Clear blue skies. The sun is shining high in the morning sky. I’m standing on the small backyard patio looking at the stone circle I have. Today, I will dismantle what I built back there – and prepare to bring it to a new backyard in Bryant, Arkansas in a few weeks. It’s a reminder that life is about change. Small or large, change is a constant. Each day brings new chances to learn. Each day brings wave after wave of experiences. Each moment of our lives sends ripples throughout time and within our sphere of influence. No matter how much I want to believe that leaving Texas for Arkansas is an inconsequential act, it is going to bring change. Change for me, and for others. I can claim that being a solo Pagan means that I have little to no effect on the world around me, but I’m completely wrong in that assessment. We all make ripples in time with our existence. No matter how small and insignificant we think we are, we all matter.
Earlier this week, a young man entered an elementary school with the intention of killing others. At the end of the incident, twenty-one individuals lay dead. Each one will leave behind an empty space in the lives of their families and friends. Their loss will leave ripples in time that will never change. Over time, the memories will fade, the sharp edges of their lives will be smoothed over, but the loss of these individuals will never fully heal for their loved ones. What-if scenarios will continually play out in the minds of those they leave behind. Inconsequential? Well, its likely that none of those people will hve played a defining role in the lives of everyone else. But in the lives of their loved ones, their roles would have had supreme consequences and brought about unimaginable changes. Changes that can never happen now. Again, no matter how small or insignificant we think we are, we do matter. We are important in the lives of those we touch all around us.
People come into our lives in a variety of ways. They also leave our lives in a variety of ways. Its what happens when they are in our lives that matters. How they touch us. How they inspire us. How they support us. How we inspire and support them. Our social structure as people is complicated, but we build those structures deliberately. We also deconstruct those same structures whenever we find it necessary to do so. People pass from our lives in a variety of ways. Sometimes, as in the case of these children, they are removed for reasons beyond our control. Sometimes, we remove them for other reasons, or they remove themselves. But it does happen.
I have noted this before. I live my life in the best manner that I can. Mickey Hart, one of the drummers for the Grateful Dead, has made a habit of expressing the need to live your life intentionally by being kind to others. I agree with that point and have tried my best to do the same. I fail at it from time to time…after all, I’m merely human. I stumble. I fall. Sometimes it hurts too much to get back up immediately, and I want to feel the pain of my failure. But eventually, I do get back up. On my own or with the help of others, I do get back up. I move forward because I have to. I have to move forward, not just for myself, but for the memories of those who were there before on my Path. I owe it to their memories, to their confidence in who I am, for their patience in helping me grow to be the Pagan I am today.
Somehow. In some manner. We will move forward from this point. From this tragedy. Politicians will do what they do best – argue and bicker over what caused this tragedy. They will debate endless legislation on trying to make weapons more difficult to obtain or create legislation designed to force gun owners to be more “responsible” in the ownership of their weapons. Or they will argue until there is no more energy left to make legislative changes, and the incident fades into memory for the collective public consciousness. In the meantime, the people whose lives have been forever altered by the losses of the tragedy will fade with those memories. They will be offered assistance with dealing with the consequences of the tragedy: mental health assistance and counseling…until the sharp, jagged edges of those memories become smooth like rocks being worn away in a mountain stream. Their tragedy will fold into the distance of time, occasionally remembered, but mostly forgotten by all except those who have to carry that void throughout their lifetimes.
I’m not writing this to create some narrative on gun control. Rather, I am writing this to express my understanding of what those who have left behind are going through. I could sit here and claim that it will take time to erase the pain that they feel. But that’s not true. Much like the stone that is worn smooth by the constant rush of water over it in the stream, the memories and feelings will fade in time…smoothed over in much the same manner. The sharp, jagged edges will become smooth. But the pain still exists, just as that stone in the river still exists. I cannot fathom the depth of the losses of the families. But I can sympathize. And I know that no politician’s attempts at legislation over a gun control issue will be the salve to bring comfort to these families. Empty platitudes by these politicians are just that: empty. All I can offer to the families is my understanding, my chest for them to cry against, my arms to wrap them in comfort….a comfort that I am keenly aware will never be enough.
We all create our own ripples within the existence of others. Those ripples hav tremendous effects in the lives of so many. Effects that are never truly appreciated until we are snatched away from this existence to journey beyond what we know. But we do exist. What we do matters. No matter how large or how small our actions may seem, we do matter. And its far more than we think. We believe that our ripples in the existence of others are simple waves caused by pebbles thrown into the puddle of time. But those same small ripples can seem like tidal waves to ants at the shore of those puddles. Its all a matter of perspective. Your existence creates ripples in the lives of others. You see those ripples as tiny, inconsequential. Others see the crashing waves being driven by hurricane force winds….because you matter that much. Perspective….