There is great comfort in realizing you are no more nor less than any of the threads in the great tapestry of life, that you are thus, in fact, the tapestry itself, depending where you put your eyes.

Emily Dickinson wrote

The Drop, that wrestles in the Sea –

Forgets her own locality –

As I, in Thee –

She knows herself an incense small –

Yet small – she sighs – if all – is all –

How larger – be?

The Ocean, smiles – at her conceit –

But she, forgetting Amphitrite –

Pleads – “Me”?

F255 (1861)  284

I have recently become the recipient of internet bullying by skydivers. Yes, skydivers. They take very personally the fact that my skydiving instructor is not on the cover of my book. My take? If it were a book about the instructor, then he would get to be on the cover. Even if it were a book about skydiving, he would get to be on the cover. But it’s not a book about skydiving, nor my instructor. It’s a book about recovering from grief, and skydiving became a metaphor which went on the cover, in soft focus and sepia tone, with a lens flare creating a series of orbs around my face. A very artistic representation of a metaphorical act, which also is described in the book.

In order to include the instructor on the cover, I would have to reach out to the company and find out if he’s still there after years without contact, ask him if he wants to be on the cover of my book about surviving grief, assuming I find him, and get him to sign a legal document, and then pay him. And if he were a more integral part of the story, I would have done all of that. But if anyone else were going on the cover, it’s my late husband, so there were both legal and artistic reasons that the instructor is not included. I tried to explain that, but when a troll opens a dialogue, it isn’t for the purposes of gaining understanding by means of intelligent conversation. Rather, the intent is simply to attack and antagonize repeatedly, often ignoring rational facts introduced by the defending party. The jump itself is described in full detail in one chapter of the book, giving full credit to not only my instructor but to the whole team I met from that day. But none of the trolls bothered to read the book, or even wanted to know the subject matter, let alone had the slightest reverence for death or grief. After getting a bit frustrated over getting nowhere with the people who were hurling insults and writing all in caps, what I wanted to reply is, “the book has nothing to do with your self-importance, and if all you are skydiving for is applause, you are completely missing the point.” But allowing oneself to be drawn out by a troll is exactly proving what they set out to expose: that you are bad.

The thing is, I’m not bad. You may as well try to prove that I’m a banana. It’s equally as ridiculous. I’m not going to defend myself as a human, because I’d rather spend what’s left of my life letting my actions speak. And I’m done defending the book cover, now that I’ve explained it once. Yet the bullying has been going on for weeks and doesn’t seem to be letting up.

William Blake wrote, in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.”

Perception is everything, and the troll sees its victim as the false “other” that I describe in my book. To miss that every person is human like every other human, is a mistake, usually borne of misinformation. But it’s a lie we tell ourselves and each other all the time. And these particular trolls seem to see themselves as heroes – perhaps as a lifestyle, for facing the scary task of jumping from a plane and, in the case of bullying, for ridding the world of people who don’t spend their life’s work kowtowing to other people who also jump out of planes (albeit presumably more frequently). What is insane to me is how rampant the online bullying can get. We don’t invest any time to learn facts before we make snap judgments and react. We attack strangers because, first, it’s easier to assume that someone whom we don’t know is whatever our very limited perception says that they are, and second because it’s so easy to empty some aggression online without having to show up for an intelligent argument or witness the destruction that we cause.

In the age where You is the all-important leader, we forget Us. Our perception is distorted to bear our own image, forsaking all others. And we feel lonely, and afraid, and angry, and we’re looking for someone to blame. All we can see is ourselves, and our own ego simply couldn’t be the problem. The stranger we attack today is the self we cannot face. Until we allow ourselves to witness  – I’m sorry, but I have to say it, because I believe it with my whole heart – the is of us, we will continue to wander in the dark, hopeless and miserable. It is my dearest wish that we all can find the peace borne of love.

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