedy and outrage to the next.
Just like a kid going through puberty, America seems to be having a growth spurt. It’s as if we are in junior high all over again, with the requisite bullying, name-calling, ugliness, awkwardness, manipulative reasoning, unnecessary emotional and physical cruelty, faulty judgment and disturbing sensationalism that come along with adolescent behavior, only to be magnified, rewarded and abused by the Internet, social media and reality television (which includes our news broadcasts).
Because of the experiment that our country is, we have always needed extraordinary people to rise above the fray, to serve as a moral voices and bearers of Light, Love, Peace, Justice and Reason — to make sure our hormones and lower selves don’t rule the day, that neither mob mentality nor corruption of power nor relentless greed takes hold in a way we will eternally regret; to steward our democracy and remind and inspire us through their words and deeds that our “better angels” must prevail.
The passing of Elie Wiesel, one of the most influential standard bearers of our time, significantly and symbolically, just before our Independence Day celebration, was not lost on me, however it did seem to get lost in the shuffle of hysteria and hyperbole that we unfortunately have also come to know as the norm in our mainstream media and discourse.
No one was talking about or honoring this great man on television with any sort of coverage like we saw with two other great souls we lost recently, Prince and Muhammad Ali. Instead, all I saw was nonstop regurgitating and fanning the flames of the mudslinging and nastiness between the two presumptive presidential candidates, and the other incessant topic of terrorism, with the headline in big bold letters, Why They Hate Us.
It made my stomach sick that such an opportunity to focus on what Elie Wiesel’s message was and what his life represented was not used, consciously or not, as a balm, an antidote to all the negativity being spewed. And it made me sad to think that yet another giant of goodness and voice of decency has left the planet, because who is coming up behind them?
We cannot underestimate the impact these three humans had on our modern times and how their absence creates a void, a vacuum that needs to be filled with comparable or better gifts than they bestowed on us:
Prince, a musical genius, whose example of profound and prolific creativity encouraged us to get our sexy on and not deny those natural, healthy urges, because when repressed too long and too far down, they can mutate into rape culture and generalized violence. He wanted us to make love not war with each other and was a behind-the-scenes crusader for social justice.
Muhammad Ali, a tower of strength, boldness and courage, who taught us self-worth and discipline and being your own moral authority, doing what’s right when necessary, even if it goes against popular opinion, personal gain and an unjust system. He taught us that standing up for justice and equality, and fiercely defending the concepts of religious and racial tolerance and love for all people everywhere is the greatest fight of all.
Elie Wiesel, who understood pain and horror on an unimaginable scale firsthand, served as a witness to and reminder of the worst we are capable of doing to each other. Yet he turned his experience into one of insisting that we bring out the best in each other, emphasizing the importance and value of friendship and brotherhood, that we should never be silent in the face of injustice anywhere to anyone, and that the opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference.
On the outside, these humanitarians couldn’t be more different: Just think of the contrast between Muhammad Ali, physically big, strong and conventionally attractive, who was outspoken and sought the media spotlight and challenged authority, and Prince, a wisp of a thing probably no wider than one of Ali’s legs, extremely soft-spoken and media shy, almost to the point of being a recluse. (Interestingly, Ali often made himself “smaller” while in the boxing ring to tire or outwit his opponent, whereas Price exploded into something much larger than life on stage.) Then, of course, there is Wiesel, known more as an older man, who because of his minority status as a European Jew during WWII was literally fated to be extinguished but instead became a beacon of light to humanity, especially to those who are persecuted anywhere. Yet they shared so much in common.
We can also talk about the price of not heeding, or instead expressing the inversion of, their ideals and principles, like the Orlando massacre, the Brexit vote and the terrorist attack in Istanbul. In their most simplistic terms, you could deduce that the Orlando massacre was caused by the repressed sexual feelings of the shooter (un-Prince), the Brexit vote was about not accepting the “other” and challenging authority to mandate that view (un-Muhammad Ali), and the terrorist attack in Istanbul used religion to justify the annihilation of another (un-Elie Wiesel).
With the departure of each of these great souls (Nelson Mandela, Grace Lee Boggs, Maya Angelou to name a few others we’ve lost over the past few years), it feels more ominous. I keep wondering who is going to take their places, because no one could fill their shoes. Who will demonstrate wisdom and profiles in courage, who will be the new voices? It was encouraging that Jesse Williams seems to be walking that path with his activism and incisive, passionate speech on BET about institutional racism; there is Rebecca Solnit or Tim DeChristopher fighting for climate change and protesting the destruction of the environment … but where is their airplay, as most of you have probably never heard of them. If Elie Wiesel couldn’t get it, why would they?
More importantly, though: What is your voice putting out there? What is the message of your life? What example, inspiration, motivation are you being to others?
It is no coincidence that Hamilton is the phenomenon that it is right now. There is a certain magic and Universal order to these events; yes, you can say the talented performers, and of course concept and writing are to “blame” — but why now? Why was this born at this particular moment in time and not five years ago or five years from now?
I also find it interesting that some our biggest and most socially aware and/or politically active, and aging musicians are on tour this summer, perhaps for their last, like Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel and Sting, Van Morrison, and Dolly Parton; artists who have been around for decades with socially conscious messages, bridging cultures and creating thoughtful lyrics and positive vibes, thankfully playing to thousands of people to help counteract the opposite that abounds. And it seems the only movies out there are superheroes or supernatural demons. Again, I don’t think any of this is a coincidence.
I bring all of this to your attention because it seems that everyone has been experiencing their own personal crises and can barely get their heads above water. And when they do come up for air, the world seems to be falling apart and things are just too overwhelming to try to comprehend or relate to, and/or they feel powerless to do anything about them. But it’s so important that we find a way to connect our own lives and those of our neighbors both next door and around the globe, and take whatever actions we can to make it better, lest we wake up one day and find a world that we simply do not recognize or feel a part of, or at worst a world we are oppressed by or fearful of.
So instead of being swept up in the events of the day, week or month, find a balance between being aware and caring, and do whatever little bit you can to bring love, compassion, tolerance, peace into the world in your own way. Choose to show kindness to a stranger or family member; make art; put out a positive post on your social media; allow yourself to relax and breathe; express love to someone you are not feeling so loving toward; try to understand and even stand up for someone instead of dismiss or shout at them, especially if they have a different skin color, religion or political view.
Unconscious times call for as many people to become as conscious as possible, and to make an effort. Look at your own internal structures and see what can be healed or repaired, where bridges can be built in your own sphere of influence, in your family, community, even workplace. Be courageous like Muhammad Ali, and take a stand for peace and justice. Be creative like Prince and make art and love. Be compassionate like Elie Wiesel and do not give in to revenge or hatred of a real or perceived enemy.
Not sure where to start, what needs to change, or how you can make a difference? Give me a buzz and I’ll help you fly like a butterfly and sting like a bee, while playing 10 instruments and wearing purple, getting you one step closer to being considered for your version of a Nobel Prize!
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