The Cultural Curator

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My Birthday Wish

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Yesterday, July 20th, was my 27th birthday. When the clock struck midnight, I was in the home of one of my closest friends, Sarah, in Toronto, Canada. We were sitting in her basement, discussing patio furniture options for her new house, reminiscing about our younger years, and flipping through channels on her big screen television. We eventually settled on the film “Dance with Me”, which was playing on one of the networks, and made ourselves comfortable – in our pajamas and with a healthy serving of popcorn – on the pullout sofa, ready for our ‘grown up’ slumber party. It was the perfect beginning to my 27th year…

Unbeknownst to me, 1300 miles away, at the Century City 16 movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado, another group of filmgoers were sitting down to a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises. While I was in the comfort (and safety) of Sarah’s home, curled up on the sofa bed, eyes glued to the television, the Colorado group never made it that far. Before the commencement of their film, a heavily armed and masked gunman paraded into the theatre and opened fire on the audience, shooting to kill, and kill he did, with 12 fatalities and 58 injured (at press time). A dark night, indeed…

And so when I received the news of the shootings, my heart became heavy. Very, very heavy. My immediate reaction was “how can I celebrate another year of my life when those whose lives were so mercilessly taken away from them will never have another opportunity to do the same?” In light of this news, celebrating seemed wholly inappropriate.

Later in the day, I was on a train from Toronto to Ottawa when I started reading more into the story and came across an Op-Ed by Roger Ebert that really put things into perspective and pulled at every one of my heartstrings. What struck me the most were his final paragraphs…

Immediately after a shooting last month in the food court of the Eaton Centre mall in Toronto, a young woman named Jessica Ghawi posted a blog entry. Three minutes before a gunman opened fire, she had been seated at the exact place he fired from.

“I was shown how fragile life was,” she wrote. “I saw the terror on bystanders’ faces. I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change. I was reminded that we don’t know when or where our time on Earth will end. When or where we will breathe our last breath.”

But it is what came next that really chilled me to the bone…

This same woman was one of the fatalities at the midnight screening in Aurora. The circle of madness is closing.

I can’t stop thinking about Jessica. And about this “mad” world that we live in. I’ve always erred on the side of positive thinking, but right now, I can’t suppress how angry I am that we live in a world where these things happen… and they seem to be happening all too frequently.

I am devastated for Jessica, her family and friends, and all the others who have been affected by the heinous events of last night. And I am frightened, too. What if that was me in that theatre? What if it was my mother, my father, my sister, my best friends? What if it wasYOU? Has it really come to this? Are we really living in a world where we have to be afraid of an outing to the cinema? Those were my birthday “thoughts” and I really wish they hadn’t been…

And so, last night, when I made a wish on my candles, I begged the universe to be kinder, safer, and more peaceful in the days and years to come. I want to believe in humanity. I really do. But there are some people out there – whether they act on their own or as a collective – who make it difficult to believe.

I beseech anyone who is reading this to be gentler in your manner and nicer to others. Tie your fists back and put down your guns. Look closely at the photos of the families and friends left behind to pick up the pieces of loved ones lost. Put yourself in their shoes for a moment, won’t you? I realize that I am likely “preaching to the choir”, but to not say it would just make me an accomplice to the world’s ills, its citizens included.

On and after my birthday, rather than celebrate frivolous things, I want to celebrate whatreally matters in life, and I think Jessica summed it up most eloquently in her final blog entry:

I say all the time that every moment we have to live our life is a blessing. So often I have found myself taking it for granted. Every hug from a family member. Every laugh we share with friends. Even the times of solitude are all blessings. Every second of every day is a gift.

Jessica, your wise words are my gift for my 27th birthday. You may be gone from this earth, but you are not forgotten. You have left an indelible mark that will penetrate more deeply than any gunshot wound ever could.

You are in my thoughts and prayers tonight.

xo

J

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This entry was posted on July 21, 2012 by in Current Affairs, Life and tagged , .

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