hurting people who hurt people is not going to make less hurt people.
by Matt Kahn
for two years, i kicked the red dust in australia, and for six months i devoured the wealth of cultures in south-east asia. after my initial sniff of the incredibles, it was time for the continent of americas — south, central and north — to meet my broken soul.
by then, a lot had changed.
in march 2014, by choice, i abandoned money to dive deeper into the unknown. to build a steady foundation of faith and trust while i was still paralysed in the senseless world.
with my volcanic mind ready to explode i needed a point of relaxation, a medicine to survive another day. so i made a choice. i vowed to myself, i will learn to see the good in life. good in everything. good in everyone. with no exception to the rule. not to deny the dark but instead to see the light behind the dark.
my positivity had already seen the good in parts, but my body, it lived a life of its own with its snail-pace integration on its way.
once i jumped the opportunity to see the good in life, i made it evident for myself and for others that my nomadic adventures from then on would only circle around people and their stories. all sorts and all kinds of people. no pick n’ choose. meaning, whoever entered my field was welcomed with open arms.
and so it came to be. like an eagle i zoomed into my prey with the abundance of diversity as my aim.
this was the only way i knew i might survive and not go as early as Kurt Cobain.
for months and years, i walked and hitched and flew and biked wherever my spirit guided me to go.
from all the places i visited, i felt most welcomed in the poorest of the poorest parts of the world. its were honesty spoke the loudest. its were my mind was alert with fascination. its were i saw creativity never seen before. its were i felt heard and seen as if i was with my own. and most of all, the masks were off. people were fucking real.
honest. open. authentic.
and there, in the realness in the face of poverty i was hugged by greater generosity. but like the rich, even the poor in the comfort of someones discomfort had prosperous stories to tell. stories of both, pain and joy. and i was lucky to be there to gobble it up.
it was my mom-inspired question — what’s your story? — that threw me deep into private affairs. to hear and see the unheard and unseen. and in the name of quality, i sliced the question into chewable pits. its then, when i began to flirt with several questions.
- why do you think the way you think?
- why do you say what you say?
- why do you do what you do?
but, there was a but. i was a shitty listener, and occasionally still am. so whenever i got distracted or i forgot to ask questions dear to my heart i played with them afterwards. i processed billions of bits of data in my body. i literally had the world in me. all people, places, things i had ever come across with.
i guess, it was my way to breathe in pain.
while traveling i became obsessed to hear the pain. to see the pain. to know the pain. intimately. privately. and publicly. with less hiding and less escaping. and that was scary to say the least.
but i did the unthinkable. i opened myself up when it didn’t feel safe in order for safety to be discovered.
life was awfully generous. i was blessed beyond perceivable. i bathed in the brokenness all around. whatever i heard, wherever i looked, and whatever i felt, i saw stories of vulnerability. the world had countless stories were i could learn my lessons of love. and the beauty was — i had the freedom to allow any story to choose me.
and there it was, my invitation to a global cry. “there are bad people here. be careful!” a brazilian said. then i heard another, and then another after another say the same. mostly worries from locals, rarely from nomads like me.
when i went from town to town, from country to country, the song stayed the same, “watch out for bad people!”
i could’ve lay a map of the world on a floor then color the parts with fearful thoughts by only leaving the ocean with fearless thoughts.
the global cry became my weapon of strength. the more i heard there’s bad in the world the more i believed there’s good in each soul.
“elsa, be careful. i don’t want you to get hurt,” she said in portuguese.
“okay, i will,” i replied.
according to her words there were rapists, murderers and killers ready to strike, and then, who knows, use me, slice me and leave me behind.
the world, from what i saw, lived in a grid of fear. humanities belief in bad cut the throats of each household across borders and nations and continents worldwide. the south, the central and the north of americas showed me that.
i then rewind my tracks to check my findings.
in asia, outside the bubble of spiritual centers, both the locals and travellers believed in bad. “its not safe there.” i heard again and again.
even australians swam in the polarity of a human experience. according to rustic australians aboriginals were seen as trouble. they were labeled as aggressive drunks with lack of manners. and seen as disgrace in the western world. the same natives whose home in the recent history was demolished by the english.
“we discovered australia.” i pictured a silly brave-heart once say.
but, excuse me? weren’t people living there before?
over 200-years ago, the english came with force, germs and oppression. they killed and enslaved their people and their culture.
but what about the south, the central and the north of americas?
i learned, they had natives, too. also many oppressed by corruption and greed. and most forgotten and buried away which was truth too painful to see and accept.
i fast-learned, there’s a top 1% of the top 1% who plays god without permission. who gambles with power and calls shots of what’s next in line. i imagined them playing a video game, pressing buttons with their stumpy finger not caring for the world, for the real lives at stake.
for them, in the past and present, millions and billions of people were just numbers on paper. each story with a human face too easy to be dismissed. nameless. and insignificant.
and this was my struggle — how to see the good in dictators of nation? the good in merciless. the good in the ones with words like guns in their hands. bravely i wondered — what happened with them? what made them them?
why do they think the way they think? why do they say what they say? why do they do what they do?
i knew, there’s a story behind the perceivable.
but the more i observed and the more i asked, i heard angels whisper in my ear — elsa, if you want to walk in someone’s skin, you need to learn how to walk in yours.
god dammit, good point, i thought. but as anything, it was easier said than done, especially when it came from god. but in truth, i had nothing more to lose. no dignity. no love. so i thought, why not take a chance on this? perhaps being cozy in my skin allows me to see the good in all.
from then on i jumped in n’ out of my skin. i flipped from collective to personal. and back n ‘ forth. tasting the inner n’ outer worlds one by one.
wherever i looked, i saw a global story. stories of countries. stories of cultures. stories of individuals. and then, a story of me. all strung and stuck together in the polarities of human experience.
light or dark. love or fear. good or bad.
i then noticed with a help of resources how i had formed strong beliefs and habits of why i think the way i think, of why i say what i say, of why i do what i do. life said, nothing’s originally mine. my hardcoded beliefs and habits came from somewhere, from someone, that over time became automatic.
and those innocent patterns had taken me here — i had become a trophy of someone’s success, their push n’ play doll of earthly obedience. and now, i had become the malfunctioned one wherein i couldn’t play my role in the movie no more. where my awakening self became a factory error in the global system of fear.
i knew there’s dark. i knew there’s fear. i knew there’s bad. i could hear it. i could see it. i could even feel it. and i learned — there’s light behind the dark, there’s love behind fear, and there’s good behind bad.
my manuscript, my collection of my unwanted memories revealed to me, there’s only love, only light, only good. i just had to open myself up when it didn’t feel safe in order for safety to be discovered.
so i swam in the unreasonable, if only love is real, why be afraid of what wants to enter my field?
i put my questions in play when life happened.
“elsa, please don’t cycle through el salvador,“ a panamanian said in her perfect english. “bus through it. it’s an extremely dangerous country. there’s violence everywhere.”
“have you been there?” i asked.
“no i haven’t but i’ve heard stories. they are all over the news,” she said.
“do you believe everything you hear and see in the news?”
“elsa, its even dangerous here in panama. el salvador is worse. these people know what they say.”
her words were far from my truth. i didn’t feel heard and seen in them. i felt as if she was recruiting me to believe that there’s bad in each soul.
i was sick of someone telling me what to do, when to do it and how to do it, especially when it came from people with lack of experience. but i was open to consider, not to follow per se.
my courage came from — there’s nothing to lose. after all, darkness was my home before i even learned to speak.
no matter what i heard or saw, i stayed true to my values. and i never stopped. i couldn’t stop. my wheels had no breaks.
my question what’s your story traveled with me everywhere, even to el salvador.
if those people in el salvador were bad then i was bad. my was mom bad. life was bad. everyone were bad. but i couldn’t have it. not anymore. it no longer felt true to me. it didn’t feel good.
i learned, i cannot choose my outcomes but i can choose my battles, and i chose light over dark, love over fear, good over bad. not to deny the other but to heal polarities within. this was my recovery from my aching pain.
before i cycled to el salvador i went down on a memory lane. i recapped a section from past.
years before travels, my family patterns had given me the abc of toxic education. after days work when they got home they unlocked the tv room and before anything else they began to devour all four channels. seven o’clock and nine o’clock national news were (and still are) religious to them.
while stories ran, i wasn’t allowed to talk. in forced silence i had two options — to listen or to walk away.
rarely i sat down to stay. i just didn’t get it. it felt as if they spoke hebrew, a language written from right to left. i couldn’t see how any of the topics discussed could help me there and then in my life of misery. they only fed and boost my anxiety, blame and worry levels to higher uncontrollable grounds.
almost daily i heard my dad say, “can you believe that?”
“uh, bunch of stupid people. dumbasses.” my mom said in her charged voice. but as always, they kept on watching, more focused as never before.
their boredom revolved around tv, newspapers and crossroads. between the news they reached to an orderly stacked pile of printed news on the table to advanced their views of who’s right and wrong, who’s good and bad.
a day without news was a day unlived.
i then thought of australia. it was the same shit but with alcohol first in line. asia was a bit different but even there, whoever had money for a chatter box, the pattern reflected the latest trends.
in the americas — in the south and the central — i noticed a pattern interrupt. the mainstream news was like a mind of a schizophrenic person.
as i was often invited and welcomed to people’s private homes i saw an autosuggestion of mental mass destruction. in a snap, estonian news felt virgin to me.
the brainwashed, highly effective marketing in the fifth biggest country of the world, brazil, was satanic to say the least. corruption and worry breathed in every word. but it wasn’t the words. it was a combination of both, the words and visuals that fucked up a brain. they forcefully implanted anxiety in viewers psyche. viewers were products of manmade gods who were the owners of monster corporations.
i learned, a good marketer knows how a brain works. and i had to applaud. they were brilliant at what they did. they were leaders of manipulation.
stories, on screen or paper or by word of mouth, seem to be the only worship that connects and disconnects humanity in a single breath in a constant battle between good and bad.
i was eager to see el salvador through my own innocent eyes.
in july 2015 i got a glimpse when as a single woman and a voice for orphans i pedalled from honduras into the fearful land.
by then, statistically, i had traveled on faith and trust for 14 months with the last 44-days on human-powered wheels. i never knew were i would sleep, who i would meet and what’s my next meal. and el salvador, in that regards, was no different at all.
for three days i biked through hills and fields from town to town, then through a city, and again from town to town before i met the capital city of san salvador.
wherever i went i was welcomed with open arms and caring nature.
while there, i dug up some basic data. el salvador, the smallest country in central america, was half the size of estonia with a population of 6.3 million people, compared to 1.3 million in estonia.
the control of the country and the capital city was in the hands of youngsters. not the government. not the people. but two teenage gangs with guns who fought for life to overthrow all. supposedly, they held the highest murder rates in the world.
when i arrived, thousands of gang members had been locked up. but words spread like wildfire — the streets were not safe. the teenagers were recruiting new members to take up the fight.
within ten days in the capital, i cycled through and across several parts of san salvador. i didn’t check the zones on maps, i just cycled where spirit guided me to go.
life looked normal through my eyes. people walked on streets, they took busses, day and night. but the mainstream news were shocking to me. i saw people watch brutal scenes of who killed how with close ups only seen at an autopsy.
but still, i couldn’t have it.
when i thought of people who hurt people, i thought of me, and my story. i knew, that shit can hit the fan. so again, i wanted to know their story.
they were someone’s children, someone’s brothers, someone’s sisters, and most with broken family ties. something happened and rarely did anyone stop and ask and offer help.
in my two weeks in el salvador, i watched a documentary of the gangs, and i wished i could meet them face to face to hear their cries. to really listen, to learn to listen.
i knew by heart, hurt people hurt people, and it takes one to know one. after all, i was one of them, just a privileged version in cultural terms.
like them, i protected myself not knowing that being safe is in opening myself up to people, places, things. like them i couldn’t see the good in life not knowing when i acknowledge good in each soul i disarm their defences towards me. you know, like a spiritual kung-fu. and like most, i was abandoned and rejected by my own flesh and blood not knowing this experience will lead me to a life of greater meaning. like them, i didn’t feel i belonged not knowing i belong to the light. like them, i didn’t feel loved not knowing i didn’t know how to love myself.
but i was learning on the go.
by then, my lessons of love had taught me — some show love with flowers. some with words. some with stuff. some with guns.
like me, they needed help. not more violence. not bullets in their brains. no incarceration. none of that concentration camp style with bars of power and disrespect. they needed help, real help. holistic health – mental, emotional and spiritual — in the uncaring system of global cry.
so here’s today’s question to your heart.