Signal Fire by Tyler Knott Gregson
Signal Fire by Tyler Knott Gregson
We Fear The Ashes | 9.24.23

We Fear The Ashes | 9.24.23

The Sunday Edition

I’ve lost count how many times I’ve gotten in trouble for doing the right thing. I don’t have a metric for how many times I’ve been shushed, reprimanded, or told off for saying the truth, when the truth may be an uncomfortable thing for some to hear. If you know me, you know I do not abide unkindnesses, I do not allow injustices, and I have never been afraid of raising my voice for those who have lost theirs, or worse, had theirs stolen away. I’ve noticed something over the last few years, and perhaps it was the stillness of the pandemic years, or the divide created by them, that highlighted it. I’ve noticed, so many are so damn afraid to rock the boat anymore for a good cause, a just reason, while so many on the other side of the fence have no problem whatsoever rocking that boat until it capsizes.

Somehow, we’re all part of a world that is prizing dishonesty over honesty, unkindness over compassion, divide over unity, and all of us on the right side of history, are more afraid of burnt bridges, of the ashes that come when we set fire to them, despite the fact that these bridges we’re burning are those we should have never crossed in the first place.

This society has turned to one where people’s instinct is to pull out a phone to record the cruelty they see around them, to capture it and refuse to intervene. Littered across all the social medias are videos of people going on racist rants, prejudice tirades, awful rampages against people at restaurants, on airplanes, or on public sidewalks, and all around them all you see are dozens of hands, stuffed with their mobile phones, recording it to hopefully go viral.

I don't know the why of this behavior, I don’t understand the motivations behind the lack of action, the lack of response or repercussion, but it bothers me. We’re all so afraid to stand up now, so afraid to say how we really feel, so we just continue this weird dance of building up those who shouldn’t be built up, allowing those around us to continue spreading their vitriol, because we’re so much more worried about being nice than we are about being real. We’re surrounded by people that wiggle their way into our lives, people we have no real connection with, but keep abiding anyways, even when how they behave, how they treat others, how they create divide, is directly affecting us. We’re so much more afraid of a burnt bridge than we are of this reduction, of this whittling down that can, and should, happen more often.

Why, I ask, do we allow this? Why are we afraid of the ash, instead of the realization that we might just have multiple relationships in our own lives that are not built on solid foundations, or on true connections, at all?

Sometimes, and this is a lesson I try so very hard to help Lady G’s kids learn, we have to accept the consequences of doing the right thing. Sometimes, we have to step up, own up, fess up, or fight for the truth we know deserves it. We walk on eggshells with people, we waltz and spin and twirl and dance around the tough conversations, the hard talks. We collect acquaintances over fear of being alone, and then discover that we feel lonely anyways. We allow — and maybe this is really what it comes down to, the simple allowance of unkindness to keep some sort of peace we think we’re keeping — so much that should never be sanctioned or even tolerated at all, all because we’re more afraid of actually standing up and pointing it out. Again I ask, why?

What is it of the ashes, the charred remains of those bridges that terrifies us so? What is it about goodbye that scares us so deeply that it even shakes us when it’s goodbye to someone we probably should have never allowed in, in the first place? When did the idea of doing the right thing become an unfashionable one? When did we start getting into trouble for telling the truth, even when it hurts?

I don’t claim to do anything the ‘normal’ way, and part of being neurodivergent can mean an indifference towards the way things may appear on the outside, but for me, I’ve spent a lifetime getting in trouble for doing the right thing, or even doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. If I hear a racist joke, no matter who is making it, no matter where I am or the circumstances around it, I emphatically protest it. Vehemently. If I’m in a situation where someone is being mistreated, even if they are not with me, even if I do not know them, I say something, I do something. I cannot help but do something.

The trouble can come, when the people making the jokes, the people doing the mistreating, the people behaving in ways that I cannot understand, are people I have known a long time, people I have called friends, people that may be family. Still, and this may be me, or it may be the neurodivergence, I stick to that strange code burned into my heart and soul, of being kind and not abiding unkindness to others. I’ve lost a lot of relationships in my life with people because of this, but as I look back at it from the elevated position that only age can provide, they were not relationships I should have had in the first place. Instead of fearing the ashes, I feared more the implied acceptance of unkind perspectives, or behaviors. I feared more, the refusal to be on the right side of the position, of history, of compassion.

I’m not going to tell you how to live, not here, but I can just offer my own experiences, my own point of view on the repercussions of not giving repercussions to the people in your life that cross the lines you’ve drawn. If you’ve not yet drawn those lines, perhaps this is where the start line should be chalked out on the pavement of your soul. Find the borders of yourself, your comfort zone, your moral and ethical compass, and decide which should be bold lines, and which should be flexible ones. Once decided, stand that ground, defend that line, always lovingly, always compassionately, but stand it.

We’re creating a world of dishonesty, of surface level sugar-coatery, and I don’t want any part of it. So, my only advice with this long-winded diatribe, is this: Worry more of building the wrong bridges, of crossing them to islands you were never meant to live on, than burning down the ones you know are wrong. Fear not where you cannot go, but going where you never should.

Take it or leave it, or hell, scream back at me if you think I’m wrong. I’d so much prefer that, to some passive acquiescence and the resulting resentment.

That is all.

We fear the ashes,

the burning of the bridges

we should never cross.

Haiku on Life by Tyler Knott Gregson


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Signal Fire by Tyler Knott Gregson
Signal Fire by Tyler Knott Gregson
Tyler Knott Gregson and his weekly "Sunday Edition" of his Signal Fire newsletter. Diving into life, poetry, relationships, sex, human nature, the universe, and all things beautiful.