Lions and Humans and Love – Oh My!

I have a heavy heart right now. That’s not to say that I am constantly sad or anything. In fact, for those keeping tabs on me after my post at the beginning of the year, my depression is pretty much past (this bout was largely sparked by the job I left at the end of December, so with the removal of the negative aspects of that job, the depression evaporated within the first few therapy sessions of the year), and even my therapist told me during my most recent session that I’ve made tremendous strides n the realm of my mental health, and I *FEEL* like a stronger, better man than I did at the start of the year.

So why is my heart so heavy?

Because one of the areas I’ve made some rather significant growth and discovery in is the realm of the heart. Love for me was always something beautiful and amazing, but I had such a narrow view of it. There was Family Love, there was Friend Love, and there was Romantic Love, and that was it. And as far as Romantic Love, there was really only one flavor of that, and room for only one person. As this year as progressed and I’ve come to better terms with myself, my views on the concept of Love itself have expanded and, I truly believe, matured. There are *SO* many more gradients of Love, and I was even already living that, I just didn’t really realize it. I love so many people, and each way is actually unique and beautiful. I don’t feel the need to pigeonhole someone as a “Friend Love”, because it’s just…the way I feel about that specific person. I don’t feel the need to qualify it any further. And I’ve become so much less hesitant to tell someone I love them, because I know now how I can love without worrying about further labels to put on the relationship.

This has meant some interesting shifts in dynamics, as I have felt comfortable getting closer to certain people than my previous views may have allowed, but I don’t see it as a betrayal of my love for Katie Mae to recognize that certain others are very important to me and I love them in a way that merely calling them a “friend” seems too limiting. And not even all of these people I’m referring to are female, by the way. The point I’m trying to get at is that I’m growing in my understanding of Love and relationships, and it has meant I’ve also grown closer to several other people, and in general I feel more in touch with an expansive view of love and interactions with others.

And thus comes the heavy heart, because as amazing as 2015 may be from the perspective of technology and communication and science and medicine and all the other ways in which the modern world appears to be a marvel, I find myself assailed by the negativity that the comfort/anonymity of the Internet has allowed to become prevalent. So many people saying so many hurtful, hateful things. And the most saddening of all is seeing some of these things coming from my friends. Oh, I know that nobody’s perfect – I’ve never ever *EVER* believed that my friends were perfect – but it can still be difficult. So many pet causes and guilt trips about what people “should” care about.

My friends, I beg you – I *IMPLORE* you – please understand that just as your loves and passions and interests are different from those around you (and that uniqueness is what makes you such a beautiful person), that means others may feel differently. And when it comes to life’s suffering, it’s even more important to not squash the causes that others care about, just because you personally differ in what saddens you. A prime example of that is how divided the story of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe is making people. On the one hand, you’ve got people who are heartbroken over the killing, and then you’ve got people who are essentially saying “He was just a lion, and people are being killed every day – priorities, people!”. Those who know me know I’m a cat lover, and have always had a soft spot for the wild cats; thus, I can see some feeling that my being heartbroken over Cecil can be explained away as just my quirk. But I don’t see it that way.

Lion, human, dog, cat, fish, reptile, bird, whatever the case may be – life is still *LIFE*! Maybe a lion being a predator, or living in Africa, or not being able to communicate with us using speech, it seems like it should be a lesser deal to kill it. And me not being a vegetarian or vegan, it may seem hypocritical of me to be upset over Cecil and then go eat a steak or chicken or something. As much as I don’t love the thought of cute, fuzzy animals being killed for food (like lambs, rabbits, or even cats and dogs in certain Asian countries) is at least something I can understand, even if some of the animals I find cuter than others, I wish did not make it onto anybody’s plate (and let’s be honest here, please – *MOST* of the reason we pan China for eating cats but not anywhere else for eating cows is that we keep them as pets and find them cute). Cecil was murdered and decapitated. There was no food here, this was a paid killing. Cecil was assassinated.

Why must it be a human life for us to care? And going a step further, why must it be poor people, or large groups of people, or certain groups of people, for us to be “allowed” to care and hurt or grieve over the loss of life? We tend to care so much about our pet causes or our chosen groups of people, but the truth is that life presents us with tragedy every day. From our loved ones (friends and family) hurting or being sick, to hate crimes from one group to another for some superficial reason (skin color, political/moral/religious beliefs, sexual preferences, you name it), to terrorism and war, to even things like pets being hurt or dying or a wild animal being assassinated. Here’s the secret – *ALL* of those tragedies are horrible and deserve to be mourned and grieved. Every last one of them. From a housecat undergoing surgery to the homeless starving child in a third-world country dying of thirst to a bombing killing hundreds in a terrorist attack or act of war from one nation to another.

And if it fell to every individual person to grieve for every tragedy life throws at us, we’d never get anything done. The fact that we all care about different issues is part of what keeps us sane. It allows us as a species to address the suffering of the world by specializing in addressing the suffering we each feel the most compassion for. I really don’t like being made to feel guilty because I got sad for Cecil’s death but am not constantly weeping for the thousands dying all the time in war zones or the hate crimes perpetuated here in America. It’s not that I condone or am not saddened by those, it’s that I was struck by his story and it showed just as callous a regard for LIFE in general as a racist cop beating up a black person.

My friends, just as much as bigotry in any form is hurtful and useless for the reason that *ALL* humans are just as deserving of love and compassion and understanding and life and love as you, the person reading this blog post, so it should be with *ALL* life! Why should an assassination be any more tolerable because the target was a “wild animal” rather than a human being? Why should *ANY* crime be more tolerable? Why is “Oh, it was just an animal, not a human” a valid justification for *ANY* action?

To return to my starting point, my heart is heavy because I am constantly reminded these days of how much people try to put a restraint on Love. There is *NOTHING* we can do on this planet that is any more important for anyone else than to love them. After all, if you love someone, not only will you not perpetuate harmful acts on them, but you will actively act for their benefit and well-being. Far from just not killing them, you will care for them and want to help them in their times of need. Maybe this comes back and you are loved in return, maybe not. It shouldn’t matter. What should matter is that from Love flows all the good deeds in the world, and where love flourishes, hatred starves.

Maybe this sounds like a bunch of new age-y, liberal, hippie nonsense to some, and I suppose that’s not completely unwarranted, but who’s to say that those groups don’t have some good to offer? Even if you are a traditional, conservative, modern rational-thinking person, the concept of acting with Wisdom and Compassion should still not be foreign concepts, and I would hope that you would not have a problem with me advocating for a peaceful, loving outlook on life in all of its forms. I can do no less if I hope to be treated with that same love, wisdom, and compassion.