May the Fourth…Be With You

Even with the current political climate, I will continue to blog about women’s issues, human rights and mental health. (I may do an expose about political climates, but at a later time.)

I recently commented (on Facebook) on a local news station’s announcement of the discussion of banning non-essential traffic from Ohio to North Carolina, because of the “bathroom bill”. Me being me, I had to comment-I love human rights issues (because they are opportunities to expand my awareness and activism). Here’s what I expected going in, and what I hoped for:

trans equal

Expect: People to disagree, challenge my views.

Hope: I could change someone’s mind.

What I didn’t expect was the vicious content that would ensue. I will retype here what I typed there, and then tell you about the responses.

The thing is, rapists and sexual predators have been coming after women and children for years, decades and no one has bothered to put up this amount of riotous behavior. It isn’t about bathrooms, just as it has never been. It is about the average person not understanding that which they fear. If it was their children, their siblings, who were transgender or transsexual, then perhaps the tides would change towards equality. However, with all this being said, I am incredibly proud to call Ohio my home, and Columbus my city. It is incredibly easy to cry foul play when you feel like your rights are being infringed upon, but the reality of the situation is that the rights of the cis- have always been safe. It is now up to the minorities, those who have not had access to the same rights, to rise up and cry out as loudly as they can. Freedom isn’t free, and equality isn’t universal. Yet. But with a little understanding, a little empathy and some patience, perhaps we, as the American people (and Ohioans!) can usher in a new era of acceptance, love and humility-putting aside the fear mongering, the hatred and the ignorance. Thank you, Columbus City Council. May love prevail!

Now, yes. It does sound like a naive college student with liberal ideas wrote that. You’d be reading that same view point in all of my blogs. However, what I said was (in my mind) respectful, and reflected my true feelings. I didn’t name call, I didn’t stoop to low levels, I tried to remain calm in a conversation topic where tempers run rampant.

Some of the responses included (I copied and pasted-so any misspellings or poor grammar are as they were written by the original posters):

“What love? U certainly show none”

“Jared fogel and friends loves and thanks u”

“Pedophiles or rapist to pretend their transgender to exploit it. If you don’t think they will do that you need to take off your love cures all blinders right now. They are liars, manipulates and they will do anything to fulfill their sexual desires.”

“Where does this end, at what point do pedophiles get granted their rights.”

“Seriously, I think it’s just another card to pull, I have a male friend who is gay, he always says, if they talk to me like that, I’ll pull the gay card, if I get fired I’ll pull the gay card, that’s all I hear… Where the hell is the straight card? It’s all about control and money…”

“Play every last PC Card like a typical liberal. Call common sense “fear mongering” to try’n get your way. Grow a pair while your at it.”

Now, at this point I have to mention that my comment to the last one was (It’s my favorite comment):

And if I did, in fact, “grow a pair”, NAME DELETED, would that allow me to use the rest room in peace? My career is in human rights, so you’ll forgive me if I continue promoting equality instead of pulling America backwards.

I have been called a murderer because of my stance on abortions, I have been called all the usual things that men call women who are strong and opinionated. I have struggled with my identity and ideas in light of these things, and I have to say, I believe I have come out of this ordeal (and others) a stronger, more sure person.

equal

I was asked if I believed that someone would willingly submit themselves to a future if they weren’t even part of the group. I had, at that point, answered that although I consider myself bisexual, I had played the part of “lesbian girlfriend” for several of my friends who were in a situation that merited my actions. So when I think of that question now, and try to apply it to this topic, I can only be reaffirmed by my ideas before.

I know I’m a very passionate, outspoken, opinionated individual. I know that I do my best to listen to other people’s ideas, and that I try to be respectful at all times. I also know that I have to stand up for what I believe is right. That’s what it means to truly live. And so I will not be hurt by the people calling me names, or making suggestions about the way I live my life. I will continue to fight for justice, as long as I live.

I don’t think that all Americans believe this way. I don’t even think it’s a majority of them. But what I do think, is that there are a large portion of people who have opinions about this and other issues who choose to remain silent. I can’t remain silent while my friends, old acquaintances, family members, find themselves fearing for their basic rights. I have plans, I have hopes and dreams, and because I ally myself this way, because I belong to several minorities (which will be a blog post on its own), I may be forced into some tight spots. But I choose to believe that justice and love with shine through, and I will not remain silent.

Be The Change

The phrase goes: Be the change you want to see in the world. But no one ever really explains how, or what to do if your answer is really vague. No one jumps up on their horses, or automobiles or rooftops and says “here’s how you do the things!” Because it’s likely that no one told them either. So how? How do you do the things, be the change? I have an idea. You don’t do it with a bang, but a whimper. (I know that’s how the world ends-that’s my point.) 

For the longest time, my answer to the question: How should the world change to be? Would have been something like “I don’t know, better.” I had no idea what “better” looked like, what it tasted and smelled like, I just knew it could be. The grass could grow in a different hue, the sky could be more blue, and there would be a little more kindness, maybe. But I had no specifics. Were there even specifics to be had? Because the way I think the world could improve might not be the same that the other people living in it would say. 

I started out this blog as a way to remind myself that there were good days, just as there were bad ones. That sometimes the darkness crowds out the light and sometimes the light keeps your own fire burning much hotter than is safe. I roared to life with my causes and my hopes, each one requiring me to remind myself that I am just one person. 

I told everyone that I wanted to be the starfish girl. If you don’t know the story, I’ll paraphrase it. There is a little girl who walks along the beach, throwing the starfish that have washed ashore back into the ocean. She did this every day. One day a huge storm passed through and hundreds of starfish were struggling to live. She began her duty as she did everyday. A passerby stopped her and said “Little girl, you are wasting your time. You can’t possibly make a difference to all these starfish. There are just too many.” And the little girl picked up one more starfish  and threw it back in the ocean before she  replied,

“I made a difference to that one.” 

               
I’ve always dreamt of myself as that kind of person. The one that would keep fighting when everyone else said no. I just had never found my starfish, so that I could be the girl. And then I did. It started out as an assignment for a class. One that I thought would be like any other assignment-able to be finished with some research and some fast typing. And then all of a sudden it consumed me and I found my place in the world. A whimper, not a bang.

Just think about it. How many times has your life been changed irrevocably by an angry voice shouting at you that you are wrong, that you are the villain of your story? I’d wager not too many. You might be sad a little, or startled, but probably unchanged for the most part. Now think about the things that HAVE changed you. The quote that made you feel alive, feel something. The song that brings tears to your eyes to hear each time. The one memory that you have. Chances are, you’ll find that the times you felt something so strongly that you found your humanity were the moments that whispered themselves in your ear. The stars aligned just so slightly, the universe gave you a gentle nudge. And you heard it.

We get screamed at by the social media sites, the news companies, advertisements, other people each and every day. It has become the volume with which we interact with our surroundings. But if you stop for just a brief moment and recall what it is that whispering sounds like, then that is how we change the world. One small voice at a time.

Semi-Charmed Life

With the spurt of inspiration prevalent, I’ve picked up an old book idea and I’m running with that. I’m in the last month of my semester, and it’s running away with me. I have an interview at a coffee shop for a summer job, and that’s pretty cool (because you know how I feel about coffee)! And I have a friend date/meeting with my oldest friendship today-at a coffee house. I know I seem a little extreme with the coffee, but it’s delightful. It brings a smile to my face and it’s got caffeine. But anyway.

I woke up this morning and had to decide the order I needed to do things in. Take the dog out: number one. Shower, dress, breakfast, blog, wake up the husband (albeit, not necessarily in that order. It ended up being that my go to way to prepare myself for a coffee date was to, you guessed it, drink my morning cup of coffee. I know, it sounds a little redundant, and I guess that’s entirely fair, but if I’m going to show my inner Lorelai (Gilmore Girls, anyone?) then I might as well be proud of it.

LG
GILMORE GIRLS (Season 2) A – Tisket, A – Tasket (Episode #227463) Roll 51, Frame 15 Pictured: Lauren Graham as Lorelai Gilmore Photo Credit: © The WB / Ron Batzdorff

I am not some wise guru, by any stretch of the imagination. I make mistakes, I change my mind, I buy the wrong kind of corn at the market (sorry, honey) but I live the best way that I can. I drink my coffee strong, I find ways to smile every day-even when I don’t feel like it, I try to be my absolute best. And you know what? Those simple ideas led me to the person I am today.

People are known by the things they hold on the inside. My oldest friend, for instance, I look at her and I see beauty and grace and faith. I look at my husband and see kindness, passion and love (I may be a little biased!). When people look at me, I hope that they see my burning desire to help people, my deep love of rainstorms and sunny mornings (the kind that you see in the “I love, I love, I love you…most ardently” scene from Pride and Prejudice) and a fierce warrior. Those are the things I aspire to, the things that make me who I am. But they are just one part. And that is true of everyone. I have a dorky side that laughs at silly jokes, watches Disney movies on repeat and is really insecure. But no matter how many facets you put together, you still only get to see a part. And I’ll tell you a secret.

That’s my favorite part.

I switched from being a biology major to an anthropology major because I love learning people’s stories. That really shouldn’t come as a surprise. But it’s the knowing that no matter how much I know about a person, I’ll never really know them that fascinates me the most. I haven’t changed since that first time I did ethnographic research. I still love listening to stories. And that’s why I’m going to law school-because with a law degree I can take those stories and give them hope, justice. I am a story activist. Because everyone deserves the chance to be the hero(ine) in their own story, and I can help.

But apart from my personal mission statement, I think it’s positively beautiful that we’re all little snowflakes, little diamonds. Each one of us is so different, but we are all the same. I live for that. It wakes me up each morning and I think that’s how it should be.

snow.jpg

It’s Not Enough

I woke up this morning expecting the news of the day to be pretty standard: celebrity gossip, political drama and some updates about some orders I placed. What I did not expect to see was violence and death. It breaks my heart each time someone has let anger twist their thoughts and hearts to the point of lashing out against someone else. Here in the states there have been muggings, violent deaths (caused by Islamaphobia) and more awful things within the last month or so. 

People have been murdered for being different and suddenly I don’t see where assumption stops and reality begins. It’s so easy to disassociate from other countries which are not your own simply for the fact that they seem so distant. We come to associate certain countries with generalizations like “good” and “bad”, “peaceful” and “hateful”. We come to see places as desolate war-torn wastelands instead of places where people are suffering at the hands of a few tyrannical radicals. It’s easy to brush aside the dangers of war, the tragedies across the sea with a simple “Wow, that’s really sad. I hope that doesn’t happen anywhere else.” 

  

But what you’re really saying is: I hope that doesn’t happen to me. To my loved ones. To my commute home, my vacation plans, my place of work. What you’re really saying is that you aren’t part of the problem, so you can’t really be part of the solution. You’re a good person, you say. You care about others.

But that isn’t enough.

                                            

If one person is loud enough, with their anger, their hatred, then their actions need to be met with one thousand times the response in love. If one person can take away lives in the blink of an eye, then one hundred times more people must save a life. 

In the news today, there was much talk of Belgium and Brussels. Bombings. Pain and death. But where was the same coverage, the same source of mourning globally for Turkey, who just a few days prior had a bombing as well? We become so convinced that there are bad countries filled with bad people that we forget that they are just the same as you and I: countries full of people who suffer, who mourn, who are unfairly generalized and stereotyped because of a few people who don’t even represent the majority.

It’s important to feel outraged. To feel angry at the actions of someone who felt the need to puncture a hole in the lives of millions.

But that isn’t enough.

                                                                

If one person is forceful enough to take an entire country by storm, forcing them into masses of fear and xenophobia, millions more must open their arms and deny their biases. If one person is able to take their own lives in such a manner that innocent bystanders have no choice but to also end, then everyone who is left behind must find it in themselves to stand up for the future, to fight hatred with hope, to battle fear with peace. Hitting the “like” button, the “retweet” button or even the “reblog” button isn’t enough. Those things were never meant to replace the caring, face-to-face actions of things like donating blood, donating food, working in a food pantry, volunteering to teach English as a second language, offering to share your culture with others and have them share back. Technology was supposed to bring people together.

But that isn’t enough.

                                                                  

Words like Vomit

Hi everyone! Thank you to all of you who tuned in for Metamorphosis Monday, and for looking at my analysis of the Kesha case. Today I want to get a little preachy, a little personal. So why did I title my blog “Words like Vomit”? I’m going to be blogging today about bodily autonomy. First, we need to get a couple definitions out of the way though. (This is where the title comes in. You all have ideals about their meaning, and the opposite belief is like bile in your mouth.)

  • Pro-Life: opposing abortion and euthanasia
  • Pro-Choice: believing that a pregnant woman has the right to have an abortion if she chooses
  • Pro-Abortion: in favor of the availability of medically induced abortion
  • Autonomy: freedom from external control or influence
  • Super Tuesday:  a day on which several US states hold primary elections.

A little note from me: I’ve done my best to keep myself respectful and neutral. But if I’m going to be honest with myself, I have to look at my biases, be sure to examine pitfalls in my argument and speak from my heart. Therefore, I will talk to you all as equals, and not as children (or AS a child). My beliefs are my own, and may not be yours. That doesn’t make them invalid, it just makes them different. Until the age of 19, I was extremely pro-life. And then I realized that I could be pro-life about my own actions without needing to be choosing the destiny of someone else. From the definitions above, you can see that you can be pro-choice without being pro-abortion. And that’s my stance. I cannot pick the life for someone else, and no one else can pick my life for me. So let’s get down to bodily autonomy: the living versus the dead. Also, my future blogs will feature other things, not just political ones, but you know what they say about passion: it’ll consume you.

As always:

jmo

What happens when a person dies? Apart from the very biological parts of what really happens, there is a lot that people often do not think about until they are forced to. Burial or cremation? If burial, what kind? Were they an organ donor? Did they have any religious beliefs which might determine their final wishes? What were their final wishes? How would they feel if someone from a different religion, different geographic location, different socioeconomic standpoint came in and told the family members what they could and could not do with the body of their loved one? How would the loved ones feel?

Let’s start someplace different. How do you know someone is alive? Is it what they do? A certain age? Or is it something else? According to the Encylopaedia Britannica, life is defined as matter that shows certain attributes such as responsiveness, growth, metabolism, energy transformation and reproduction. The Catholic Church defines life at conception (when sperm meets egg).

So already, we have an issue with science v. religion. Which is right? I’m not the one to tell you. Sorry. But while we’re on the subject, I’ll tell you about a class I once had, over that very thing. It was a philosophy of science and religion class, and in it the professor handed us a picture of the world’s leading religions. I’ll pass it on to you all, but I’ll also add in the numbers.

Religion_distribution

pf_15.04.02_projectionstables8

Do you want to know what those numbers mean? It means that no matter what religion ends up to be “right”, a majority of the people will be “wrong”. Think about that for a minute. Suppose you are a religion which preaches “eternal hell” for all non-believers. You are not only NOT the majority, but you have just sentenced millions (billions?) of people to die. Interesting, no?

So for the sake of morals, let’s say I choose science. That means that until much later in the cycle, an abortion is just a cleaning out of cells.(Michelle, that’s harsh! Don’t you know fetuses can feel and hear and stuff?) Lets break down this one, shall we? Most abortions happen before week 13 of pregnancy. What happens to fetal growth and development by week 13? Let’s look. It’s all just implantation and cell division until about week 6. Do you wanna know how big that fetus is? The size of a lentil. How big is that? It’s this big:

lentil (That’s a quarter.)

By week 10, the fetus has skin, has lost its tail and can move it’s little limbs around. By week 12, “brain” development has reached a point where reflexes are possible. The fetus is the size of a lime. How big is that? It’s this big:

lime

Okay, so now that that’s taken care of, let’s return to the dead. Three (or more!) states have what is called “Death with Dignity” laws. That means that, providing an individual meets the correct criteria, that individual may choose to die on their own terms with medical help.

The court case of McFall v. Shrimp ruled that while you may not agree with someone’s actions over their own body, it is legally within that person’s rights to do with their own body what they choose-even at the expense of saving someone else’s life.

Medical doctors are not allowed to remove perfectly good organs from deceased people to use in patients who need transplants if the deceased did not agree (before dying) to be an organ donor. That means that a dead person has more legal rights to the organs the no longer need than the 4 year old who needs a heart, or the 30 year old dad with 3 kids who needs a set of kidneys. A living person must choose to lose their organs when they die, or they cannot be taken from them. A dead person’s wishes must also be acknowledged as far as “disposal”. If they state in writing that they wished to be cremated, then those among the living must comply.

So what does this have to do with women and pregnancy and abortion? (And more importantly, Michelle, I thought you said you weren’t pro-abortion!) It has everything to do with women and pregnancy and abortion, and yes, I am pro-choice.

sinner

If we afford protection to the members of our society who choose to keep the fully functioning, completely healthy organs the have with them when they die, and we cannot force someone to do something with their body that they do not want, then that has to be universal. THAT’S my point. It doesn’t matter if you are pro-anything. If you do not afford the right to have the choice to make decisions about your own body, then you cannot reasonably argue that a dead person should be allowed to keep their organs when they would be better used with those who are fighting to live.

And that also means that if a patient with a terminal illness, in a lot of pain, simply wants to be at ease, to die before they can no longer keep themselves alive, they would not be able to do so, because their choices would be stripped away.

Interesting how life and death have so much in common. And I’m not saying that religious people have everything wrong. What I am saying is that if people cared so much about life, perhaps they should try a little harder to protect and foster the life that is already fighting to hold on instead of being preoccupied trying to run the lives of women that they haven’t even met.

And for those of you on the fence about all this, let me provide some facts about the types of women who get abortions, to put to bed the stereotypes you have in your heads.

Half of all pregnancies are unplanned, and half of those end in abortion.

  • 57% had some college education;
  • 88% were from metropolitan areas; and
  • 57% percent were low-income

Women who obtain abortions represent every religious affiliation. 13% of abortion patients describe themselves as born-again or Evangelical Christians; while 22% of U.S. women are Catholic, 27% of abortion patients say they are Catholics.

Half of all women getting abortions report that contraception was used during the month they became pregnant.

Research indicates that relief is the most common emotional response following abortion, and that psychological distress appears to be greatest before, rather than after, an abortion.

Source: http://prochoice.org/education-and-advocacy/about-abortion/abortion-facts/

Here’s a chorus from the song “What It’s Like” by Everclear

God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in her shoes
‘Cause then you really might know what it’s like to have to choose.

And why did I bring up Super Tuesday? Because the only way to change the course of the country is to vote.

The Girl on Fire

                                                         

I’ve blogged about being a 20-something probably more times than you all care to read. I’ve done nostalgia posts, issues facing 20-somethings, thoughts from, thoughts for, poetry, you name it. I’ve done as many perspectives and ideas as I can probably muster on a good day and I think probably some more on top of that. but today, today is a day of awakening. Today is the day of heart unrest that had me up all night, fuming, crying, filled with super-heroine leveled frustration. Seriously, had I had just an ounce more caffeine I may have turned into the curvy, sassy half-sister of Elektra. But all comics aside, I have both a blog about me and a blog about life for today. I need to do a brain purge and today just seems to be the day to do it, so here goes. It’s probably going to be verbose, it may be a little biased and it most definitely will be emotionally charged and opinionated. That is my waiver statement and you all have been alerted as such.

I’m a teller of stories. Each time I go to write something, say something, think about something, it is always a story. I try to look at all the sides of an issue, even if I’m vehemently against it, for the sake of the story. I want to know the truth. That’s what’s supposed to set us free, right?

           

This past week I’ve looked at more SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) cases and political blogs, news stories and social media commentaries about social issues than I probably ever have. It started out as a paper assignment for one of my classes and turned into a passion fueled quest. But as it would turn out, the thing I love is also the thing I hate. You see, the more stories I read, or cases I analyzed (depending on the moment), the more I found that moment where I knew this was something I was passionate enough about to make into a career. But then after a couple hours of stewing, it was those same things that made me sickeningly depressed. I’ve never experienced something like that. And so, I found myself in the loop of highs and lows that although is not unfamiliar to me, was altogether too much.

It went on like this for about a week, as I said, spending my days in class and reading the things then coming home, doing more homework and letting the issues sit on the back burner. Then I would spend the nights crying, because my heart was so heavy with the injustices that I saw that day. My husband, who is well-accustomed to my emotional outbursts was the greatest of help (no sarcasm!) and I woke each day with a renewed vengeance to attack these case reviews and articles and such with fervor. The cycle just repeated itself. By Sunday (yesterday), I found myself in such a great need for a restoration of my faith in humanity that I decided to watch A Walk to Remember. Little did I know that a.0 my faith would not be restored by that movie alone and b.) I was going to spend the night awake and crying and telling my husband about how much the world hurts my heart. I think I’ve gotten such crappy sleep this past week that I’m running on fumes and that’s literally forcing me to remain in this depression cycle.

So. I want to discuss some of the things here that I did with my husband yesterday/last night.

1. I want to be a diplomat, but I sometimes feel like it’s a lost cause. How can I seek to help people if I cannot even help myself? A: By knowing myself, I will be able to help myself and therefore help the other people.

2. How can I be a diplomat from the “greatest country ever” if we’re so oppressive here? And although we are not the MOST oppressive, how can we be the best if we aren’t the best, you know? A: By making “here” live up to its potential.

3. Why have we come so far only to move backwards? We are oppressing college students with debt, women, different ethnicities, different beliefs, different lifestyles. Don’t believe me? Look at the Ke$ha case, the case in Georgia about LGBT discrimination, the social media stories about Muslim discrimination, the way police officers are treated nationally, look at my post about college debt. And don’t get me started on the Flint, Michigan issue. A: Because people don’t understand the full effect of their decisions. That’s what I can help.

4. If I’ve been doing this research for a week, and am depressed about it, how can I expect to do it for the next 40 or 50 years? A: See below.

                                                        

And really, I’m going to stop it there because the questions just unravel in a fit of hysteria. And no, dear readers, I don’t think you need to answer these questions, but I’d be more than willing to hear your thoughts. I supplied some answers, but they’re obviously shallow ones. As I’m sure you can guess, I’m spending so much time thinking about these questions that homework is starting to bleed through and I’ve become incredibly opinionated about all that is going on. I’m taking some politically based classes this semester (thus the assignment and the bleed through) but you know, I never expected that I would become emotionally invested.

And I guess that’s where I will leave for today. I’ve always viewed my emotions and attachment to ideas as a negative aspect of myself. Like that was my big flaw, the thing that could be the very ruination of all I’ve worked so hard for. I have done my best to hide my emotions, treating them as a part of myself that had to be tamed, that I should be embarrassed about. And yet, it is that very thing about me that is pulling me in two very different directions. I am both very concerned for my emotional health doing this job, living this life. But. I am also incredibly excited, incredibly passionate about this subject and I think that’s the one thing that will force me out of bed each morning, striving to make the world I live in a place I can be proud of, where justice prevails and human rights are universal. 

  

The Science of You…and Me.

I’ve been trying to get acclimated to the new semester, and I think it’s okay to take a break from constantly ranting and raving. Today, I want to speak honestly about life. But the stuff that weighs on my heart is the issue of self-identification.

In one of my classes this semester, we’re discussing classifications of organisms (as a prequel to the rest of the material) and the question was asked: Why do we classify things? The answer was: to order a chaotic world. I think that for the most part, that’s pretty true. But I think we, as human beings, also want to belong. We have a sense of longing to be part of something greater than just our own individuality. And maybe that seems a little naive, but maybe it isn’t.

  

I think I’ve mentioned this a couple times throughout the life of my blog, about where do I as an individual fit in to life’s big puzzle. But I invite you all to also think about it. How do you identify yourself? Is it just through your name? Your preferences? Your associations? What about who you are as a single individual, without regard to someone or something else? How would your identification change? It’s no difficult task to put yourself in a category. It’s an entirely other matter to design the category that you alone fit in.

Allow me to demonstrate. I am a pretty much run-of-the-mill midwestern woman. I tie my hair up in ponytails, I drink coffee, I know how to shovel snow, care for sick animals and even how to field dress carcasses (I really don’t enjoy it though, but if the great earth mother gives unto us, it is disrespectful to waste that gift. And I try not to partake either.). I am a wife, a cat-loving-dog-owner (he’s my little cat-dog), a sister, a daughter, a student, an employee and a coworker, a friend, a dreamer, and I’d say most definitely an extroverted introvert (yea, I know. It gives me problems too.). But take away anything that has to do with someone else (so-daughter, wife, sister, worker, etc) and take away the references to religion, geography, capabilities and preferences. What is left?

I call that “left” stuff the essence of me. But I don’t really know what it is. Is it emotion? Because I have quite a bit of that. Is it personality? I think I have a decent amount of that too. Is it what I am made of? Atoms, cells, blood, skin, organs, memories? I mean, I suppose that would have to be included. So what am I that no one else is? I am me and you are you. And I couldn’t be you if I tried, but I wouldn’t want you to be me either.

I know, you were all expecting for the meaning of life. And I shan’t disappoint! Because each and everything that I have said is both true and false. And I hope you’ve stuck around long enough to see why.

In the very beginning of time, before history, before science, before everything we know, there were stars. And these stars grew until they could grow no more, exploding when they reached their peak. When these stars explode, they create a bunch of atoms, in the order of the periodic table. First Hydrogen, then Helium, then Lithium, Beryllium, and so on and so forth until at least Iron (which is the 26th element). Each atom mixes with the others, out in space, combining and pulling apart. Now why am I telling you this?

  

There is a law in science called the Conservation of Energy. Now, in science, a law means that hundreds, if not thousands of test have been done and for all intents and purposes, the law is a scientific fact. This is why no one disputes gravity-even though you can’t see it directly. Anyway, the Conservation of Energy can be simplified down to the following: no energy can be created or destroyed in a system. There is also the law of the Conservation of Mass. This also is simplified down to: no mass (the stuff everything is made of) can be created or destroyed in a system. So what does that have to do with anything?

Well, we know that a human is made up of a lot of water, but what else? If you look at the most common elements that a body is made up of you get: Oxygen, Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Calcium, Phosphorous, Potassium, Sulfur, Sodium, Chlorine and Magnesium. Now if you look at a Periodic Table of Elements, you’ll see that those elements are numbered: 8, 6, 1, 7, 20, 15, 19, 16, 11, 17 and 12. Iron, as I said is 26, which means that all of the elements that make up most of us come before Iron. That further means that the stars that exploded made the elements I have listed here.

  

If I haven’t lost you yet, I’m very glad! Because the laws I mentioned, they come into play here. Since absolutely nothing can be made or destroyed, the atoms (which make up the mass of everything) which make up you and I came from the explosions of the stars. So here’s the deal. We are all made up of the little tiny particles which first originated in stars. So when you hear people say “We are stardust”, believe them. Because although this information is all paraphrased from other sources, it remains true. And just incase you wanted to know more about the meaning of life, let me explain death.

Before I really go on, let me tell you a story (you know that’s my thing!). I once went to a funeral of a family member and sat in the back, just observing. I watched the widow sit in the front row, the handkerchief crumpled in her hands, her eyes puffy and red from crying. But what I had not expected to happen, was the moment I caught her eye. I looked away immediately, not out of shame, but out of the understanding that I could not bear the weight of her pain. It would have been far easier if her eyes had been dead, the windows to a soul lost to the oblivion. But they weren’t. They were the windows to summer basketball sessions between her late husband and her kids, the early mornings when snow would lightly fall and she would watch him sleep. They were the windows to a thousand more “I love you’s” which would fall on deaf ears and the echoes of petty fights that would haunt her recollection for years to come. And at the funeral of a childhood friend, I remember looking at his body, thinking about how many times that might have been me, how even in death, he didn’t seem so happy, but maybe that’s because his body was pumped full of gallons worth of chemicals and the makeup could not hide the way his neck curved ever so violently, the ghost of a rope ever so snug around the collar of his dress jacket.

  

If no matter and no energy can be lost or created, what happens at death? Quite obviously, there is still mass. You have a body almost always, a quiet shell of a person lying still. But a person while living maintains the energy of thought, of breath, of circulation. And once ceased, that energy cannot be destroyed. The body heat rises into the atmosphere, reuniting with the clouds, the rain and the air. The breath that once ran through them now runs though the atmosphere. The memories which gave fuel to their every move, their every sense of self, they belong now to the people who need them most, to those with whom they were shared before. And I think that is a lovely thing. We are both part of the universe and made up of it. We cannot be created from nothing and we cannot disappear to nothing. The life of each and every one of us was determined by the star explosion, the energy and life of others, the ability to continue on. And that’s why it’s entirely okay if you could not define yourself as just yourself before. Because in all honesty, you really can’t be you without others. But it’s okay. Because the others couldn’t be themselves without you either.