The weight of life – reflections on Paris

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There is a myth that the human soul weighs 21 grams. That there is shift in weight between life and death and proof that we are more than flesh and bone. I have had personal cause to consider the weight of life, the imprint left when someone loved suddenly leaves. Wanted desperately to feel that weight. For the world to feel that weight. When my newborn son died the impact on me and those around me was immense. But to the rest of the world, they only lost a promise. A whisper of what could have been.

As Paris grieves a day of tragedy and violence, I wonder once again at the differing weight of lives. To those that lost loved ones, their grief will be acute and unrelenting. Long after the news ceases its coverage, the gaping hole in their lives will remain irreparable. They carry that weight forever. For the rest of us, watching in horror and disbelief, the grief and outrage is different and potentially fleeting. It feels heavy right now but life will lighten the burden until the next tragedy weighs upon our minds.

An interesting article was shared yesterday regarding the weight the West attaches to tragedies around the world –  Paris attacks highlight our selective grief and outrage.  I agree with the main sentiment as a truism – our media will cover stories we find immediately relatable and stories that shock us. I am not sure that the colour of someone’s skin is what shapes our outrage. But rather that violence and terror in the Middle East is something we have come to expect. A seemingly never-ending hot bed of unrest. Ancient wars of various shapes that appear to have no resolution. When bombings occur in that part of the world, it does not shake our Western world. It has become non-news.

Is this a terrible state of affairs? Yes. I think that we all need to more aware of what is happening in all the corners of our globe. I think a better understanding of what is actually occurring would lead to less bigotry and hatred, more acceptance of those fleeing their homes, a true understanding of who exactly is waging war on freedom and increased global solidarity. Do the lives caught up in that horrific violence mean less? No. I cannot believe that any single life is worth more than another. Does violence in the Middle East mean the same thing to us as the violence in Paris?  No. And this is the difference. When a country with similar freedoms and a similar ethos to our own comes under attack, we suddenly think “that could happen to us.” When lives that look like our own are irreversibly altered, our reaction is understandably different.

When the photos of Syrian refugee children, washed ashore, a terrible end to a terrible nightmare, circulated across the globe, we all felt something. I know I was not the only parent to think “that could be my little boy.” It’s when things become close enough to be our reality that we are shaken from apathy to empathy.

What to make of all this? We can blame the media for not covering all the horror in the world, or we can educate ourselves and search out information. We have the tools to do so – we don’t have to wait for the television or newspapers to inform us. We can choose to blame religion for the atrocities occurring across the world – but that seems as ridiculous as the terrorist hiding behind religion as an excuse for their murderous actions. And ultimately what any terrorist want us to believe – that they have a mandate for their actions. I choose not to play into that.  And I am going to keep myself better informed.

Here are few sites that cover Middle Eastern affairs, I am sure that your own quick google search will uncover more:

4 thoughts on “The weight of life – reflections on Paris

    • Robyna says:

      The only good thing to come out of tragedies like this is for us to change the way we interact with the world – and I think being informed is a good way to start.

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