Tag Archives: Humanity

I Am Charlie

Je suis Charlie.

I am Charlie.  Charlie Hebdo, a French satire magazine.  I was attacked twice over the years by religious extremists for exercising my freedom of expression.  A freedom that truly reflects the unique and indominable human spirit while ensuring all opinions are held valid and no ideas are censored.  A freedom that gives a voice to citizens, opposers of tyranny and defenders of liberty.  A freedom that must never be taken away and should always be carefully guarded.

Today I was attacked and more than ten of my employees were murdered along with a police officer who was executed in the streets.  All because of a joke.  But not just any joke, a joke about a particular religious prophet.  A prophet people are currently killing others in the name of, which is a pattern we’ve seen repeated too many times throughout history.

I could have not made this joke and maybe the tragedy would have been avoided.  But at what cost?  To allow a group of people to command me into silence with the threat of physical violence?  To be forced to conform to others’ subscribed beliefs and dogmas rather than my own?  To give in to bully behavior and make this religious prophet the one thing I can’t joke about?  Laughter is the greatest medicine and helps people unite in harmony.  Laughter helps us take ourselves and life a little less seriously, it eases tensions, it reduces fears, it humbles us, it elevates us above our problems, it strips power from people and things so we are all equal and empowered, it makes boring topics easier to understand, it turns strangers into friends, it makes illuminating truths easier to swallow and it makes us feel good.

Most people are offended by something but making those subjects taboo to joke or talk about only keeps them offensive and leads to the banning of other subjects–in other words, censorship of expression. If you can’t laugh about it, you can’t heal or get over it and it will always have power over you.  Either everything is okay to joke about or nothing is okay to joke about.  This is how we maintain balance and remind ourselves that we are in fact human, we make mistakes, we don’t know half as much as we think we know, we think and do stupid things sometimes, we have transcendable fears, we have painful experiences that need healing and we like to be playful with each other. It also helps make difficult topics easier to talk about, which promotes responsible discussion and social change. 

My jokes made extremists the subject of ridicule to empower free citizens everywhere and demonstrated why ideologies shouldn’t be followed blindly.  Yes, many consider religion a sacred topic but just as many people consider it a fallible human creation…while we all have different beliefs and perspectives we all also like to laugh and have different senses of humor.  Denying people the freedom to express their senses of humor denies them expression of themselves and their personalities–what makes them unique and authentic.  If we don’t find something funny then we don’t laugh at it and we either move on or explain our position to seek understanding…rather than demand the censorship of that joke and shoot those who make it.  This is how free society operates.

Today’s attack was a test of our collective will to defend our freedoms and stand up to those intent on taking them away.  The pen is mightier than the sword and as humans we should seek to understand each other and discuss our issues peacefully rather than force each other into doing things our way and using violence or coercion as an incentive. 

My thoughts are with the lives lost today along with all those who died due to violent extremists.  I hope the victims’ families find peace and closure and that all who are affected by these individuals find shelter and sanctuary.

We are in the midst of volatile and trying times but don’t lose sight of peace and prosperity.  Together we can make a difference for a better tomorrow, when we can all take a joke in stride and respect each other’s right to self-expression and critical inquiry through humor.

I am Charlie.  You are Charlie.  We are all Charlie.  This was an attack on all of us and our freedoms by a group bent on domination and control.  They don’t represent all Muslims but they do represent all people who let their beliefs run wild and use them to oppress other humans and disrespect the sanctity of our condition.  Poking fun at people’s beliefs may not be the most classy move but we are allowed to think they are ridiculous or degrading and have the right to say so.  Especially when the beliefs have led to thousands of years of bloodshed, disparagement of women, beheaded soldiers and journalists, citizens murdered in their homes, children shot by snipers or orphaned and seeking refuge in another country, terror attacks in Boston and New York, legitimizing torture to find terrorist leaders, several nations in shambles and the apparent need for increased government surveillance that invades privacy.  All this because of a few beliefs.  We can poke fun at them to make the monster easier to deal with or we can say nothing yet act sovereign and free.  I choose the former.  Because I am Charlie.

#jesuischarlie

Spread Your Seed…Of Positivity

“There are no extra pieces in the universe. Everyone is here because he or she has a place to fill, and every piece must fit itself into the big jigsaw puzzle.”

–Deepak Chopra

Whether or not you’ve thought much about it, you are a supremely unique individual with your own blend of talents and traits (hereon referred to as “style”) to share with the world.  No one else will ever have your same personality, your same outlook on life or your same path…let alone all three. Though we are all one in a sense and have a lot more in common than we like to admit, our individual styles are what make us one-of-a-kind expressions of life and soul.  Our individual styles make us unforgettable and irreplaceable.

Take a moment to think about what your natural talents and traits are.  Perhaps you are funny, athletic, intelligent, sociable, musically inclined, supportive, strong, artistic, techno-savvy, optimistic, hard-working or helpful.  Maybe you can sing real well, cook for a king or fix nearly anything.  Maybe you’re a patient and thoughtful listener or maybe you know all there is to know about accounting.  Just think about all the big and little things that make you who you are but especially any natural talents you have and your personality traits that you think make you different from others.

Now, think about how you can use those talents and traits of yours to positively impact those around you in a small way.  Each one of us has a story that weaves and intertwines with the stories of countless others, so if each of us were to use our talents and traits to benefit those we come into contact with on a daily basis then over time we will benefit everyone in the world by extension.

It’s what I call “planting your seed of positivity” and the cool thing about it is you don’t have to do much:  simply affect someone positively and watch as that person does the same to spread your seed on down the line.  It’s like a phone tree except more reliable.  We all know something as small as holding a door open, letting someone merge into your lane, helping a friend move or smiling at a stranger can make a huge difference in someone’s life.  Everyone has their own struggles and we typically don’t know what others are going through at any particular moment or during the course of a lifetime.  A simple friendly gesture could be an improvement to anyone’s day but we can take this practice a step further.  Consider another quote:

“Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.”

–Bill Nye (The Science Guy)

Think of what would happen if everyone taught someone a single thing that person didn’t know–in no time at all the entire world would become that much more knowledgeable.  For instance, I love meeting people who have a unique taste in music because I’m shamefully dependent on the radio and I invariably end up with a list of interesting artists to check out.  This usually leads to me finding new music I really dig and connect with, which then leads to me sharing that music with other people I know.  Even if I never see those musical mentors again I at least have two new things to carry with me for the rest of my life:  a wider music base and a sense of these peoples’ individual styles.  The first will enrich my playlist with new things to be exposed to while the second will help me further define myself by showing me how I am different from others and how I am similar (in other words, it reveals more of my unique style to me).

Of course, I also learn a lot from other people by looking at their personalities and attitudes, listening to their backgrounds, talking about their goals and motivations, observing how they interact with the world and discussing their philosophies on things like life, love, society and their interests.  But the point here is to share what makes you unique with others so they may carry it with them and spread your seed of positivity while learning how to spread their own seeds.

Helping others find their unique styles is important because it promotes self-actualization, esteem, individuality and personal development.  Not to mention we are all geniuses in at least one thing, so helping people find their inner geniuses through genuine self-expression can lead to a more enlightened and awakened world…akin to a Renaissance. Teach a good friend your special blueberry muffin recipe (but maybe not your secret blueberry muffin recipe).  Take someone to your favorite spot and compare music playlists.  Show others your intuitive understanding of the world and inspire them to make a difference.  Help somebody learn how to do an oil change.  Or simply lift peoples’ spirits with your random jokes and warm personality.  Just try to rub off in a good way and with good intentions–those are like the sun, water and soil for your seed.  Over time you’ll see your seed grow into a sapling among thousands of other saplings.  And over some more time, all those saplings will grow into a forest where each plant is helping the plant next to it grow and develop into a strong tree.

Imagine what we could accomplish as a species and as a civilization if we all helped each other grow into strong trees rather than competed for the light and cut each other down to stumps.  Let’s leave the deforestation of each others’ characters, identities and happiness in the past where it belongs–right next to actual deforestation.