A eulogy of sorts for Anton, for Omar, for the lost, and all the true beating hearts.
Earlier this week, a man killed 50 people in a nightclub in Orlando. The loss of life was devastating and I felt frustrated and protective of my friends and loved ones. Also, there was a general-ness about my emotional reaction and I’ve been thinking about that a lot. It was generally devastating, generally frustrating. Overall, in an abstract sense, I felt upset about the violence of the act and how quickly life can end. And there was pain mixed with wonder about the holiness of life, of each moment, since none of them are guaranteed for any of us. I thought a lot about the fear I heard in others’ voices about feeling unsafe in public spaces – and reflected on how that anxiety just didn’t resonate with me at all. If you’re going to get eaten by a shark, so to speak, you probably won’t see it coming. I worried that the violence of our world had calloused my soft heart and that I was losing something really important about myself.
Today, Anton Yelchin, an actor – a person I do not know but whose spirit glowed strongly through the films he made – died in an accident. Just a weird twist of fate, and then – gone. Anton Yelchin was such an interesting person to watch in films – and he generally made great ones. He had wide open, kind eyes – charisma – vulnerability and strength together. I’ve felt really just deeply sad about his death today and in reflecting about why… there’s something about the specificity of it. Our collective loss of this unique light whose glow I admired from a distance. This sense that there are more people like me – who crave authenticity and spirit and connection in their life – who care about others – who seek beauty – whose hearts beat together – and that this man who I had never met was maybe one of us and now he is gone. That absence is living in my house today.
I don’t understand how many 6 billion is. As a number, I can’t conceptualize it – it is too many individual units – too large in scope – for me to understand.
But I know the faces of the people I love. I know through my skin, in my heart and my gut, what it means when she moves her mouth in that way, when she pauses for that length of time before she asks a question, when he looks straight forward soaking in my direct gaze like heat in a hot room. I know these things because I love these people. They are each a billion as far as I can understand.
For as long as I can remember, I have craved nothing more in my life than real, authentic connection with other people. Not the “you like movies? I like movies too” kind of connection. The kind of connection that makes your heart swell in your chest, that transforms your perspective, that expands your universe, that makes the beauty of our world come alive, that changes you, that sharpens you, that improves you, that binds you together.
I made these connections with others regularly when I was younger. Maybe we were all more open to learning about other people during our teens and twenties, during the time that it felt like we were all seeking romatic connections and adventuring through relationships, allowing ourselves to change and grow and explore.
Now in my mid-30’s, myself and my peers have each in our way withdrawn into our own safe spaces. We maintain the connections that have nurtured us in the past. We rarely touch the spaces that initially bound us to one another anymore though it’s comforting that they are there, under the surface. We very rarely – if ever – seek or find connections with new people anymore. It even feels a little taboo, like a symptom of an emotional disease that any of us should want to do that… an indication that something is wrong or unfulfilling about the love we are already so fortunate to have. And we get up in the morning, we get groceries, we mow the lawn, we love those closest to us, we buy a new coffee table, we do our jobs, we raise kids, we read the news on our phones, we drink coffee, we drive cars, we comment on the weather. Our culture and the pace of daily life tells us that this part of our lives is just for the doing of it. Then, later, we’ll reflect on what we’ve done. And then, if we’re fortunate enough to have made it that far, we’ll die.
I want more.
I want to be bound in a truer way to more people. I want us all to want this. I want to find a way to seek this out in my life. To go there more deeply, more regularly, with more people. To bind my spirit to the spirits of others. To be connected to them. To forever change and be changed by them.
More than policy change, more than treatments for mental illness, more than politics, more than protest – I believe that connectedness is the answer. Our connections with one another will heal us. The more deeply and authentically we are bound together, the less distinct the lines become between me and you. Between you and Omar Mateen. Between Omar and Luis Velma or Frank Hernandez or Jason Josaphat. Between each of us and everyone else. And it will become clearer and more and more real deep in the gut where it counts that by hurting you, I am hurting myself. That by protecting you from anyone who would hurt you, I am protecting myself. That by loving the holiness in you, I become holy.
Want more with me, for all of us.