Ask Andrew W.K.: 'How Should I Feel About Terrorism?'
Photo by K. Williams
Dear Andrew W.K.,
I'm truly distraught. Like most people, I'm sickened and shocked by the recent terror attacks in Paris, as well as by the seemingly increasing levels of violence and discord around the world in general. I'm 31 years old. I obviously remember the 9-11 attacks and the first time I learned about terrorism and extremism, but I don't feel like I've learned how to cope with it. I can't shake this growing dread and anxiety about daily life, nor this sense of imminent doom.
I know my parents and grandparents and especially my great-grandparents lived through even more violent and troubling times, and I try to gain strength from their experiences and points of view.
But I still feel incredible stress. Everything feels pointless and depressing. I'm sad to admit it, but I'm afraid and lost. I wish there was some way I could understand what is happening, or fight back, or help stop all this. What can I do?
There are no easy answers here. Nothing I can say will be adequate, will fully explain the inexplicable. When humans commit inhuman acts, sense and reason are nowhere to be found. We cannot force the situation to make sense and square with our understanding of life. When faced with a senseless situation, it is completely natural to experience an overwhelming feeling of confusion, coupled with waves of hopelessness and incredible sadness. But instead of drowning in that despair, we must cling to what matters most to us and use our love of those principles to pull ourselves up to a higher level. And from this higher point of view, we can see the situation with more clarity.
With violence of this kind, we are witnessing humans give themselves over to their lowest, basest, most animalistic instincts. They're abandoning every humanistic impulse and divine ideal in favor of their most distorted and depraved appetites. The amount of self-denial, inverted logic, and staggering ignorance it takes to carry out such acts of mindless sadism is impossible to fathom by anyone not operating on this same vulgar level. Just as we cannot fully understand or identify with the thought process of a great white shark, we cannot hope to comprehend the mindset of a human who has chosen to abandon all the honorable and noble parts of his nature in favor of his most despicable, underdeveloped, and perverted impulses. But whereas the shark is at least true to its nature as a killer, these monstrous humans have defied their nature and capacity for goodness and reason and have become something alien and unrecognizable to us. That's why these situations are so confusing and hard to understand: They're not of this world, yet they occurred within it.
The world that the majority of us are striving to create and live in is one in which light, life, love, and liberty are the four emanations of the one true law of existence. We collectively believe that these qualities exist inherently in the world, in the same way as other laws of nature exist. We have identified them in the same way we have identified the law of gravity, but we also have nurtured them, protected them, and fought for them against others whose own ignorance and immaturity have blinded them from experiencing this purity of truth.
We allow each human the right to exist, to live their own life, to be their own person, to find their own purpose, and to enjoy the privileges of natural and total freedom. But we know that when one person is kept from experiencing these natural rights, all of humanity is denied a portion of its collective glory. Those who seek to infringe upon or destroy these basic principles are fighting a battle as futile as trying to stop the sun from shining or the Earth from turning. The law of humanity is ultimately the law of nature and is as incorruptible and as strong as the forces which bind our universe together in space and time. These natural forces are the definition of goodness and synonymous with truth. This is why evil is built on falsehoods and confusion: Evil is that which attempts to defy the natural laws of life, and because these laws cannot be broken, evil will always ultimately fail.
We have seen this time and time again, illustrated throughout human history, as the many attempts to thwart the natural rights of humanity have crumbled. Those who wish to destroy the right to be free and true to oneself — and to bend the law to serve their own restrictive ideology — will always eventually perish. Each and every attempt at limiting the human spirit has failed. Some have been more spectacular failures than others, and some have caused more damage and suffering than others, but before long they all succumbed to the inevitable triumph of the law over oppression and darkness. Each time, the tyrants have thought they had figured out a special new trick with which to beat the system, to bend the rules, and to overcome the power of goodness. Each time they thought they were chosen to finally topple the human spirit once and for all, but their vanity and blindness only ensured their demise. One simply can't break the rules of the universe without consequences. They cannot beat nature and they cannot win.
So what can we do?
We can live for truth. We can fight for light, life, love, and liberty. We can make sure each person has the ability to make their own way toward their own individual destiny, unimpeded by the dogma or limitations others would wish to impose. The only worthy limitations are the limitations of time and humanity's own internal struggle to rise up over its individual and collective weakness.
The terrorists cannot kill everyone. They cannot end the world. They cannot destroy civilization. All they can do is disrupt our lives, disrupt our minds, and, most of all, try to disrupt our hearts and spirits. In order for their attacks to truly succeed, they need to discourage us in our mission toward the total realization of our shared life purpose. Do not give them this satisfaction. In honor of those who lost their lives at the hands of these fools, we must live on and hold tighter than ever to the best parts of life. It's natural to be afraid, but we must never give in to that fear. We must never allow their misery to infiltrate our vision of an ideal world of love and peace. They want war, but they will only get annihilation. This isn't us versus them. This is us versus "it." We have all of history and humanity on our side. We have the entire universe on our side. No force is strong enough to ultimately stop the unfolding of the universe. No person is strong enough to ultimately stop the unfolding of another person's spirit.
Do not abandon hope. Do not abandon joy. Do not doubt the value and integrity of all that we have fought to protect and promote for so long. Enjoy life and live every moment for all it's worth. If we stop enjoying life, it means the terrorists won.
[Editor's note: Every week, New York City's own Andrew W.K. takes your life questions and sets you safely down the right path to a solution, a purpose, or — no surprise here — a party. Need his help? Just ask: AskAWK@villagevoice.com]
Read all of Andrew W.K.'s advice columns here.
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