No Walls: No courage = No Victory

RE:  Richard  Armitage, British Actor @RCArmitage

Dear Richard,

It is of course your absolute right to choose what to write and what to delete on your timeline and I would always respect your choices and freedom of speech or lack of it, just as I hope others respect mine. I feel compelled however to express my deepest sadness to learn this morning that you have also deleted the very first tweet you sent to Mr Trump with the images of the Berlin wall and the #nowalls tag.

When I ponder on the Annals of History, I always end up with the same reflection: How many awful trends, atrocities and human suffering could have been avoided if only more people had been courageous enough to make their voices heard in the face of evil, greed and pride? I often imagine myself living in those episodes of history and try to honestly gage what I would have done in those situations; what I would do now, if a similar situation arose. This is a mental exercise I do often to pluck up the courage to speak up when I know it matters; when I know it counts. It is scary and it comes at a price, but I am not here to win a popularity contest. Life is too precious, too exquisite to simply settle for that. I guess, I do what I’d call a “John Proctor” drill. God knows this world is becoming an increasingly hostile place and the time may well come again for all of us to make such impossible choices.

I feel we are very much on the onset of such a situation, but as in previous chapters of history, for so many of us our attention is focused on all the wrong things, the trivial things, things of no real consequence to the wellness of humanity and this world in general. So many of us have become complacent and voyeurs in others’ lives whose reality is so much worse than our own and yet, we often dismiss it as not our problem. It is their life it affects after all, not ours.

The whole world is watching, because the whole world is looking for answers, the right answers. In a world where social media has such predominance and worldwide reception, it seems to me it is the optimum platform to make some waves which in turn create bigger waves that ultimately can pulverise some of these issues threatening the very delicate balance upon which our world stands today.

I was so elated when I saw you tweeted that hashtag to Mr Trump. It gave me hope that things can change; that there are those like yourself who act on their sense of responsibility to the wellness of those beyond ourselves, responsibility to stand up and be counted as another voice who is prepared to risk everything for a reality so much bigger than our own, and yet so intrinsic to our own. It blew me away to learn that someone of your popularity and following would have the courage and character to stand up to Mr Trump and speak up. After all, when I do so, I am not really risking all that much, or at least not yet, but for someone like you, there is much more at stake. The ripple that your wave will create is multiplied by the thousands, whilst mine may initially have some impact but soon dies away.

There are so many youngsters and adults even who wait by your side every single day, virtually anyway, to hear what you have to say or not say. So many completely at a loss as to what to make of what they see in the news and in their towns, on their doorstep. So many seeking direction from voices like yours, voices which belong to individuals that are already placed in a strategic spot to be able to change the course of events, to influence through their gifting, their work, their mere presence, the very fabric of history.

Perhaps I am mistaken and the ripples that your tweet to Mr Trump created are not as powerful as I believe them to have been, but I am certain that the effect of you taking that tweet down will be monumental. I fear that it will take the wind out of the sails of those who are inspired by and aspire to emulate the behaviour of the people they see as role models, exemplary, trust-worthy. Not to mention that Mr Trump’s following and anyone who is watching will regard it as a retreat. Another battle won. Let’s go on our merry way to win the whole war.

I do not sit here in judgement. How could I? I know nothing about your circumstances besides what we read in the media and what you put on twitter. You obviously have your reasons for your change of heart. I am no one to judge you one way or the other. As I said at the beginning, it is your absolute right to do as you will. I simply wanted to share my sadness this morning as one of the thousands of people who are inspired by your character, integrity and moral and social conscience, that you have retraced your steps on what I felt in my heart to be a gigantic leap of courage and extraordinary behaviour in this current climate of self-exultation, self-absorption and self-glorification, qualities which Mr Trump is the true champion of.

With my love always,

Mercedes Underwood

 

WHERE DID MY TRUE SELF GO?

The end of a year is always a good place to reflect upon where one’s life is at and where it is heading. My problem is that being a thinker is an intrinsic and essential part of who I am . I think too much, too deep, too often. Can’t be helped! When you meditate on things as often and as deeply as I do, you come to realise that when certain thoughts and ideas keep creeping up is because they need to be considered and acted upon, or else they will haunt you and be forever present as painful reminders of your lack of courage and the hope deferred of what could have potentially been a much more fulfilling, purposeful life. There is something in our consciousness, in our spirit that acts like the rudder of our life. We are the ones turning the rudder but ultimately it is most definitely not us at the helm, or at least that is my own personal experience. I am under no false illusion that I direct my steps, but at the end I would like to think that I was able to at least recognise and act wisely, intuitively on those moments in life when I encountered a junction on the road or when a seemingly accidental curve ball was thrown my way to force me into jumping one way or another, to make a choice, to push forward without fear or coercion.

Perhaps what I have been experiencing in these last few months is nothing more than a mid-life crisis; a point in one’s life when you take stock and ponder on all the what-ifs, all the alternative paths one could have taken or may yet still need to take. It is a cliché to state that in the midst of investing one’s life in raising a family and cultivating a marriage with solid roots; in living sacrificially by putting everyone else’s happiness before your own, one can easily loose their identity and simply be identified as the link that keeps different chains together, be it family, work or relationships. Cliché or not, I have most definitely found this is true in my own life.

The recurrent thought or voice echoing on my head as of late has been saying: “Stop hiding behind what you are good at, what is familiar, and go on the journey to discover what it is you are destined to be, what it is you are meant to excel at. Go on a journey of self-discovery. Put for once in your life yourself first and discover what it is that you were made for, what makes your heart sing. I have spent so many years putting everyone else’s needs before my own that I am beginning to feel that my voice, the essence of who I am has got lost in the midst of life’s demands; my voice has been drowned out by those whose voices matter most or so I thought.

I know this will sound heartless and self-absorbed, but I am all about being honest to others and primarily to myself, and so I call it as I see it. Yes, I must say it: I would like to wake up tomorrow and not feel the ongoing, relentless, unforgiving burden of being a mum, a wife, a sister, a daughter or a friend. I want to know what it feels like to be truly free, free from a heavy sense of responsibility, free from the yoke of religion, education, history, expectations and promises, free from the oppressive sense that our life is all panned out for us; from the predictability of what is to come; the barrenness of what will never be. I long for my chains to be broken so that I can walk forward with only one thought in mind: How can I best use my personality, my knowledge and my gifting to be able to claim when it is all said and done that I have lived my life fully, without reservations, fear or regrets; that I have always been true to myself, pursued my truth and no one else’s?

Every fibre of my being assures me that I was meant for more than what I am today, than what I have achieved so far, and I am not talking about a reputation, fame or material success. I am referring solely to a place where my life will finally reach its purpose and full meaning; a point where I can assuredly say: “I have arrived”; a point where there will be no more internal turmoil, wrestling or strife. Perhaps such a place doesn’t exist, but why then be tormented by a void within that no one and nothing can fill? I know I am not alone in feeling this. When you move in Christian circles, you are told that only God can fill that void, but God’s presence is ever beating in my life and yet that void, that call to something more meaningful not only remains but rings louder and clearer each time.

I do not regret the path I have chosen, far from it, but I do not want to resent it because it stopped me from finding out who I am besides Mercedes the mother, the daughter, the sister, the wife. There is so, so much potential in all of us to do extraordinary things. I do not want to short-change myself by hiding behind what it is I am expected to be doing instead of braving it and embarking on the quest of finding what I was truly made to be. I know that longing I feel burning inside of me is a seed that has been planted in my soul. I did not put it there. To ignore that latent undeniable inner call that incites us to discover what is yet to be achieved, what is yet to be fulfilled is to clip the wings of a bald eagle and expect it to still dazzle us with its majestic presence and skill.

There must be more than this. I know there is!

SIGNS AND WONDERS ARE ALL AROUND US – PART 2

When you are a nervous flyer, you need all the help you can get: moral support, emotional reassurance, the odd reminder of how to breathe properly and even the more effective reminder that whether we fret or not, it is all in God’s hands anyway, so why waste energy worrying about what may or may not happen, right? Easier said than done, though. Phobias can be and often are totally irrational, but for those of us who suffer them, they are as real as the air that we breathe and often cause you to suffer in silence uncontrollably; they are as tangible as feeling your every heartbeat resonate so loud, strong and fast within your chest that your heart no longer feels like a heart, but instead a time-bomb which could explode at any moment; they are as evident as copious amounts of sweat running down the palms of your hands soaking whatever you touch. It certainly doesn’t improve things when you are surrounded by people who lack any kind of empathy or compassion and who put your phobias down as cowardice or a lack of courage, enhancing your already disproportionate sense of doom and gloom.

I always pray hard and often before boarding a plane, not just as I am sitting down in readiness for take off but on the days leading up to my departure. I pray that there is not much turbulence and that we have a safe and enjoyable flight. It is often said that when we pray, God does not answer our prayers so that we get what we asked for, but so that we get what we need to build up our character in order to fulfil our purpose during our journey on this earth. I have found this to be true, time and time again. There are however times when I strongly sense God sending me a life-line or some sort of encouragement to ease the fear of what I am about to embark on, literally.

On this occasion, that lifeline came in the form of Martin Freeman. Only God really knows the life-altering, redemptive and healing effect that The Crucible and Richard Armitage’s rendition of John Proctor had on me; only God really knows the deep and complex reasons why I feel my spirit is so akin to Richard’s; only God really knows the turmoil and heart-break I have gone through in these last few months as I have experienced first hand what it is to be hounded like an animal on social media for simply exercising my right to free speech and to expressing up-front my personal opinions with respect and honesty. Therefore, only God could have known how much was truly riding on this “holiday” and what would be the one and only occurrence which would put my fear of flying at bay; only God could have known how to take away my apprehension and replace it with ironic humour; how to put in front of me a sign that anyone else but me could have missed (indeed no one else but us queuing up to go through security, seemed to recognise Martin Freeman); only He could have been so attuned to me to give me the very timely and opportune reminder that though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for He is with me; his rod and his staff shall comfort me; He will never leave me, nor forsake me.

Think of all the actors in the world I could have bumped into at the airport; the very many days when I could have been at that specific terminal (compared to most I travel often and not just for pleasure but to visit relatives); the many hours in the day when flights take off; the many moments in a minute, minutes in an hour when I could have found myself in that exact queue right next to someone who is so emblematic of the very reasons why I was so desperate and in need of getting away at this point in my life. A miracle would have been to have Richard Armitage himself queuing up right behind me, but bearing in mind I was aware that he was in Vancouver or LA at the time, that turn of events would have been too obvious a choice of a miracle and not have required much faith on my part, would it?

To be continued in Part 3

NOT ALL THOSE WHO WANDER ARE LOST

“Let’s not censor too much, and yes we must speak our minds and the truth; but we must also ‘watch the destination of our words’ and understand the ‘fuel propelling it’. It could be anger, it could be hatred. Sometimes it’s provocation, sarcasm, humor. Sometimes it’s just to be contrary to what everyone else is saying. Just stop and think before you hit ‘send’.”

Extract from Richard Armitage’s blogpost which you can read fully here https://www.cybersmile.org/blog/richard-armitage-hobbit-human-condition-social-media

 Dear Richard,

At the bottom of the piece published yesterday on the Cybersmile Foundation blog we were kindly invited to give feedback. If you mean what you say, which I believe you do, and you are truly up for bringing “debating society” back to schools, I assume you will also be open to and welcome this feedback as a means of extending the conversation that you have started within this online “community”. You are right, it is impossible to know how one’s words will be received when we don’t have the addressee face to face, but it is also true that by the same token, we must not be too harsh in judging the motives of those who speak online against us or the people and things we care for. I always say that none of us are the sum of our tweets, and we MUST take the time to peel off the layers of people’s souls, before passing sentence and assuming it is only ill intent that fuels their “negativity”. There is a fine line between that and advocating censorship so that we protect ourselves from anything that challenges our own views.

Like you, I spend hours, days, editing what I initially write, and as a passionate lover of languages and words, I am fully aware of the repercussions words can have, but in a society where high profile men and women have such platforms, influence and effect on collectives and societies, I refuse to assume that the majority of people who are controversial, critical or in some people’s eyes negative, call it what you will, do it with the sole purpose of being contrary to what everyone else is saying.

“Not all those who wander (from the flock, the herd, the masses) are lost”. How very wise and inspired those words were. Often those who wander, wander because they are able to see what others can’t or won’t; what others conveniently choose to ignore, because it is in their interest to do so, because it is safer to stay in the confined safety of the pen than to venture out, or because conforming to what the majority are saying will get them where they want to go or simply because it is not in their nature to rock the boat as they like to enjoy a trouble free, peaceful life (what an impossible contradiction). Departing from the trodden path takes great courage and it is one of the most costly things a person can do in life. Costly because they will lose everything and people whom they hold most dear in the process, but also a worthy crusade because they will gain the elusive peace and incomparable joy that comes with knowing that you have been true to yourself, to what drives you and what you believe in. It is a tough gamble, but when done for the right reasons, it sure pays dividends to risk it all on that one hunch.

History has taught us, or perhaps not all of us, that when we ignore those who wander; those who are contrary to what the majority are saying, it is often to our own peril and at an unforgiveable cost. The way I look at those who wander, who are often contrary, is not because they are trying to draw attention to themselves, which a few are, but because in being contrary they are raising the alarm, spreading awareness of those symptoms in people, relationships, communities, social tendencies which if ignored, can develop into a full blown condition which often brings the most intense of suffering, humiliation, and devastation.

I consider myself one of those people who is “contrary”, but not because I seek to draw attention to myself, so not who I am, but because the things I speak about matter to me at times more than life itself. I can’t help it. It is the way I’m wired and boy do I feel wired at times? I feel this power, electricity within to say the things I do, because I believe there is a valid discussion to be had about them, because to feel those things in my heart and not bring them to the table would be to deny who I am and the ability to change those things which I can. I have been on twitter and WordPress for years, and to this day I only have a handful of followers because I have raffled a few feathers; I have refused to buckle under pressure and swim down-stream because everything in me was shouting out “Change course, take a step back and look at what is ahead where the majority are heading.” Nevertheless, the few who are kind and brave enough to stick around and read what I have to say, know they are getting someone who will not be tossed by the waves or the direction of the wind. I’d rather fight alone for my convictions than be in the company of thousands who repeatedly change their true colours like Autumn leaves.

I absolutely love and respect your insights and it pains me that such a wonderful human being as yourself has suffered so at the hands of bullies. I love how you have opened up this forum where we can express, discuss and challenge our own opinions but also learn to  accept that when others’ opinions differ from our own, it doesn’t necessarily mean we are to see them as the enemy or someone we need to knock down with our nasty, rude words and witch-hunts until they speak no more.

I applaud you for that. It takes courage to make a stand and try to be a light in all this darkness so many are encountering in social media, and no doubt putting yourself in this spot will cost you, but I think what you will gain will be so much more valuable than what you lose.

Take care my friend and keep up the good work.

Mercedes Underwood X

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