This Anonymous Letter to Humanity is a Wake Up Call. Please read!

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

 

“Tragedy always seems so distant and is beautiful in the reactions it causes. briefly, we are forced to care, we are connected and we pray and promise and hope for change. but the words are quickly lost and our minds quickly w[a]nder to other things even when the problems persist[s] with as much power and vigor than before.”

“our manic-depressive switching from compassion to apathy just results in each feeling negating the other. it’s easy to disregard what we can’t see. emotions are generally distorted reflections. over exaggeration and under exaggeration are common, but usually they are just faked completely. what matters isn’t the initial feeling, but the feelings they evoke in others.” – anonymous

 

I took both of these images years ago, when I was still living in Toronto, and obsessed with the vibrant graffiti and street art culture thriving there (I’m still obsessed, but from a distance!). I eventually compiled the photos into a book that I was thrilled to sell at the amazing, and sadly now-closed, Pages Books & Magazines, on eclectic and hip Queen Street West, not far from much of the city’s best street art.

I became deeply immersed in the city through two lenses – that of the street artists themselves, and of my own, through photographing their work. It was a human connection through several layers, but a surprisingly intimate one. There are so many beautiful ways to commune with others, to receive, and give back.

The photo I took, below, has stayed with me – haunted me, really – ever since. I stumbled on these two small strips of paper, written in a regular-sized font on a simple strips of paper, glued to a piece of wood in an urban back alley. It wouldn’t be the first thing you saw walking along, but I’d been wandering around this neighbourhood for months, and one day these faded, stained pieces of paper caught my eye.

The author will remain forever unidentified (though I would love to meet him or her, and have a conversation, and know of the experiences that led to the writing of this letter to the city).

In a big city, which to my mind is increasingly a metaphor for the larger, global world we live in, being human often translates into feeling tiny, lost, insignificant. The writer of this plea to the city makes some very prescient comments, alluding to the tendency for our empathy and compassion to come and go as quickly as we’ve now come to experience the updates on our social media newsfeeds in the years since.

Of course, this isn’t empathy at all, or compassion, because when we have learned to cultivate these qualities, they cease to be fleeting, and we become more able to generate a sustained desire to change the world (and ourselves) for the better. To connect, deeply, gently and kindly.

“It’s easy to disregard what we can’t see.” Let’s make a world where it’s not desirable to avoid seeing. Let’s remove the veils behind which apathy and blind eyes flourish.

Speaking out from a small slip of paper, this anonymous writer reminds us that it only takes a moment to put something negative in the world, but a lot longer for the effects of this negativity to fade away. We should remember, in reading his or her beautiful, cautionary words, that behind the facades we use through which to communicate with the world (be it art or social media), we are real beings, reaching out to other human beings, who want to love and be loved as much as the next person.

Not for what we say or do, not only for right now, under these circumstances and not only to get a “like”, but unconditionally. Equally.

This is the beginning and end of what we deserve as we make our way, sometimes fumbling and yes, also dancing our way through the world. In case I never meet this author of these words, I send out a heart full of gratitude for taking the time to formulate these observations and attach them to the urban outdoors, so that we may be duly reminded.

 

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

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How To Fall in Love With Your City All Over Again.

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

 

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” ~ Maya Angelou

Why do we want to be a tourist in our own city (or town, or suburb, or village, you name it?)

Because fresh eyes and an open heart are the true antidote to boredom, lethargy, confusion and feeling stuck, and by antidote, I don’t mean “cure,” because we already know that life entails more than naming a problem and then fixing it on the proverbial spot.

Sometimes a simple shift in perspective can get the ball rolling and awaken the brain-mind complex to start working with us toward desired change. It’s as simple as that. I’m sure we’ve all had experiences where the very last thing we wanted to do was hit the yoga mat, or show up for our coffee date, or sit on the meditation cushion at the appointed time.

We’ve probably also experienced the actual doing of those things that seemed so mountainous, and feeling greatly rewarded and satisfied as a result.

If for no other reason than to try something new and engage in a sense of discovery with where we are (physically and metaphysically), it’s worth casting our lives in a renewed light, or approaching familiar things in a different way. The seeds of change are also the seeds of possibility.

Why don’t we try a few of these, starting with very simple shifts we can make in our own home?

Watch the sun rise (suns don’t only rise on beach vacations!).

Look out the window for a few minutes, instead of turning on the computer or phone.

Start your tourism right where you are. Take a lingering look at the books on your shelf, or the smattering of varied dishware accumulated over the years, and use a different mug for your morning coffee (maybe while reading a “new” old book!).

Okay, we can leave the house now. Why not take a walk in a new neighborhood? If you have to work, walk instead of bike, or take a different route if you’re driving. You get the picture.

No matter what the time constraints are or where you’re headed, really look around. Notice the store fronts, the relative health of the grass and foliage around you, or at how melting snow changes the landscape you know so well. Any new construction projects in our midst? Anything that’s been redesigned?

Visit the local library. It may have been a long time, so going is like revisiting our childhood and a new part of town at once (how efficient!)—two very exotic locations, not to mention the worlds we can find in the books themselves. We can also get a library card, because while we’re tourists for the day, we’re also sticking around!

Take pictures. No matter what device your camera is lodged into, use it as a photography medium. Let’s regard the city/town/suburb/village as we would a tourist destination. Find what is beautiful and make an image of it. We can send our new discoveries to friends and share the wealth, enjoy looking at them and marveling at the hidden treasures continually awaiting our attention.

Try new cuisine. We can bring India, Thailand, Japan, Jamaica, and so on, right to us for a little while. Entering a new restaurant is like opening a great book, and is a feast for more than just our sense of taste.

Check for activities (free or otherwise) going around town and try a couple of them out. Maybe this is the perfect chance to discover new and rewarding ways to spend time and nourish ourselves, or try out different variations of things we already do, but in a different setting.

People watch. This can be done in a café, on a patio somewhere, on church steps—you name it. See what people are wearing, how they move, what their facial expressions or the sounds of their voices are revealing, how they live and go about their lives, and just get lost in the wandering, and wondering about humanity. This is not about invading people’s privacy, of course, but gathering impressions in a mindful and respectful way.

As Maya Angelou says above, one of the most beautiful aspects of travel is to find and remember all the ways in which we, as humans, are alike and connected, to the betterment of every single one of us. I can’t think of a better way to generate compassion.

Watch the sun set (suns don’t only set on beach vacations!)

And finally, we can take a moment at the end of any given day we’ve actively engaged with our environment in a new way, to express gratitude for where we are, and review. What did we enjoy among the discoveries, and what surprised us? Was there anything about this “new” place we’d like to incorporate into our lives in the coming weeks and months?

Let’s express gratitude for the opportunity we gave ourselves to open our eyes and begin again, and realize that beginning again is something that can, and will happen as many times as we allow it to.

Bon voyage!