When we are young, naïve and hopeful we dream big. We throw our love out into the world, confident it will boomerang back and find us. Anything is possible whether it is being an astronaut or falling in love. I was shipped off to Space Camp, Orchestra Camp, and Girl Scout Camp encouraged to seize every opportunity. When we are young our family and neighbors shield us from the horrors of the world, enabling us to keep skipping forward to the tune inside of us. Anything is possible.
Unfortunately, I was confronted with a grittier side of life before I was ready. As a teenager I quickly realized that there are those out to hurt us, caught up in their self-absorbed needs. Hate crimes, rape, and combat happen in every community. Impoverished children fight wars in developing nations. Wealthy adults fight wars in the financial markets. We realize the world is a classic Harvard Business School case of a Prisoners Dilemma where it is often safer to use others to get ahead than rely on their camaraderie. Hate and mistrust are used as forms of self-protection.
At age 16, I stopped riding my bicycle aimlessly throughout the sidewalked streets looking for friends. I started to turn inward, and holed myself up in my pink painted room to write about a thick worm that ate its way through the meat in my heart.
Throughout the rest of my years I fought to escape the darkness and hold onto the shining light within me. In blissful beachtown summers it tanned my body golden. However during the winters the demons came out and I was reminded of the vileness of the world and my own soul. Perhaps it was a bad case of seasonal affective disorder but I indulged the blackness, and got blood on my hands.
To protect myself against self-destruction I sought out weapons in an internal armory. In Naked I wrote about the spackles of numbness, mistrust and judgment. There was also fleeing. I visited countries of various exotics, searching for a more enlightened life. But I couldn’t escape the earth. As long as I stay on it I will be confronted with fallible humans and my fallible self. India was no better than the US. New York was no better than San Francisco. My worm was in everyone.
Through my road trip I realized therein was the beauty. We all have darkness inside of us. We all have suffered unforgivable hurt. And that is where we have the choice. We can let it overtake us, eating away at our core, or we can fight back, and create a more profound path in life.
Just like we can choose which pair of clothes to put on for a charity event (the green gown or the black cocktail), we can also choose how we are affected by life. For darkness to exist there must be light. Instead of focusing on the wrongs that have been done, hating others because they hate us, we can instead focus on the rights that have been accomplished and love just to love. We can shift our kaleidoscope to view a new, more colorful picture of the world around us. We can learn to trust the good in humanity.
There is no better time than right now, during the festival of Diwali/ Deepavali to do this. In the five-day Hindu festival of lights, we are encouraged to dispel the dark, fight off the worms, and let in light and wisdom.
In the next few days, let’s try out a Deepavali experiment. Let us reach out our bare arms and combat judgment with understanding, hurt with hope, and cynicism with compassion. I think performing this will do more for the wrinkles on our foreheads then Botox injections. Through love we can become our own Benjamin Button, turning younger each day, back to who were once were.