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!

WOULD YOU PLEASE SUPPORT ME IN RAISING MONEY FOR CANCER RESEARCH? UPDATE

Just wanted to leave an update here on how I am getting on with my Dryathlon to raise funds for Cancer Research. This is my first ever fundraiser. Please don’t think I am in the habit of asking people for donations. It is not in my nature to ask people for anything, so I embark on this plea with much apprehension and fully aware of how irritating it can be to be made to feel like you are not worth your salt unless you part with your cash to support the millions of amazing charitable causes happening today all around the planet.

I am not the adventurous type or maybe I am, but perhaps not in the thrill-seeking sense that motivates so many to challenge themselves with mammoth tasks such as triathlons, marathons, mountain climbing, parachuting and the like. My courage and adventurous spirit are definitely there but shape up in a much more “behind the scenes”, “mingling in the background”, demure way. I am an introvert and don’t fare well at all when I mingle with lots of people all at once or when the limelight is on me, so seen but not heard is how I like to do things, at least when it comes to my achievements. If you have been reading this blog for a while you will know that with regards to my convictions and the principles I stand by, I make a point of being heard or at least of trying to. Some things are just too important, too essential to who I am to succumb to holding back for the sake of peace keeping and compromise.

I am really pleased to say that so far I have raised, including gift aid, a total of £400. Not bad for a month of giving up alcohol, but I know I can do better, and so I have now upped the ante and committed to giving up alcohol for three months if I reach £500 and for 6 months if I raise £1000, which means I may have an alcohol-free Christmas and that is going to be the toughest challenge of all.

I realise when you compare my challenge with the mighty physical and mental battles others take on for charity, what I am doing is nothing to shout about, but I am a great believer in small beginnings and humble efforts. I am convinced that if every single person who is able, used what they have to improve another person’s life, be it directly or indirectly, this world would be a much more balanced and healthy place.

Besides, it is not just cancer which affects so many of us but alcoholism too. You must be wondering at this point whether I am an alcoholic myself. No, I am not, but I do like my wine and if it wasn’t for the grace of God, I could easily be one. I am doing this as a change in my personal lifestyle, but much more so in honour and remembrance of those whose life has been lost to either of these two awful illnesses or to those whose life has been affected in some detrimental way by them.

I hope that if you fall into either category and can spare some change, you can make a donation no matter how small. Who knows? If I was to reach £1000, I may have to consider remaining apart from my dear old friends Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for even a year. Now, that would be a Marathon worth shouting about, wouldn’t it?

Cancer and alcoholism have been in the scene for far too long. I’d say they have definitely overstayed their welcome. Will you stand with me to bid them farewell? If you are a bit cynical and are thinking right now: That will never happen just as “The poor will always be with us..”, I put it to you:

“Where there is no vision, the people perish…”

http://www.justgiving.com/Mercedes-Underwood-dryathlete2015

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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THE SPIRIT OF JOHN PROCTOR HAS WOKEN UP A SLEEPING GIANT

The run of The Crucible at The Old Vic Theatre in London finished a few days ago, and to my utter suprise and annoyance, I have not been able to function properly since then. I have been carrying deep within in the pit of my stomach a strong sense of bereavement, a sense of deep loss of something that brought back to life, something that unearthed a SLEEPING GIANT in the hearts and souls of so many people all around the world. I have been bewildered by the knowledge that some people have travelled from as far as places like Australia, the States and some Asian countries in order to witness what will turn out to be, in my opinion, a highly regarded and respected chapter in the history of Theatre and a catalyst for change in people’s attitudes toward Truth, Love  and Freedom. Indeed, there have been so many who bewitched by the sheer power which Drama possesses to mirror life, have been unable to be content with seeing the play once or twice, but as many as seven times. Crazy, one may think initially, but having experienced the play twice, I can only but relate to that uncontrollable urge and desperate attempt to not let go of something so beautiful, so transcendental which once delivered by the actors acquires a life of its own and moves high and far beyond the rows of seats in a theatre. A rare thing indeed in this world we live in dominated by speed, urgency and the shallowness and ephemerality everything we experience is tainted with.

The Crucible, as recently rendered at The Old Vic Theatre in London has released an unstoppable force spiritually, something which challenges the status quo and the complacency of a human race which right now sits pretty for the most part and in denial as the most abominable of evils, perils and injustices are happening all around us.  It is ironic that a play which is dominated by the subject of false accusations of witchcraft can carry with it such “supernatural” force for transformation, for good, for justice, truth and freedom, rare values indeed in today’s world and because of their rarity made all the more precious to audiences and onlookers across the world.

Granted that the character of John Proctor and his evolution throughout the play cannot exist without the other characters, just as human beings cannot grow and develop unless sharing life with others. Having said that, it is solely the gradual and “supernatural” ascend of John Proctor’s soul throughout this play that leaves behind a blazing trail of glorious notions such as: TRUTH, COURAGE, HONESTY, INTEGRITY, AUTHENTICITY, LOVE and COMPASSION. These are notions which have laid dormant for far too long in our world; notions which were long ago replaced by their evil counterfeits: GREED, DECEIT, PRIDE, FEAR, COWARDICE, HATE, MERCILESSNESS. As I said in my previous post, these are forces which have been contending in the world for thousands of years, but today, right now, the good guys are losing this mighty battle. “The Crucible” as I have experienced it and as I have seen, read and heard others experience it, is fast becoming the antidote to a poison fed to the world daily which has numbed our senses, blinded our eyes and switched off our brains rendering us ineffective to live lives worthy of living, to leave behind a legacy worthy of remembering, and an inheritance worthy of being shared with others. For is a life well lived one that leaves this world exactly as it found it and in so many cases much worse than it found it?

There is in all of us an innate, inherent and deeply rooted longing to live for something that transcends the triviality, the immediacy of our daily grind. For some, it is a religion, for others a worthy cause such as Equality, Freedom or Justice, a charitable enterprise, being the best at what you are gifted at. That deep longing that we are all born with slowly but surely gets numbed and put to sleep by the pressures and fears that daily living brings, and little by little as we age, the brave soldier within us that once carried so much promise, surrenders a small piece of that lofty enterprise we felt born to pursue, one sorry day at a time. The glorious quest we set off on in our youth is slowly but surely annihilated by the cynicism, and everyday demands which chain to the ground our bodies, our hearts but most of all the ability for our souls to ascend, as John Proctor’s soul ascends, in those moments, seasons of our life when we come face to face with a choice to stand up, be counted and fight for what is right, for what is truth, for what is just.

Our world is dying of hunger and thirst right now, a hunger and thirst for the John Proctors that have existed throughout history but who shine for their absence today; a thirst for individuals who led by humility, integrity and courage and the acknowledgement of their own fleetingness and mortality are able to spiritually transcend beyond the carnality of their existence and give their all, even their last breath in the quest for the truth, even if that truth means losing everything that is dearest to them. Hardly anyone seems to be prepared or willing to go that extra mile, to lead from the front, to lead by example, to jump off the precipice as eagles do in order to reach glorious and new heights, in order to conquer new enemies, in order to enjoy that elusive freedom we all think we have. But are we really free, free enough to overcome the fear of rejection and alienation from others if we consistently and to the end swim against the current of tyranny, pride, conformity, lukewarmness and deceit?

This is for me where “The Crucible” and particularly the depiction of John Proctor by Richard Armitage have shifted the tectonic plates of a world dominated by inactivity and the lack of a fire in its belly in the face of adversity and evil. I deeply believe that what this play has achieved in London goes far beyond what our eyes can see and our ears can hear. It is my utter conviction that something has shifted and been released into the four corners of the earth through the spirit of truth and love that this wonderful piece of literature carries.

I am in absolute awe and truly humbled by this rare breed of individuals like the play’s Director, Yael Farber, and the actor playing the lead role of John Proctor, Richard Armitage, who go far and beyond their artistic flare and vocation in order to use their gift not only for their own profit but because their life’s mission is also to use what they have, their gift, talent and resources to create a channel through which others can travel and see too that a life worth living can only be a life pursuing even to the death those things we know deep in our hearts to be true, to be right. Anything else is not living, but dying one day of conformity and indifference at a time, short-changing ourselves of the supreme quest that it is to pursue “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

This Sleeping Giant has most certainly been re-ignited in me through this play. I was there twice and I felt it; I felt its power and its weight. I saw that the people who left the theatre were transformed from the people they were when they first came in. It is for this reason that I sit here today with a heavy heart, praying that was has been released through this play is not diluted by the one other million things thrown at us, put in front of us each and every single minute of the day. When one witnesses truth, it is impossible to continue on our journey as before.  How can anyone witness through the character of John Proctor what living and dying for love and the truth truly is and at what cost, and then not have the unwavering determination to make our lives shine as they should, as they were always meant to?

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