Finding Wisdom In The Words Of Others

Posted: 03/09/2013 by erichblayde in Hope
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Hello again dear readers! I have had a few instances in the last few days of people telling me how I have inspired them in some form or fashion so today I would like to talk a little about where I get my inspiration to continue breathing each day (and before you ask, yes I do understand the meaning of the words “autonomic nerve function”). All joking aside life can be hard some days, nothing we do to prepare ourselves for the daily grind can ever fully take away the difficulties we face, and sooner or later we all find ourselves looking for inspiration.

And sometimes we find it looking for us.

“Say what you mean and mean what you say, because the words that you choose matter. When you use gay in a perjorative way the effect that it has on the gay kid in the room or the kid with gay relatives is that being gay is less than, or inferior to, and our bar cannot be that a day you just get through life, or just get through school and don’t get harassed, qualifies as a good day”
– Ash Beckham

I found this gem in a video of a gay speaker series a friend of mine posted to Facebook. The entire five minute speech was rife with inspiration, laughter and strength, all the things I didn’t even know I needed in the moment but that hit me like a warm blanket thrown over my shoulders as I sat there and watched. The speaker, Ash Beckham displayed a fantastic grasp of the topic (using the phrase “that’s so gay” in a perjorative manner), and also managed to tailor the presentation to be meaningful to an audience of people who are already aware that using the phrase is a bad thing. Surprisingly despite the self admission that the speech might be “preaching to the Boulder gay choir” Ash Beckham managed to make the topic interesting, uplifting and relevant, providing hope to the gay hearts in the room and challenging everyone to “be the change you wish to see”. The most touching moment for me was when Ash described an experience in a gym where a trainer ribbed another trainer using the phrase “that’s so gay” Ash admitted that despite having no response, “I did my best Gary Colman but that was about it”, the moment in the gym “inspired this, talking to 850 people instead of one”. What hope, what honesty, what a bloody inspiration!

“By transcending societal views of beauty, I believe that I can focus more on my actions. My attitude and thoughts and actions have more value in them than my body because I recognize that this body is just going to become ash in the end, so why fuss about it?”
– Balpreet Kaur

This beautiful quote and the stunning story behind it gobsmacked me in late September during another facebook perusal. For those of you who haven’t heard of Balpreet Kaur let me give you a fast low down. Balpreet Kaur is a university student in the central United States. Ms Kaur is a devout Sikh and as such does not cut her hair or modify her body in any way, which is something to note because Ms Kaur has a rather substantial amount of facial hair which, by the tennents of her religion she does not trim or hide in any way. One day a fellow university student took a picture of Ms Kaur without her knowledge and posted it to the online site Reddit with a caption along the lines of “wtf?” In the photograph Ms Kaur is wearing sweatpants and a t shirt as well as a traditional turban (both sexes in the Sikh faith wear or at least can wear turbans however there are differences in the method of wrapping) and looks somewhat androgyneous in presentation what with her natural growth of hair. The abuse piled in and was spotted some days later by a classmate of Ms Kaur’s who informed her at once. What happened next shocked the world. Balpreet Kaur responded, not in anger or condemnation, but with an eloquent educational post on the reasons for her appearance, the basics of the Sikh faith and a stunningly sincere apology for having caused the picture taker confusion. What no one could have expected was the response she received. The original poster replied with an apology of his own in which he openly discussed his poor conduct and talked about how Ms Kaur’s handling of the situation and her educational comments had caused him to begin to learn about her culture and how horrified he was at his own behavior. It was a redemption story for the ages and continues to inspire me today.

“If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!”
– Rudyard Kipling

This old stand-by was taught to me by my mother many years ago and continues to be a favorite. It continuously reminds me that despite the value in remaining open and accessible to others, one must be ultimately true to themselves. I also used it in my recent stint as a human library book as an ending to my talks on avoiding the apathy in your heart and truly living life. The response it received from my readers was tremendous, those who had never heard it before were stunned by the powerful message contained in Kipling’s simple prose, those who had heard it before, began grinning upon recognizing it and treated it as an old friend. But the amazing thing to me was that everyone who heard it reacted in some way. Not because of the context in which it was read to them but on the basis of the words themselves

“The longest road you can travel is the road from your head to your heart”
– Chinese Proverb

This piece of advice was actually told to me by one of my readers at the human library during a truly inspirational 20 minute session in which we discussed all matter of ideas and philosophies relating to the ideal of living with your heart. The amazing thing is, this gem came from a woman who barely spoke the english language and actually had to search the quote up on her phone and have it translate it to english for me. It was a truly multi-cultural moment in my life and to this day I carry the memory of that conversation, and that one woman’s determination to engage the world and engage in learning, despite the fact that the part of the world where she lives speaks a different language. We both had to work very hard to communicate with each other, but I’ll tell you what, never before has an effort been so damn worth it.

“We are graduating members from the class of ‘we made it’ Not the faded echoes of voices crying out ‘names will never hurt me'”
– Shane Koyczan

While participating in the Occupy Nanaimo movement as a first aid attendant and security person I had the pleasant surprise of turning around one day and finding Shane Koyczan himself standing behind me. I have found inspiration in his works, and have been performing his pieces in my drag shows ever since my dad introduced me to his poetry a few years back. Somewhat startled I found myself being introduced to the man and, as per my usual forthright communication style, promptly thanked him for not only inspiring the hell out of me but also for providing me some of the best material one could have for a drag show. The response to this sentence was nothing short of epic. I got bear hugged. Best moment ever.

“You, me, this city, this country, we will always have a choice.When you stand up to be counted, tell the world, THIS IS MY VOICE. There are many like it, but this one is mine.”
– Shane Koyczan

This quote has always inspired me for obvious reasons, but it gained a whole new meaning for me on August 18 2012 when I finally got the chance to stand up and be counted as a drag queen doing a Pride show. For years I have performed as a queen and have had my share of lumps for doing so because I am a transgendered man. But I kept at it and finally I received my chance to bring home New West Pride as the after-party entertainer. It was a simple three song line up consisting of Natalie Cole’s “Everlasting Love” Heather Small’s “Proud” and Shane Koyczan’s “This Is My Voice” Despite its simplicity however, it was a line up chosen to take the audience on a journey and by the time I reached this line, I could see that my wonderful audience had truly opened their hearts and gone on that journey I had planned for them. I was lucky enough to have been allowed to have Vancouver’s piece of the iconic World Pride Flag on the stage with me that night held by two amazing leaders of Vancouver’s gay community. I will never forget the feeling in my heart when I knelt to start this song and felt my wonderful drag queen friend Mimi, (who is the only queen ever to have opened her arms to me, despite having just met me that morning and come down after her own long day in drag to help me dress and to stand on stage with me neverminding my being the freaky trans queen), wrap the flag around my shoulders. I heard the gasps, saw the audience straining forward, totally with me. As the song ended with this quote I saw tears, open hearts, a community united in a moment, and I knew then, that moment would stay with me, would carry me through the darkest times.

All these moments, all these quotes are what I remember when I am writing to you dear readers. These moments in time carry my soul through every trial, every worry and bring it out the other side stronger than I ever thought possible. And no, that’s not me being melodramatic, that’s the truth of it. The beautiful thing however, is that we ALL have these moments, we just have to slow down enough to see them, seize them and preserve them in our hearts.

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