The hardness of feeling

Inspired by walking the streets with nothing to do but think.

The hardness of loss when someone you love dies. The reality of them being around for so long is no longer a reality. The surreal nature of their absence is the truth. The empty space where they sit for their evening meal feels full of pain and guilt and sorrow.

The hardness of avoiding eye contact with the homeless person on the street corner. The willing away of the track marks you saw and the thoughts about how someone who was once a small child with only innocence in their eyes came to be in this position, on a sidewalk in a busy city with nothing but the occasional pity of strangers to continue their existence. The way we all walk on, trying not to think about how narrow the bridge is between our own precarious existence and that of the nameless homeless person. The communal disgust as some tourist chooses to photograph this sorrow, to take away what little dignity this person has left.

The hardness of watching somebody's litter blow across the street like tumbleweed. The knowledge that rubbish out of the trash can makes it into the stomachs of whales and sharks and sea creatures, and seals off the ocean, so that sunlight no longer bathes the flora and fauna below. The difficulty of changing our consumeristic, easy lifestyle of grab-and-go meals to one of pre-planning and reusable containers. The internal guilt because even though we know it's bad, it's just so much more convenient to take away than to plan ahead or bring our own coffee mugs. The blindness of a city with essentially no local production that still feeds millions of mouths each day and ships its waste interstate for disposal.

The hardness of seeing a refugee stopped at the border, their very title indicative of the struggle already made, the daily lives they dream of are exactly like our meek existences. The sorrow of a child separated from her mother or father or grandparent or brother or aunt in the name of borders, when the planet wasn't made with them and they are but walls built of maps built of men with boats and power. In that very act, they created haves and have nots, and those of us who are haves turn away for fear of realising how little of this is "owed" to us.

The hardness of recognising that the percentage of melanin in our skin should not make a difference, but it does, and pretending it doesn't is to deny those these preconceived ideas affect of their rights. The reality of our existence being made easier or harder because of our response to sunlight, and the presence of industries that seek to exploit these unspoken truths, terrible though they may be.

The hardness of knowing that my ill health would be treated and yet so many would not have the same luck. The knowledge that, even in sickness, there are costs greater than money. That in sickness and in health is not a promise made by all governments, despite the downfall of one being the weakness of many.

The hardness of rising temperatures making for impenetrable winters and life-threatening summers and yet we all keep guzzling gas and leaving the lights on and moving towards gadgets. The obvious weather events, the increasing incidence of "once-in-100-year" floods and the year on year record temperatures are not enough to convince those who wish to believe it will be okay.

The hardness of being the only person on the train not using a mobile device for entertainment. Watching fellow travellers crick their necks into awkward positions and topple sideways when the lurching vehicle stops suddenly. The way we all avoid interacting because modern media has told us that anyone could be a serial killer, and where we used to have culture and conversation on these vessels of togetherness, we are now almost always apart in the same physical space.

The hardness of looking into the eyes of the things that scare us most. The hardness. It's so tangible if you take a moment to recognise it. It's palpable. It pauses in your throat and makes swallowing hard. It burns in your chest. It aches in your bones. But if we don't look or feel, we will continue to create walls and separate from our colleagues in humanity.

Look up. Open up. Soften up.


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