“Sleep with one eye open, gripping your pillow tight…” (Metallica – Enter Sandman)
Something ugly is stirring.
Forty-nine people are dead because of who they happened to love. Riots are erupting at a multi-nation celebration, over a game.
Two young children are waking up without their mother.
The tragic, senseless murder of MP Jo Cox is far more than a personal tragedy; it asks us to consider fundamental questions of who we are and how we choose to live, what our values are, and what principles will steer us through the difficult decisions that we face in our lives.
At a time when our nation is considering its place in the world these are vital questions. On June 23rd Britain voted to leave the European Union following weeks of debate that revealed the fault lines within our country. Questions of national sovereignty, democracy, immigration, economic stability and the nature of our relationship with our European neighbours were discussed, with strong, valid arguments made by both sides.
But divisions were also revealed and worrying new questions asked: how tolerant are we of views that differ from our own? How accepting are we of immigrants to our country? How prepared are we to work together to steer our country through future uncertainty? How much of what our politicians tell us is based on conviction and belief, and how much on political expediency and personal ambition?
These are issues that recent events and debates must force us to confront. And we should ask ourselves how we make our choices, and why.
There’s a side each of us need to take, beyond ‘Leave’ or ‘Remain’.
Which side are you on?
Every day we make decisions, some big, some small; some that will affect a small number of people, some that will have consequences that will reverberate across the world. And in an unpredictable world, that can be scary. How do we know what is right? How do we know whose advice we should trust? How do we make sure we follow the best course; for us, our families, our country, our world?
We don’t, and we can’t.
Because often there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ decision. There are different decisions, a multitude of options, and any one of them may have good consequences, may have bad consequences. Chances are each choice will have a mixture of both. And as the consequences of our decisions become clear in the fullness of time, further options are presented to us, further choices we must take as we steer our best course through the corridors of our lives.
So what does that leave us with? What are our choices?
Do we follow the instincts of our better selves, that seek to love, care for and nurture others, that will uphold the values of fairness, equality and compassion? Or do we listen to the voice of doubt and fear, the one that yells to us of what we may lose, of what somebody else will take from us, of the pain and hardship that is waiting to assault us with its ambivalence, to bludgeon us into impotence and to strip us of that which gives our life meaning?
The seed of each of these instincts exists within all of us; our choice, a choice that we must make every day, is which we shall water.
The world’s population is growing but the world itself is shrinking. Not in size, but in our ability to transcend the barriers that once kept us apart. As our ability to travel and to communicate improves so does the opportunity to recognise that we are all the same. We share the same hopes and fears for ourselves and our families, we breathe the same air and we pump the same blood around our bodies.
What does love tell us? What does fear tell us?
I may be accused of being idealistic – it wouldn’t be the first time – and I can live with that. We all want to see a better world but in our differences we all think that our own views are the right ones. We can reconcile our differences through a recognition of our shared interests. That may involve compromise and stepping outside what is comfortable for us, but that’s OK, for there lies our opportunity to learn and to grow.
Can we create a heaven on earth? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try; after all, history repeatedly shows us that we’re more than capable of creating hell on earth.
So, why not heaven?
Matthew Williams, single father to two children and divorced ex-husband to an ex-wife, started the blog ‘Love, Laughter & Truth‘ in December 2015. The blog is an attempt to make sense of his rollercoaster life following depression, divorce, and his introduction to the weird – and sometimes wonderful – world of dating. He hopes that his writing will help others that find themselves dealing with similar challenges in life. You can find Matthew on his blog and follow him on Facebook & Twitter.
Image courtesy of unsplash.com.