Can digital work survive like paper?

For the past month I’ve been listening to the soundtrack from the hit play Hamilton, based on the book Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow. I finally downloaded the Kindle edition of the book and started reading it last week, and I’m struck by the author’s references to the writings of people of the 1700s. Some of the references are to letters and other documents that seem fairly obscure. In fact, in the book, the author notes that we’ve learned a lot of what we know about Alexander Hamilton from material that’s come to light only in the last 50+ years, as more than 22,000 pages of Hamilton’s writings were published.

Of course we’re used to reading books and material written centuries ago. From the Bible to ancient texts from early civilizations, Shakespeare and the great writers of all genres and eras, right up to the entrance of the digital era…even the not-great writers…the every-day and common recordings of business, home life, letters, journals, etc…all of it was written on materials that were physical and perishable.

But they were also savable. Keepable. And findable. Readable. And re-producable.

I can’t help but wonder, as I write away on my keyboard, if the words I save to my blog will be readable hundreds of years from now, if they’re only in digital form?

If I stop paying for my domain name, and make no provision to move the posts to a new site, or have them printed, I suppose they would disappear, as if I never wrote.

Here’s an interesting post on this problem…and it is a problem. While I fully expect the digital world to be with us forever, if we don’t experience nuclear winter, or some catastrophic natural event that shuts us all down, the digital world is fragile is ways that the physical world is not. With the changes to technology over time, and the ongoing necessity of financial backing, the issues of who pays to maintain websites, domain names, provide tech support, etc., are thorny.

And it seems there aren’t really good long-term solutions.

I’ve spent the last decade transitioning to digital everything, and I don’t regret that. But reading about information dug out of letters from the early 1700s has made me think about my letters, or rather, my lack of letters. I email, and text, post Facebook messages. But it’s extremely rare these days that I write anything that could be found twenty years from now, likely, much less two hundred years from now.

To be honest, most of what I write doesn’t merit saving…most of it’s just the stuff of everyday life. But then, that’s how we know about the past…because someone wrote about everyday life, and we can look back through time, through letters, through newspapers and books, old photos and journals.

Of course there are printed books and materials everywhere, even in this digital age. I’m not concerned that the future won’t know our time. There’s a huge volume of printed work that will surely exist, long ages from now.

But I have to admit, I’m becoming thoughtful about my work. Do I care if it doesn’t survive me? And if I want it to survive my time on earth, if writing is part of the legacy I want to leave, what do I do to make sure there’s something savable, keepable, readable, after I’m not around to pay to keep a website live, or deal with tech glitches?

It’s not as if this is a totally new thought. Of course I’ve had the experience of clicking on a link only to find that it doesn’t work. Someone set up a site, once upon a time, and then eventually quit maintaining it…you get a message that the page can’t be found, and whatever was there once, is no more.

Could ages past have more longevity than this modern time, with all our sophistication and technology? I think that’s entirely possible. Maybe even probable.

Read the post I linked above…it will make you think.

I suppose someone, some enterprising young start-up company will come up with solutions, there for anyone who is able and willing to pay for digital immortality. But who knows what that would look like?

And I’m thinking…maybe there’s something to be said for printed books after all.

 

 

Body of work

It sometimes happens that I get busy and lose track of the days, or I’m traveling, or for some other reason (and yes, there are many) temporarily set aside my blog.

I used to feel guilty when that happened, and come back to it thinking I should post an apology…like I had abandoned my readers, small audience though it is.

I don’t worry about that any more. Not that I want to come across as disrespectful to readers…believe me, I appreciate everyone who reads, who follows the blog, who comments. I appreciate you, regardless of how or where you choose to engage, through Facebook or Twitter or via email.

I’ve realized, six years into this journey (six years!) that this is a marathon, not a sprint. I’ve had the conversation with myself…will I be blogging five years down the road? Or ten? Will there be some new and exciting way to communicate that we haven’t even imagined yet?

Regardless, I hope to be around for a long time. So while I’d like to sign a pledge saying I won’t miss another day, or another week of posting, that’s probably not going to hold up. I go in cycles…very consistent with writing, then not so much. And try as I might, I haven’t found a cure for life happening, getting in the way of all my best intentions of regular posting.

But instead of apologizing for my irregular creative rhythm, now I’m taking the long view.

First, while I’d like to flatter myself that readers are eagerly watching for my next post, I know that most everyone out there is like me: busy, often over-committed, and full of good intentions. I’m not worried that readers will take it personally if I don’t post as faithfully as I would like. Readers have lives too, and while I don’t take for granted that a blog follower will always be there, I hope many will be like me…when I see a blogger I follow has a gap in posting, I don’t take it personally. I’m just glad to see them writing again.

Second, I’m coming around to thinking of what I post as a body of work, one that I hope will become a legacy, of sorts.

Not everything I post is save-worthy, by any means. Some of it is personal musing about family or travel, a recipe or some other tidbit of life I share.

But now and then, I write from a different place…a place of the heart no less sincere than when I write about family. But these posts are the ones that could have a life beyond the day of posting. These are the ones that come from hard-won wisdom, trial and error, personal epiphanies, or one of my designated roles in life, my alter-ego as a cautionary tale of one sort or another.

My writing in this vein is not from “let me enlighten you” it’s out of “let me share what I learned the hard way so you don’t have to go that route.” These posts aren’t about what a wise woman I am, they’re about wisdom that’s fallen on me through mistakes and personal growth.

It’s this work I’d like to think is part of a legacy I’m growing.

I can’t say it clearly enough…this isn’t meant to sound prideful. It’s acknowledging I want to share the things I’ve learned, mostly painfully, with anyone who can hear my voice. That’s all.

So, a body of work is what I’m about here, in between the frivolous and light-hearted moments. Because we all have those too; and anyway, who wants to be serious all the time? Some days I just want to share a birthday wish, or rave over my latest find.

What about you? What body of work are you producing? Are you consciously shaping a legacy? I’m curious…what does legacy mean to you?

~ Sheila

 

 

 

 

A friend asked me how to start a blog…

A friend recently mentioned she’s thinking about starting a blog, wondered if I had any suggestions.

Well of course I have suggestions!

Actually, though it would have been better planning on my part to have this post come first, it makes a nice pairing with this.

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But to begin at the beginning…a blog is a combination of the words web and log = blog. Blogging began in the late 90s, and at first blogs were really just online diaries or journals.

What a long way we’ve come! Some stats I found said there were 152 million blogs online in 2013. One snapshot of blogging activity put the number of daily blog posts at 1.13 million in March, 2015.

There are many blogging platforms to choose from. WordPress, which I use, Tumblr, Blogger, Medium, Squarespace, Pen.io, Svbtle, LiveJournal, and Weebly are popular options, and offer a variety of features. They’re pretty much all designed for the non-technical user. You can choose basic free options (usually) or go with more customized options and pay a range of fees depending on your needs and budget.

There’s a lot to learn, but fortunately it’s easy to step in and learn on the go. You can usually go with a domain name that uses an extension of the blogging platform (often the domain name is free if you do this). If you want a custom domain, you can check out sites like GoDaddy and Namecheap to see if the name you want is available, and then register your chosen domain for a small fee. There are lots of domain extensions, and you can read about the best options, depending on the purpose of your site and a host of other factors.

One of the basic questions to sort out is your purpose for writing. Are you targeting a specific interest, niche market, type of reader / follower, or blogging style? Do you want a blog focused on food, fashion, photography, travel, current events, family issues, etc., etc., etc. ?  Do you plan to use a lot of photos and graphics? Do you want a poetry blog? When you choose your focus, that will likely define a lot for you…give you a sense of overall goals, style, voice, etc., which will all factor into how you present yourself to the world.

An important decision to make early in the process is if you want to create income from your blog, or if you want to sell products. If you want to generate income, you’ll need to choose a platform that accommodates ecommerce, something that isn’t always an option with free platforms.

Trust me, giving these questions thought up front can save you a lot of time and headache down the road. At the same time, if you start small and / or on a free platform, and then find your goals for your blog changing, you can always transition to a paid platform or add features that will take your blog to a professional level when you’re ready.

Once you’ve made these first decisions, you can set yourself up and get ready to write.

There are no rules in this blogging world, so if you want to write every day, three times a week, or once a month, you can choose whatever works for you. I would suggest the more consistent you can be, the more likely you’ll grow a consistent following.

And that’s the next big thing. Growing an audience is one of the challenges, but also a lot of the fun of blogging. Share your posts on social media, with your email list, invite friends to check out your blog and share on their social media platforms. Before you know it you’ll have some readers (followers) and you should also be reading other bloggers posts and following any that appeal to you.

Blogging is a community activity, and you’ll find a lot of camaraderie as you find other writers who share your style and interests. Or maybe you’ll find writers who are very different to you, but are intriguing and great to read. I’m often inspired by other bloggers, and while you should never copy or plagiarize, reading other blogs will help you learn, gather good ideas, and generally improve your writing.

Here’s a tip, as you wade into this world, if you see a term referenced you don’t understand, just Google and learn. Google and YouTube are your best friends if you need help with the technical aspects of all this. Often I find tutorials on YouTube are better than the official how-tos…I think it’s because people posting to YouTube are doing reviews and tutorials mostly for do-it-yourself types, so I find instructions are usually provided on a layman level, which I love.

Also, many, many books have been written on the subject of blogging, if you want a guide at hand as you get set up. I suggest reading reviews to see what sounds best for your needs. There are books that focus on the different types of blogs, so if you know the specific niche you want to create, look for a book that corresponds.

Last, if you think you’d like to try blogging, just jump in and begin. You’ll learn a lot, maybe surprise yourself, and you can always move at whatever pace is good for you. No pressure to do more than you choose.

Good luck, and if you’re reading this and decide to start a blog, let me know! I love to check out new writers!

~ Sheila

 

 

Hamilton

I finally got around to listening to this soundtrack...spent a good part of the weekend writing with this going in the background, and kept finding myself just listening. The music combines hip hop and R & B, amazing lyrics, and showcases the story of Alexander Hamilton, based on Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton. In his prologue, Chernow said, “In all probability, Alexander Hamilton is the foremost figure in American history who never attained the presidency, yet he probably had a much deeper and more lasting impact than many who did.”

The man behind this phenomenon (winner of 11 Tony Awards, including best musical, and 16 Tony nominations, the most nominations in Broadway history, and also a Pulitzer Prize and a Grammy Award) is Lin-Manuel Miranda. Miranda’s interest in Hamilton grew out of a paper he wrote in high school about the 1804 fatal duel between Hamilton and Aaron Burr, which reminded him of old-school rap rivalries.

I understand this production has really impacted Broadway with its unique music for that venue, and the outstanding cast. After listening to the soundtrack, I’m intrigued to read the book, and I’m already thinking about how I can see the play when it goes on national tour next year. It will be a hot ticket, no doubt about it.

If you haven’t heard this yet, do yourself a favor and check it out. You’ll need to really listen to the words. The songs tell the story, and there is so much craft in the way the lyrics are put together…to say that the words rhyme does not do justice to the artistry. Truly impressive! I’ll just add my personal enthusiasm to the overwhelming response this production has generated, and be ready to be amazed if I’m fortunate enough to see it in person.

You can stream the soundtrack via Spotify or Amazon.

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Happy 4th of July! The Star Spangled Banner

 

The 4th of July is here again, a day to remember and celebrate heritage, and a day to remember that freedom comes at a cost. The national anthem of the United States was born during battle, and reminds us that freedom requires courage…we must be brave if we want to be free. Bravery comes in many forms, some more visible than others. How are you being brave in your life?

Here’s a treat:

The Star Spangled Banner at the Lincoln Memorial

And a little history of this song…

The Star-Spangled Banner

O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight
O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream,
’Tis the star-spangled banner – O long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with vict’ry and peace may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto – “In God is our trust,”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Best blogging practices – 20 ways to improve your posts

I’ve been blogging since 2010, and now and then I like to review a bit, take stock, and see what I’ve learned along the way. This is my current roundup for bloggers…whether you’re just starting, trying to grow a following, or simply writing to express yourself…this isn’t about list building tools or social media magic. These are my favorite dos and don’ts for blogging as a writing form.

  1. Be yourself, be authentic…it’s tempting to try to sound like popular writers…as clever, as moving, as profound as others out there…and maybe you will be all those and more. But regardless of anything else your writing evokes, it should be real, sound like something you would really say. That will come across as natural and genuine, and be much better than trying to copy someone else, however successful. No one can speak in your voice and style but you.
  2. When you have an idea for a post, write it down. You may remember it later when you sit down to blog, but you may not. (I always think I’ll remember, and often I don’t. I finally learned to take my own advice here.) I’d say the same for a specific phrase or thought you want to use…easier to write something down in the moment than try to remember the perfect word flow two days later.
  3. Use photos, quotes, stories, and tell your story. Even if you write a food blog or a DIY blog, or write on a very narrow subject matter, you’re still sharing your point of view. Using tools to bring your personal style and voice to your writing is always a good thing. In general the more successful blogs are well-defined in subject and tone. Readers know what to expect, and that’s helpful for building a following.
  4. Before you publish a post, use the preview function and read your post as it will appear when you’re done. No one’s perfect, and I’ve caught many a typo in my work. No matter how much you try to prevent spelling errors or spacing issues, sooner or later something will slip by your eagle eye. Don’t let fear of making mistakes be a barrier to writing. And remember, even after you’ve published a post, you can edit and update it when you see your mistake.
  5. Similar to #4, read in preview mode for the flow of your content. Often I let a post sit in draft form for a few days and re-read it to be sure I like the flow, and that I’m not wandering off topic. Re-reading your work after it sits for a while will help you see it with fresh eyes, and as a whole piece. That said, as a blogger, you’re not attempting to write a novel or produce a white paper. Don’t over-critique or analyze your writing, or you’ll never hit the publish button.
  6. Some writers follow the same format for all their posts, and others use a variety of writing and formatting styles…list posts, holiday or birthday wishes, photo posts, poetry posts, vacation or travel posts, pet peeves or random items…anything can work, as long as you’re writing from the heart. If you’re concerned about falling into a rut, ask input from other bloggers you admire.
  7. Some bloggers follow a calendar for blogging with different types of posts on different days of the week. I haven’t done this myself, but I see the benefit. If you’re struggling to be consistent, or come up with material for your blog, consider developing an editorial calendar with a strategy of specific types of posts on specific days of the week.
  8. You can link to other sites that give a writing prompt, and that’s a great way to connect with writers who have similar interests. It’s also a way to grow your readership.
  9. If you use photos, edit them! You can probably crop, enhance, or somehow improve your photos to make them more appealing for your post. You can also find free photos on sites like Pexels.com.
  10. One of the best tips I can offer is: be consistent! When I post consistently and regularly, I notice I have new people following my blog. When I neglect my writing, that usually results in losing readers, and slows growth. Having said that, I try to remember that I’m blogging / writing out of choice, and if life is crazy, I don’t let blogging make it crazier. I want the blog to work with my life, not the other way around. Priorities and balance are important values to hold in the blogging world. It’s easy to get lost in the challenge of posting, being relevant, creating new content.
  11. Use categories and tags for your posts, these will help readers find your work.
  12. Link your blog to at least a couple of social media sites…I link to Twitter and Facebook. From everything I read, it’s best to not be active on too many social platforms…just dilutes your efforts and will be too distracting to try to keep up for most people.
  13. Invite comments! And when readers comment on your blog, respond to them. Some successful bloggers don’t do this, and I’ll admit, I’m sometimes guilty of missing this opportunity as well. But I think it’s a good practice to follow, and helps build a community, helps you get to know people who are visiting your blog regularly.
  14. When someone follows your blog, check out theirs. I don’t always follow a blogger who follows me, but I try to visit in response to a follow notice. If nothing else, I can leave a comment, thank them for following me, and see what they’re writing about. I’ve found some wonderful writers doing this, and again, this helps to build a community.
  15. Once I connect with another blogger, I try to read their posts often. That doesn’t mean I read everything, but I try to visit their blogs regularly, as a way of maintaining my place in the community. When I read other blogs, I often comment. It lets writers know I’m engaged and part of the community.
  16. Be generous. I don’t always post to be informative…some of what I write is more in the genre of personal growth/development, working out my issues by writing them out. Perhaps even through those posts someone may learn something. (One of my life functions is being a cautionary tale.) But I also like to write posts that are intentionally educational or informative, whether a list post, like this, or sharing a recipe or new website I’ve found, a tool or app that works well, or even a link to another site or article I find valuable. I also love to feature quotes…those are simple posts to do, but they can have a big impact.
  17. It’s ok to share your ups and downs. As a blogger, writing directly to readers, you can say just what you want…what’s on your heart. While I don’t think blogging should be an exercise in self-absorption (not every post on my blog is about me or my life) this is your opportunity to use your stories and insights to offer a message…a message of caution, of hope, of perseverance, of triumph, of loss. Sometimes my posts are about something funny, and I like that too. Mixing up the serious subjects with something lighter is a good thing, I think. Whatever you choose, let the sincerity and real-ness of your stories shine through.
  18. If you’re writing about difficult personal issues, be careful and thoughtful about what you share. Whether you have a small following or a large one, once you launch a post into cyberspace, it’s out there. My personal opinion is that you can share a lot generically, but respect the privacy of others, especially anyone you may reference  directly in your writing. Some bloggers are very open about any and everything going on in their lives, relationships, health, etc. I prefer to keep my private life private, at least in the details. I’m ok to write in broad strokes about relationship challenges, struggles with personal issues, etc. I can do that and still maintain a certain level of privacy and dignity. If I write about a struggle, I’ll be honest with what I say, but I don’t have to disclose every detail to make a point.
  19. I don’t use profanity in my posts, though some very successful writers do. That’s not who I am, and I don’t need to write like it is. Some bloggers introduce controversy, others have a very empathetic/sympathetic tone to their writing. I think it’s ok to occasionally mix your emotional tones, but I wouldn’t do it often. Readers grow to expect a certain vibe from you, and it’s probably best to be consistent in general. Look at how your favorite writers do it…don’t copy their material, but you can learn from a successful blogging formula or strategy. Again, very important to speak / write with your authentic voice.
  20. Be friendly! Friendliness will come across in your writing tone. Even if your writing is very dark and emotional, readers will likely connect better with you if you sound approachable; if you sound relatable; if you sound like a real human being they could sit down and talk with.

I wish I could do all these things perfectly myself; sometimes I’m more successful than others. But these are the guidelines I try to follow. Let me know what you think, I’d love to hear from other writers!

~ Sheila

Happy #29, Alex!

 

Today is Alex’s 29th birthday, and I’m missing him. I don’t see his face as much as I’d like, for as long as I’d like. That’s the reality of living states apart. The months between visits add up.

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What’s a mom to do?

I wish I could do more. I wish I could make his favorite dinner, bake a treat for him. He’s a hard one to gift, he doesn’t need much. He’s a minimalist, and let’s me know it.

He’s a march-to-his-own drummer guy, and I’ve known that for most of his life. He always finds his own opinion, his own way, his style.

I’m proud of him, this son of mine who grew up to be confident and funny, edgy and spiritual, hard-working and loyal, somehow all in the same package.

I don’t always understand him. With mom-like precision, I sometimes say exactly the wrong thing, even when I’m trying to get my words right. It’s one of my gifts, I suppose…I installed his buttons, at least some of them, so I find them with ease.

He’s a man, and also still becoming. I’m eager to watch his story unfolding, see where he goes, what his choices are. He’s surprised me, marching to the drum he hears. I can’t hear the beat, but I’m confident he knows the way.

Happy birthday to my son!

~ Sheila

 

Maui magic

We’re doing a survey tour of Maui, driving different roads and regions of the island, meandering, stopping, getting rained on, eating, oohing and aahing our way through our stay.

Hawaii is an amazing state, with a rich culture that seems both exotic and familiar. There’s so much to take in, visually, it’s easy to miss out on the history and customs of the islands that make each one unique.

This is our second island this trip. We spent the first half of our time on the Big Island, and will end our visit on Maui.

Here’s my advice…if you come, whichever island you choose, spend the bulk of your time exploring, driving, and walking. Avoid the obvious tourist traps. Not that I have anything against traditional tourist activities…I just think they offer the stereotypical experience, and you miss out on so much if you limit yourself to those events and venues.

Instead, get off the path a bit. Try the marvelous food trucks, which are plentiful. Find a local beach. Drive the back roads, shop in a country market. There’s scenery to fill your every minute, and photo opps to fill your phone / camera storage capacity.

Most of all, just get out and enjoy. Yes, it is expensive to travel to Hawaii, and yes, some things you can do are expensive as well. But there is a lot to do that’s free, or almost free, and a lot of the freebies are the best part of the experience.

Though these are islands, there’s a lot of road to travel, and small communities dot the hillsides and coastlines, along with arger towns, and even a city or two to explore.

Hawaii has national parks; on the Big Island, Hawaii Volcanoes, and on Maui, Haleakala. Both parks encompass drives to the summits of volcanoes, and offer amazing views. Both parks showcase incredible terrain, from lava fields to alpine forest, overviews of coastline, rolling green hills, waterfalls, meadows, and everything in between. Beautiful, and so worth the drive time.

All the islands have different regions, famous local drives and beaches, scenic points. You’ll find a plethora of information online, as well as all the maps, guides, magazines, apps, and advice by word of mouth to plan in advance, or on the spur of the moment. I don’t think there’s a true off season to visit, though some months may be busier with tourist traffic than others.

If you’re a planner, you can find almost anything you want to know in advance. And if you’re the spontaneous sort, you can do that too, without missing out on too much. We did some of both, advance planning and winging it, and made a few reservations to smooth the way. But most of our days have been open, choosing what to do based on location, weather, or how long we want to spend on a given activity.

I’ve learned a bit about volcanoes, types of lava, visited gardens and pools, found new varieties of fish to enjoy, tried pickled pineapple, macadamia everything. Fun, delicious, and memorable. I can’t recommend it enough!

I wish photos could do it justice, this 50th state, but it’s impossible. Aloha, and Mahalo!

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Promote Yourself!

Get found! These blog interaction opportunities offer another way to discover new writers, and be found as well…feel free to join in the fun! ~ Sheila

Alex Moses Happiness Coach

Dear Followers,

I do know how important it is to get an exposure for everyone in the industry. This page dedicated to all followers who wish to promote themselves. Please leave a brief description about what readers might find if they visit your site.
Hopefully this will create some positive synergy for our blogging community. Don’t forget to reblog this post so we can get more people involved!

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Sit with the broken, don’t add to the hate

I’m not interested in whether you’ve stood with the great. I’m interested in whether you’ve sat with the broken.

Social media makes it easy to know the difficult stories, the tragedies, that rain down on all of us through the 24-hour cycle, the never-ending barrage of updates and breaking news.

And somehow, everyone feels empowered to speak out, to assess and comment on what’s happening, to add their two cents.

Have you read comment threads on some of the posts that circulate? I don’t frequent extreme sites, but even articles that show up in my Facebook or Twitter feed are full of opinions as to what should happen to people viewed as the latest enemies of humanity.

Not that I’m defending enemies of humanity.

But do the rest of us need to become monsters, in response to monstrosities?

This is not about enemies of humanity. It’s about the rest of us, and who we become, in response, to terrible things that happen in the world.

I try not to get caught up in the negative. But it’s frightening what people wish on others, and what extreme things people are willing to say, in the context of judging a situation they have no involvement with.

Are horrible things happening that demand righteous indignation and calls for justice? Yes, without doubt. And I hope justice is served.

But in the process of looking for justice, I hear voices calling for barbarity, for inhumanity, for extreme punishment.

One crime does not merit another. I don’t want to see torture or extreme punishment inflicted in the name of justice. We recognize that some humans do terrible things to others. We should be able to acknowledge that and look for answers, without becoming hate-filled.

There are surely ways to punish, to imprison or require restitution, if humanly possible, that are yet humane.

I’m not suggesting that all wrongs can be righted with imprisonment, and I’m not attempting to weigh in on a discussion of death penalty crimes.

I am saying…whatever punishments society hands out, we shouldn’t devolve to the same level as the criminals and terrorists we abhor.

Or if we do…how are we any better?

I can’t imagine losing someone to a terrorist attack…my heart bleeds for anyone who knows that anguish.

I can’t imagine being a victim of a hate crime, or a vicious personal attack, and I can’t speak for people who’ve experienced that damage.

But for those of us who are onlookers, who comment from the sidelines of social media platforms…even if there is a need to call for justice, surely we can make those calls without hatred and without desire for inhumane retribution.

I want to live in a society that defends victims and holds the guilty accountable.

I do not want to live in a society that occupies itself with meting out inhumane responses to the guilty. That makes us no better than the ones we accuse of hate and terror, of criminal acts and inhumanity.

Can we find a way to uphold the broken, the victims, the injured, demand swift and just retribution, without going to some dark and frightening place with our on-line comments, thoughts, speech?

For myself, I’ve learned to mostly tune out…I don’t watch news online, I rarely click-through to follow headlines, and I seldom read comments on posts that appear to be stoking the fires of divisiveness.

Everyone who reads and posts can make choices…to be part of healing, or to up the ante to extremes…violence, rhetoric, retribution.

I am not saying that crimes do not require punishment, nor am I saying we should be passive in the face of terrorism. I am saying, we should be careful. We should be thoughtful. We should ask if we’re fanning flames, or trying to put them out.

These are difficult times, and answers are often not clear cut…as a person of Christian faith, I often struggle with when to turn the other cheek, and when to voice righteous indignation at wrongs done to defenseless people.

The answer I can consistently find is this: I want to support the weak, sit with the broken,  seek justice for the guilty, and promote respect for humanity and life. There are many doing just this, encouraging justice, love, and reason in the face of horror.

Justice…not vengeance.

There are also those who say terrible things, in response to terrible things. And I just don’t see…how does that help anyone?

No one should become a monster, in the name of defeating monsters.