The Courage to Embrace Those Far Away Places

After writing a book that takes place in India, and making online friends there, I follow the news from this amazing South Asian country. Much of it is positive and even uplifting.

Countless stories of personal courage and altruism fill the Times of India section called Good News Stories, and everyday headlines tell tales like how the tech savvy country was barely affected by the ‘WannaCry’ ransomware that froze computers in over 100 countries worldwide.

And yet, India has once again made the headlines in the United States with a horrific rape. This time, a jilted lover and his friends abducted and ultimately murdered a young woman on May 9. The details are horrible.

Along with the many tragic aspects of this incident is the side effect of how it serves to further separate the people of this world. No society exists on this planet that does not have its crimes; larger countries have more. Crowding, poverty, stresses from modernization and the integration of different cultures adds to volatility everywhere. But when the awful event occurs in the back yard of somebody else who lives far away from you, it is easy to think  “Oh, that’s the way they are.”

That is unfortunate at any time, but especially now. Thanks to recent events, my own country is seeing a surge of hate crimes with intolerance on the rise. Our world is facing a growing epidemic of nationalism, the frequent outgrowth of which is more hostility, a lack of international cooperation and even wars. Right now, we need all the cross-cultural empathy that we can get.

It’s a delicate matter to feel a sense of commonness when learning of a bad situation that we don’t think would occur in our own culture. (Of course, we could be wrong about that.) But surely it is no stretch to identify with the anger and loss of the victim’s family, with the sense of fear and outrage in the community, and with the confusion and shame of the perpetrator’s family. These all extend well beyond the specifics of the crime, and are woven into the stories of mayhem and destruction of any sort, in any place.

Far away places. They can be scary. They can be easy to demonize and hard to identify with. That is, until we look at the deeper emotions behind the events and see the common threads. Then we can weep for others and wish healing for them, because in our hearts we, too, know what it is like to face sorrow and find the strength to move on.

Enjoy this relaxing duet of two icons of Americana, Willie Nelson and Sheryl Crow, as they sing about “Far Away Places.”

(For more thoughts on Far Away Places see Leaving a Light Footprint in a Far Away Place, As Far Away Places Edge Closer, Caring About Far Away Places and Those Far Away Places Could Be Next Door.)

How does courage look?

From SOAR, a leadership development course

From SOAR, a leadership development course

Each of my five novels centers around a virtue or an ideal that I hold dear. Peace, joy, and hope weave their way through x0, y1 and z2 respectively, and every so often on my blog for each novel I go searching for the best images or best songs to represent this theme.

From a post called “Courage” at the blog Ramana’s Musings

Bravery, as found in humans of all sizes, ages and genders is at the core of my novel c3. But for some reason, I’ve left courage alone. Why? I suppose I thought of it as less easily captured by a simple image, or that I thought I would only find the expected photos of warriors. Today I tested this theory, and was surprised by the wealth of poignant images that capture the feeling of courage without saying a word.

From Bplans, a site for business planning

From Bplans, a site for business planning

I’m posting my six favorites here. I’ve grabbed them off the web. This is something I prefer not to do, so to mitigate this as best I can, I’ve set it up so that clicking on the image itself will take you back to my original source, and I attribute that source in the caption. If you like what you see, please go there and show them some love.

From "The Science Of Conquering Your Fears" at the Huffington Post

From “The Science Of Conquering Your Fears” at the Huffington Post

The images did tend to fall into a few categories. Small cats and dogs standing up to or seeing themselves as lions and wolves were popular. Mountain climbers were well represented, as were people jumping off things, often into the water. Many images didn’t make much sense without the words they came with, and I eliminated those for now.  “Best posters about courage” will have to be a category for another day.

From Dreamstime, a royalty free stock photo service

From Dreamstime, a royalty free stock photo service

I was also surprised by the sources. I used images from a site selling business software, another selling leadership courses, a site for stock photos and a newspaper article. You also see photos here from two other personal blogs, both of which look quite interesting. I’ll have to follow them both. Neither listed an orignal source, at least that I could find, or I would have attributed that too.

From the blog

From a post called “Courage” on the blog Velinda Peyton

Because my theme is more about courage shown in every day life and in unexpected places, I did avoid the pictures of  firefighters and of men and women in uniform. This was in spite of the fact that I agree that these people often show amazing bravery, and I have a great deal of respect for what they do. Only one such image tugged on my heartstrings until I could not resist, but it wasn’t the military man who swayed me. It was the little boy, doing his best to stay strong. That’s courage.

handling the difficult delicately

Think Real 2c3 is a book about an important topic  It describes a typical sixteen year old American girl who is confronted by the sale of girls and women when she studies abroad for a semester in India. To all appearances, Teddie and her friends are helpless. They have no way to aid each other, much less any resources with which to stop the larger horrors that they see.

I had a few unusual challenges in writing this book. The first was the age of my main characters and the difficult subject matter. I intended this story to be aimed at adult fantasy lovers of all ages. I didn’t want to gloss over truths, and yet I wanted this book to be appropriate for those as young as sixteen. As a result, the book contains oblique references to sex, both consenting and not, but no direct descriptions. I’ve cleaned up the language from my previous books, although I have included an occasional crude word to convey a sense of reality. Others helped me work this problem to the point where I would be okay with my own sixteen year old daughter reading this book.

The subject matter presented another challenge. Stories need bad guys, but this stuff can get really ugly quickly. I had to be careful not to make this tale so distressing that those of any age would not want to keep reading it. It was important to interject a little humor and some good times and hope early on, both for the girls in direct danger and for Teddie as she begins to discover her powers to help them.

One of my favorite parts of this novel is not in the story at all. It is a mere two sentences in the front matter where I explain the title.

“This book is not just about sex crimes. It is also about the people who find ways to light a solitary candle in the darkness, and it is about how the resulting light they produce makes its way outward in every direction.”

I ended up with a story about how even the most vulnerable can be courageous and can hold the power to cause great change. I’m very proud of my theme and of the way it is handled. This is a book born of love.