In my last post, Strange New Worlds, I wrote about the vastness of space and how “no man-made wall has ever proven so completely and perfectly impenetrable as unsurmountable distance. Nothing has proven our absolute ineptitude quite like the unconquerable vastness of time and space.” I tried to capture that strange sense of not knowing—that intangible, yet overwhelming feeling of the unknown and its immensity. Perhaps I ended things a bit cold for the reader, it’s not exactly comforting to meditate on one’s smallness in the context of the whole universe. But there is one more thing about space in all its vastness that I did not mention: its open. The secrets of the universe are all there, everywhere, hidden in plain sight.

I look to the stars with great hope, excited by all the possibilities surrounding us. Every dot of light is a testament to a unique existence, a flame to every dream, a hint of the unimaginable, a terra incognita always out there, just out of reach, something always to be explored, limitless and open. If we could only solve the riddle, crack the code, decipher the language to read this open book—this book of everything.

Yet the pages always seem to get overwritten by our assumptions. We fight among ourselves about whose assumption gets to dominate. We cannot achieve any progress if we do not become more aware of this. We must work together to help each other, leaving no one out. This may seem incredibly idealistic, even simplistic, when we cannot even come to an agreement about who we are: Are we good? Are we bad? Are we animals or higher beings? If we are animals, are we sheep or wolves? Ants meant to live in well-organized colonies? Or sharks, lone hunters in it for ourselves? If we are meant to be with the angels: What separates the saints and sinners; the redeemable and the hopeless?

If we are none of these, then what makes us truly significant?

Any meanings we interpret are more a reflection of who we are, how we see ourselves, than a definite truth about the world. And yet, we know the truth is out there (sorry X-files fans), though failure to attain it should not deter our aspirations, it should spur us onwards. They say beauty is truth, truth is beauty, what is a life without it?

alightcirclewebsitespringsunmpbaeckerPerhaps it is like a cycle, every generation circling around the truth, chipping away at it, like sculptors under a marble dome. We intend cut into the dome to finally see a glimpse of the sky, but as we chip away at it, we begin to see a pattern, a grand pattern to everything. We stop hacking and begin to reproduce this pattern onto the shell of the dome itself. We then paint it, embellish it, and laud it as art. The next generation looks up at our work, first with admiration, then rejection, as they begin noticing the flaws and gaps in our grand scheme. They go up to chip away at the dome themselves, until they too see a pattern of their own. And so it goes. In this scenario, the dome would become thinner and thinner with time, progress would be linear. But we know this does not always happen. Many great civilizations have risen and fallen, their vast knowledge—legacies lost, new Stone Ages over their ashes and remains. I hope for our great civilization that this will not be the case, though many forces of fear actively work towards its destruction.

So why do I still look up with great hope and optimism?

I may rage at the injustice in the world: ignorance, racism, casual cruelty, prejudice and groundless assumption, and yet, hatred is its own punishment. That fearful, angry person who believes he or his tribe is under attack, suffers the high anxiety of this unstable emotional state. What do I know of justice when I can only see a glimpse of a life, always seeing a straight horizon and believing the Earth to be flat. I have known enough violence and crudeness in my life than to put all my faith in the good in people, yet I find it hard to believe that people are by nature bad. We are all so similar and yet, so different. Many compassionate people strive to believe our diversity is our “superpower”, that love conquers fear and hate, I wish for that as well.

Yet there is only one superpower that I am truly convinced of, it has been so thoroughly, so devastatingly well-proven: Humans are extremely good at finding weakness and exploiting it for their own advantage. But I no longer rail against this, I do not fear it. I do not strive to quell it, keep it under wraps. The world is not a nursery school or a Disneyland, it can be brutal, unfair, cold. I was born in an unfair world and will most likely die in one. I do not strive to hide my children from this world but give them the strength and tools to disempower aggressors.

This superpower that we have: finding weakness and exploiting it, we all have it in common, as sure as our DNA. Let’s not hide it anymore. Let’s redirect it. Instead of acting like cowards by targeting the people who have less than us, people who have no voice: the poor and the outsiders, let’s redirect our superpower to fighting the real danger: dictators, fascists and leaders who support hatred and prejudice. Let’s use our superpower to exploit the weakness behind the propaganda, the flaws in the racist ideologies, the gaps in the anti-immigrant rhetoric, the poor justification of wrong-doings, the fear masquerading around as arrogance and entitlement. Let’s use our incredible superpower for good, to support our mutual humanity and the progress for equality, democracy, human rights—so hard-fought, so hard-won.

In Germany, the place where I live, at this very moment, the anti-immigrant party AfD (Alternative für Deutschland) is poised to gain seats in the Bundestag, our German parliament (source). Although Angela Merkel is expected to retain her power, it is very disheartening to see a populist party that plainly describes immigrants as “inferiors” would gain political power and possibly influence the course of the country. They are gaining in power because they have successfully tapped into people’s fears. Modern fears that have a tantalizing thread of legitimacy: fear of terrorism, fear of fundamentalist Islam, fear of a loss in national identity, fear of disappearance or being made irrelevant. The AfD recently came out with a successful ad campaign exploiting this fear: An image of a group of women wearing Burkas with the message “Islamisierung Stoppen”, “stop the spread of Islam”. “In an offensive poke at the fact Muslims don’t eat pork, there is the picture of a piglet under the provocative slogan: “Islam? It doesn’t fit in with our cuisine.””(Skynews, source) They repeatedly argue on TV and on their banners that there is a correlation in the rise of immigration with incidences of rape and terrorism. Sounds familiar? Most likely, you have encountered this kind of rhetoric where you live as well.

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In response to the AfD’s controversial Burka-themed ad campaign, I made my own. A few of you who have been looking at my site may have noticed that I had a few different versions of this picture. I have been speedily working on it for the upcoming elections this week and circulating it in sites which display the AfD ads as my response against them. Radical Fundamentalism is not the answer to Radical Fundamentalism.

Using populism to stop terrorism is like dropping an atom bomb on a terrorist cell, sure you will kill the target, but everyone else, everything else, everything that democracy stands for will be blown to bits as well. And guess what? Rape, violence, murder, terrorism are still wrong and illegal whether immigrants have anything to do with them or not. They are still wrong, regardless of the race, nationality or religion of the perpetrator. The only thing that would make these bad things acceptable would be if the laws were changed by the politicians we put in power to supposedly “safeguard” us. Hitler is a prime example, his Nazi party rose to power claiming to protect the Germans against the Jewish “threat”. By the way, he killed more than 5 million Germans in doing this “protecting” (source). It is extremely ironic to see people wanting to “save their race from extinction” holding up swastikas, the symbols of one of the biggest killers of that race of all time.

No one wants to see anyone or anything they hold dear being threatened, but it’s time that we realized where the real threats to our way of life are coming from. They are not coming from defenseless refugees and immigrants. Helping someone in need uplifts everyone, diversity enriches us, broadens our horizons and knowledge. It is not always easy to live in an inclusive society, it is a work in progress and we will always have to fight to retain our safety and our human rights, but the answer is not in relinquishing our freedom. The answer is not in isolating ourselves and going backwards. It is not in feeding our fears and our prejudices. The answer is there and has always been there in each of us. You know what I mean. It’s time to let out that light.

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Text and images by M.P. Baecker (image 3 originates from a stock image that I have purchased and altered).

 

 

15 thoughts on “Open Ended

    • Thanks for your positivity and for your supportive comment! I hope that the great freedoms and opportunities many of us have learned to cherish now more than ever can continue to spread throughout the world and into the future! You’re right, let’s keep shining!

      Like

  1. Thank you! This piece reminds me to continue be hopeful. But ohhh, what a sweet, sweet world that would be if the powers that be spent that $700 billion on education and healthcare…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your kind words and for your reblog!!! These thoughts have been occupying my mind more and more, perhaps it’s a sign of becoming an adult, the world seems to grow more unsettling, more complex, and also more intriguing, I hope we can continue chipping away at that dome!

      You have an incredibly beautiful site and insightful thoughts on the world and travel! I’ve been an avid reader! I encourage everyone, if you haven’t already, please visit: https://beautifuldiaspora.wordpress.com

      Thank you so much!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m so sorry for the late reply! It was my pleasure to share your writing, I hope more people will discover the genuine depth and beauty of your words! Open Ended really resonated with me, especially what you wrote about the meanings we attach to things. It was just over a year ago that I heard Wayne Dyer quote Albert Einstein “The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.” That was kind of a turning point for me and opened up my awareness that I alone was responsible for the way I viewed the world and my experience in it.

        And what you went on to say about where the real threats are coming from and the current situation in Germany, this has significance for me as I continue my search for a home, somewhere I can live without feeling under threat. I’ve a growing awareness that I will have to make a stand in some way, whether wanted or not. The real threat may be from my own cowardice to face the evil in the world

        Thanks so much for your kind words about my blog! Appreciate so much your support 😀

        Stay well
        – Abraham

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        • Thank you for your brilliant comment!! I am a big fan of Dr. Wayne Dyer! He is so great at focusing in on people’s inner motivations and becoming aware of priorities.
          Your writing and photography resonates with me as well! I am still on that constant search for “home”, though I find it to be more and more a portable, mental construct than a place or a nationality for myself. However, for the sake of my children, I hope to secure them a place on Earth where no one questions whether or not they belong, though perhaps that will never happen in my lifetime, and that sense of security will have to come from them, not from others.

          It’s an incredible time we live in right now, full of stark contrasts and tantalizing possibilities, I hope we all choose a future where we are all better off and more whole than we were before.

          I really appreciate your thoughtful reading and your support! Thanks so much!

          Liked by 1 person

  2. This is just such an amazing piece, MP, that I could take 7 or 8 replies to unpack it. I know how verbose I can get, so I will attempt to be succinct, or tackle it in bundles. I could read it many times; that alone, is something!

    I had an ongoing joke with a friend of mine when I was younger. We would look up into the sky together and he would say to me “imagine the vastness of space, really imagine it; does it not make you feel small?” And I would reply, “no, it makes me feel like the most special person in a much larger universe than I imagined.” Then he’d punch me in the arm or something.

    But the truth is, the possibilities are endless. We are so small. Not just you and I, but the human race as a whole. We battle amongst ourselves for fleeting things, and we imagine we have all the answers (the assumptions), and so few of us realize we know nothing. It’s an important thing to know; perhaps the most important thing of all.

    I want to think we are chipping away at the marble dome, what I call the intellectual evolution of mankind. I think that 100 years from now we have the opportunity to be a species unlike ever before, the changes can happen so rapidly. I fear, though, we will bury all of our future opportunities under one final pile of rubble and ash. That, for the first time in history, is a possibility, as well.

    I’ll leave it at that for this time, before this becomes a post instead of a response! Maybe it should be. 🤔 But I do share your hope and optimism. I do believe we will evolve, somehow, and chip away another layer of the dome.

    I have been fixing SEOs on my older works and came across a post I wrote in June of ’16, just yesterday. It relates to my response. Check it out when you have a free moment. My optimism knows no bounds. 🙂 http://www.tombeingtom.com/faith/

    Thank you again for a wonderful piece!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts! Your input really enriches this site! The insightful comments I have received here have helped me to grow so much and discover new areas to explore in my writing!

      You’re friend seems a lot like one of my older siblings! Our gentile philosophical wanderings always interrupted by ribbing, eye-rolling and a good amount of laughter 🙂 I swear, it must be written in the code of all childhoods that a fair amount of knocking-back-down-to-earth must take place!

      Your comment and your post on faith had so much depth, I had to think about what you wrote for a long time before I could reply. I also wanted to mention that I am also so intrigued by the work of Yuval Harari, you mentioned him to me earlier, his longview on history and speculation on the future of mankind is a must-read for our generation and our times. I like his idea that we “have lost our story” and that is why there is so much conflict now and that we “need to find a new story”. This is one of the major motivations behind my work: We need to find a more inclusive story, one with an awareness of history but without nostalgia, one that does not diminish anyone’s humanity in favor of a few heroes but uplifts everyone and looks to a bright future.

      Your optimism is catchy! I think everyone contributes to this story, good and bad, and to whether this story will ever see light, whether they are aware of it or not. I am in favor of becoming more aware of it, that’s the only way we can change how its written and ensure it becomes a reality!

      Your stories and perspective are a much-needed balm for the soul. Just the other day, my mind was blown by the news to learn that the US is spending $700 billion on the military while Americans are fighting over every dollar going into healthcare or every dollar supposedly lost to an illegal immigrant or a welfare recipient!!! Yet no one bats an eyelash when it’s for the military?! What a better world we would all be living in if we spent that $700 billion on healthcare and education instead! (I say “we” because I am still an American citizen)

      You described it so well: “I fear, though, we will bury all of our future opportunities under one final pile of rubble and ash. That, for the first time in history, is a possibility, as well.” It looks like that’s where the $700 billion is going into, if this administration is not going to use the military for humanitarian ends (which seems unlikely).

      So within this dire frame of current events, your optimism is necessary and soothing! You have my total support! I just remembered a lecturer I listened to years ago, I can’t remember her name, but she said something along these lines: If you have no compassion, if you have no faith in mankind, if you see the world in such a negative light that you have no hope for its future, then you have no business being a politician or being anyone of authority, you must step down, because the world is for the living not the dead.

      Liked by 1 person

      • What a brilliant response! Harari nails it on so many levels. I seek him and his wisdom out constantly. It’s good to know that people (like us!) can see the whole truth about the world, about mankind, and still feel there is hope! If the world follows suit, we will flourish. If not, well … we’ve discussed that. 😊

        That lecturer, like Harari, knows the deal. Wise words, and they could be applied to the American leadership right now. I look forward to the day when we have a leader with that kind of compassion again; perhaps a leader who knows how better to spend some extra $700 billion. Is there such a thing?

        I could go on and on! Can’t wait to see what’s next … great works, MP!

        Liked by 1 person

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