Well, hello, my friends! It’s been awhile, but even the hecticness (Is this a word? Craziness? Hecticity?…either way, it is now J) of life could not keep me from the blog and my writing, especially when events occur that remind me of how impactful words can truly be not only to an individual, but to entire groups, demographics, and even nations. Diane Setterfield put it wisely: “There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around you like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.”
There are very few individuals who have fully mastered this art: this ability to use language as their paint and sentences as their brush strokes to decorate a canvas of blank pages into a written, awe-inspiring, impactful masterpiece. One of those individuals was, without a doubt, Harper Lee.
As many of you surely know, Harper Lee died just a few days ago at the age of 89. She was one of the most influential writers of all time, and get this: She wrote only two books ever. The second one didn’t even come out until just this past year. Yet, it is not the quantity of her work that defined who she was, it was quality. She managed to singlehandedly enthrall an entire nation and call attention to racism in America with one single novel about a young girl, her brother, her friend, her Lawyer father, her creepy neighbor, and a controversial trial in her hometown. If anyone can provide us some weekly motivation, it is Harper Lee, the woman who took 200 pages and flipped a nation on its head.
Although she has many quotable moments, I’d like to call your attention to one of Harper Lee’s most famous quotes: “As you grow up, always tell the truth, do no harm to others, and don’t think you are the most important being on earth…you can then look anyone in the eye and say, ‘I’m probably no better than you, but I’m certainly your equal.’”
It’s pretty straightforward: be honest. Be kind. Be humble. Have compassion. Spread love. Honor equality. Isn’t that what we are raised to do every day? Why, then, is it so hard? Lee tackled this in To Kill a Mockingbird, as she navigated the complicated and emotionally charged issue of racism in the South. Why, she asks, does race matter? Why does gender matter? Why are we so much more likely to look for the bad in people instead of the good? Those are hard questions, and ones I wonder if will ever be answered.
As humans, we see difference before we see similarity. We gravitate to hone in on what is “off,” instead of what is a commonality. I immediately think of instances as small as the games we play, like the two photos side by side with the question, “Spot the 10 differences.” Or something larger, like looking at five different married couples, four of them heterosexual relationships and one same-sex. Most people’s first reaction is to say: “The gay couple is different from the others.” Or the runt of the litter. “That dog is smaller than the others.” The two kids at a birthday party. “But she has the piece of cake with the icing flower no it, and mine only has one leaf.” In our rush to identify discrepancy, we forget to see life in the big picture, to take a step back and ask ourselves the opposite question: What here, rather, is the same?
So one married couple is made up of two people of the same gender, or maybe another with partners of different races. Instead of leaning towards the unimportant differences, look beyond those minor distractions to view the bigger picture. Because regardless of orientation, color, gender, you name it, there is one similarity between those individuals: they are in love. Love is universal. Love has no boundaries. Love is a simple, nonjudgmental feeling that brings us together in unity.
Consider the runt of the litter. Sure, you could focus on that small fact, or you could focus on the larger point: a group of squirming, adorable puppies was just born into this world. That, very simply, is life. Life is something we all share. Life is in the air we breathe, and the noises we make. Life is birth. Birth is a miracle for us all.
Lastly, the cake slices. Yeah, maybe the mathematical precision of the cake-cutter was off a little (how dare they?!). By the luck of the draw, a flower that made it to one slice missed the second. Yet, cake aside, think about why there is cake in the first place. It’s a birthday party, a celebration of years passing, friendships made, and connections between us. Celebration doesn’t discriminate. The cake is still delicious, whether purple flower or green vine. Celebration is connection. Laughter is a common thread.
Harper Lee sent these same messages in her writing and her life (on a much larger scale, of course, than birthday cake). She looked at the world and noticed how people were looking at the differences: race, rumors, scandal, and assumption. When she wrote, she broke down those walls. In a famous line from To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus tells Scout, “you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you step inside his skin and walk around in it.” Lee told her readers, and eventually the nation, to do the same.
We are all human. We all deserve to recognize that we are human together, and will always be human. We are all the colors of the rainbow, from vermilion to violet, yet although we may have differences on the outside or in the way we act and think, but when it boils down to it, we are beings of DNA, skin, bones, breath, and life. That in itself is something to celebrate. So share some birthday cake, buy some puppies, get married. Live, laugh, love. Be compassionate, strong, and kind. Do it for Harper Lee. That woman deserves it.
Have a fabulous week!
Until next time, my loves,