Voices in the distance…

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It’s not that often that I am at a loss for words…. just read any of the posts on this blog and you’ll see… the written word and I are decent acquaintances.

But as the saying goes, we want quality, not quantity.

And in that, I have tried to at least have the quality… to make the read either meaningful, or entertaining, or both where possible.

Like most amateur writers, I’m not out to make money or notoriety. Fame will not follow and most of the time I’m just happy that someone reads what I write.

But every so often, something truly inspirational happens. Sometimes someone finds their own voice, motivated perhaps by what words I’ve shared… or maybe just the realisation that they too have something to say, something that may be of value to someone else out there.

I recently had some computer problems due to electricity problems during a thunderstorm… and as a consequence, was off the air for a while as I cobbled together a way to retrieve my lost data. (Let that be a lesson people; backups and UPS’s are your friends)

So, any email sent to me in that time waited patiently until I could retrieve and read it tonight.

Which brings me to the reason behind this  post: a teenager who stumbled onto my writings and saw something in it… something that struck a chord within and motivated him to write to me.

I haven’t replied directly to his email, and to be honest, I’m not sure I will beyond this post (which, I’m hoping he’ll read)… and I’m not going to put any of the details of what he wrote up here. Not that it’s particularly personal or anything, it’s just, as far as I’m concerned, not for anyone else to read.

Honestly, I’m part flattered, part proud, part touched… and also part wary. See, this young man, John, is 16… and for me in my 30’s, well, I guess part of me feels a sense of responsibility when it comes to how the ideas of others can shape impressionable minds. I can still remember what 16 was like and how difficult finding your place, and your voice, in this world can be. Like me, John’s appetite for reading and knowledge is insatiable, and at 16 I’d read anything I could lay my hands on… comic books, magazines, novels, poetry, encyclopedia, reference material, handbooks, technical manuals… hell, i’d even read the cereal box at breakfast just because it was there.

And what I had written that so spoke to him was “Understanding is a three edged sword” … my take on how there’s always more than just your own perspective on things.

And normally I’d be all about the encouragement, trying to send a positive message… but again, I’m wary, as I don’t know this kid or his situation beyond the thinnest details in an email.

My life circumstances have been a bit of a rollercoaster ride over the past year or more. It’s the primary reason this blog has gone largely neglected (not an excuse, simply what is) so it hardly leaves me in a position to offer anonymous and detached advice or guidance to anyone from the safety of a computer screen, potentially on the other side of the planet. Whilst I doubt it’s likely to happen, I’d seriously hate for my words to be the trigger for another Columbine or James Bulger. One can only imagine how J. D. Salinger must have felt hearing the Mark David Chapman claimed The Catcher in the Rye would explain his reasoning for murder of John Lennon… or how Paul Mcartney must have felt hearing that ‘Helter Skelter’ had been written in blood on the walls at the scene of the Tate-LaBianca murders.

And in light of recent comments made to me about ‘finding your own truth’… I realise now more than ever that objectivity is often too difficult for most people, and that they find comfort in their own versions of the truth, often to their own detriment. Some will gladly accept a distorted version of the truth to simply justify a decision already made, the consequences be damned, and all evidence to contrary ignored.

Of course, I’m playing the pessimist here… perhaps overly cautious without reason. In re-reading John’s email, he seems eloquent, thoughtful and probably more than a little frustrated by the actions and words of many around him. A counsellor once said to me that intelligent and aware people are those most likely to go through depression… and I totally understand that. On a planet of over 6 billion souls, it’s far too easy to feel alone and alienated… and history shows us what can happen with that ugly combination.

So, with John’s words having travelled through the ether… landed on my desk and prompted my mind to ponder action and consequence… I leave him, and you with a simple message…

When faced with the frustration and darkness that this world often confounds us with, remember that a kind word, spoken genuinely, has more power than any weapon forged by man.

Sometimes, we need to hear that kind word, and sometimes, we are called upon to speak those kind words.

You are not alone.

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