If I die tonight. (For Paris)

Photo by Mi..chael via Flickr

“Hope inspires the good to reveal itself.” Emily Dickinson, American poet

Paris.

Lives are shattered, hearts are broken.

A friend said, “It’s armageddon. The battle for the end times.” Like everyone I know, he is just trying to breathe.

Another friend’s son and daughter-in-law were in a restaurant where 19 people were murdered. They survived by hiding beneath a table and shielding themselves; they’re heading home today. My friend posted a photo of this beautiful young couple and said she is waiting to put her arms around them, to feel them and know — viscerally — that they are “safe”.

I believe that we live in a world where we now need quotation marks around the word safe. “Safe.”

I woke up this morning, forgetting it all for that split second. And then, as it did for all of us, I’m sure, the horror of our new world reality came flooding in. This is the new normal, an expert on CNN said last night.

If that’s true — and, sadly, I believe it may be — I have to ask myself this one question:

If this were to be my last day on earth, how should I live it?

I’m not being morbid. I’m being realistic. And conscious. Looking for meaning in the only place and in the only way I know how: to start from where I am in this very moment.

Maybe it’s the same as asking, Can there be joy beyond the despair? Or, should anyone even consider bringing a child into this fucked up, violent, hateful world? Is it armageddon, as my friend fears?

Carnage of the sort we’re seeing now — in Paris (twice), in Boston, on the London Tube, in Spain, on 9/11, etc., (never mind the places where violence and destruction define daily life, like Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Lebanon, to name a few) — demands we either surrender to fear and loathing and hatred OR we double down on our sense of purpose and live lives of intention. We fucking make it count.

I found a word that gives me intention.

Hope. That’s my word. HOPE. Not vengeance, not denial, not hatred. Hope.

I didn’t feel the need to articulate that until this morning.

Until Paris.

I’m writing it down because I believe there are lots of us asking this same question. Maybe, together, we’re coming to a conclusion — crafting a lay manifesto — that will help us look at all the shit in this crazy world and keep going even harder. In grace. And in dignity.

To live with this intention is to stubbornly and almost crazily keep hope alive, sometimes just as a flicker or even an ember, during the darkest times. To believe that if we show up and stand up and do our best and stay upright, the light will eventually appear. The dawn will come. To live this way is to keep hope alive, as a flame, as a light.

Hope says, I can do this. Or, even better, We can do this. We can weather it. We can and we will go the distance. We won’t succumb to hatred when love is surely the more powerful emotion.

Anne Lamott, a writer I worship, says: “The world is always going to be dangerous, and people get badly banged up, but how can there be more meaning than helping one another stand up in a wind and stay warm?”

For me, the way to live today, tomorrow and every day after that for as long as there are days, is to love and connect and kiss and laugh and cry and reach out for the person who needs to be reminded they matter and tell our chosen families that they brighten our worlds and our lives. That, in fact, they are our worlds and our lives.

To look for and find the good where it can be found.

To be kind and to try and imagine what it might be like to stand in the other’s shoes.

To strive for empathy and compassion.

To be self-aware and not self-absorbed.

To show up.

To get angry, too. To have shitty days and moments of doubt and all that makes us human and part of this world.

And through it all, to hope for more, for better, for real.

To search for, find and hold dear to the thread of hope in the darkness. To remember that hope is light. No coincidence — Paris is the City of Light. La ville lumiere.

The agony of last night’s events — the hatred, the violence, the total disregard for the sanctity of human life — do not, in the end, extinguish that light, in my world.

Never.

Jamais.

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Writer.