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Why are people so rude to each other?

Catfights over politics. Religion. Government. 

Screaming. Slandering. It ranges from snide remarks shot with a sneer to not-so-sneaky professions of black-and-white opinion. Nonetheless, every side staunching human progress and treading water, circulating through the same endless debates like a tug-of-war game going nowhere fast: You’re wrong! I’m right! 

This is true, this is false, this is what I believe and anything you say otherwise is invalid.  

We see it everywhere nowadays: in the comment sections of Youtube videos and Facebook posts, in the news, in the halls of our schools, offices, and homes. Thus, the question is raised– why are people so rude to each other? 

Instead of wondering idly for a moment and abandoning the thought with a shrug–”that’s just the way it is sometimes”–I decided to dive deeper into the concept. What does make people jump at each other’s throats? Is it just a few people hardwired with negativity or cattiness? Or is it something deeper…something biological?

Though perhaps I can’t crack the case, I can investigate. If you’ve ever wondered this same thing when faced with pointless feuds or cruel words, read on. Let’s investigate three of the main negative actions we see in today’s world.

Never budging on an opinion

In today’s world–especially in the weeks to months approaching Election Day–we are bombarded with infinite arguments and animosity between supporters of differing laws, candidates, beliefs, political parties, and more. 

But in my experience, what escalates these debates and distorts them into malicious fights is the human nature of never budging on an opinion. Throw facts into the arena. Reason. Morality. And it still doesn’t matter sometimes…people just keep arguing!

What causes this? One of the main catalysts is a phenomenon called “confirmation bias.” What is this? According to The New Yorker, confirmation bias is “the tendency people have to embrace information that supports their beliefs and reject information that contradicts them” (Kolbert). After forming an initial opinion, it is human nature to stick with this opinion, even when faced with conflicting evidence. 

Haven’t you felt it too? You consider swaying your opinion on a subject but you’ve already rooted yourself too firmly. Doubling down against mounting reason to cling to your ego with both hands… an argument that would seem logical if you hadn’t taken a stance now seems absurd or irrelevant. Defensiveness turns to aggression. Screaming. Yelling. Shame, if you know you were wrong. Twisted pride if it turns out you were right.

We can’t fully blame people for ignoring evidence and rejecting certain information. Confirmation bias, as stated in Encyclopedia Britannica, is “largely unintentional” and may just be a way for the human brain to process information more efficiently (Casad). 

With so much input–facts, figures, words, propaganda, reason, data–zooming in from every perspective, our brain doesn’t have the time or energy to process each piece of information from an unbiased standpoint. Ignoring or dismissing evidence that is conflicting to our initial viewpoint could just be a psychological, instinct-driven method to quickly sort through the flood of input (Casad). This is a mental reflex that evolved from the need to make choices on the fly and evaluate facts in our environment.

From another scientific viewpoint, this phenomenon could be a way for people to shield their ego and boost self-esteem (Casad). Admitting you are wrong in an argument can be embarrassing or shameful, even more so the harder you dig your heels in.  

Based on the theory of confirmation bias, the human desire to feel superior to others or better about themselves, and many other deeply ingrained factors, perhaps “never budging on an opinion” isn’t always done with malicious intent. Sometimes stubbornness truly is human nature!

However, confirmation bias and psychological factors don’t justify repetitive arguments or making ill-fated decisions to protect pride. Though it can be an explanation, it doesn’t excuse the behavior, just like how a lawyer saying “people have a natural tendency towards greed” wouldn’t pardon a bank-robber. So what can we do?

We can fight this by encouraging open-mindedness in debates and learning critical-thinking skills. Before entering into a heated debate, consider the already-formed opinions of yourself and the people around you and how that might influence the dialogue exchanged. Try to gather information from a variety of sources–you wouldn’t write a college essay about how oil drilling is good, then cite “Premium Oil Co.” as your only source, would you? 

Spreading rumors and false information

Rumor-mongering is especially prominent around Election Day here in America, but it is also something we see daily. On Facebook, posts about which foods to feed your dogs, “life hacks” on Youtube that don’t actually work, trolls online literally telling you to microwave a spoon if your ice cream won’t scoop (Please DO NOT microwave a spoon!). 

Slander and misinformation are harmful, but more often than not, lies spread faster than the truth. The Washington Post article “We finally know for sure that lies spread faster than truth. This might be why” explains that a reason for this is that fake stories often have more novelty, drama, or are more entertaining than reality (McArdle). In real life, stories are not as clear cut or exciting, with 100% evil villains or completely innocent victims, which makes fabricated statements more compelling and “shareable.” 

Let’s take this as an example. A study finds that a brand of dog food has been linked to cancer or premature death in 3 out of 1000 dogs. Two articles are published to Facebook on the topic. One is titled: “Dog Food Co. Kibble May Be Linked to Cancer in Some Pets, Studies Show, Among Other Factors.” The other is titled: “Dog Food Co. Kibble Is Killing Your Pets–Why You Should Stop Feeding It To Them NOW.” Which do you think will spread faster? The second headline, without fail. The title is falsely exaggerated to the point of clickbait–in the study only 0.3% of dogs experienced cancer, which may or may not be related to the food–but the shock value and novelty will spread this post like wildfire. 

You cannot blame people if they genuinely did not know the information they spread was false. Ignorance is not excusable in general, but in examples like the one above, you can assume that the “facts” were shared out of genuine concern with positive intentions.

However, it is the same rumor-mongering that will quickly morph to slander in the political and social world. Negative campaigning is said to be more effective than positive messages as an election tactic, and public figures will often use this to their advantage. 

When people intentionally spread lies it can be for social gain, to solicit attention from others, or out of revenge for some misdeed they perceive. 

Some things we can do to combat the spread of slander and misinformation are to check our sources, whether they are online, in writing, or word of mouth. You should always look for credible sources

Has this person been biased by something? Have they been trustworthy in the past?

Does this website look professional? Does the author have any expertise or education in the field? Does the information seem too crazy or too good to be true? 

Communication is key in today’s world, now more than ever. 

Criticizing others

If you’ve ever dove down the rabbit hole called the comment section on a celebrity post or Youtube video, or walked through the crowd when someone is performing or presenting, you’ve seen this with your own eyes. Heard it time and time again. 

Criticism. Blindly hateful–all out assaults on character traits. Assails on flaws. Snooty remarks for no reason other than…nothing. Hate for no reason but to be hateful.

Why do people judge others so intensely? 

Science shows that our brains are programmed to make snap judgements about people and things as a method for mental efficiency (Hall). Think about it… could you imagine if you had to carefully analyze every single action of a celebrity on the news or a person you pass on the street? Just like with confirmation bias, judging others can be a mechanism to avoid overloading our minds while we focus on more important things. 

But judgements aren’t always a bad thing. Where the true malicious spirit of criticism arises is in a type of judgement called “personality attributions.” Personality attributions are when we consider a person’s behavior to reflect their personality as a whole and not just their current situation (Hall). 

For example, say I was watching a Youtube video and the person on screen momentarily ignored their hungry pet to talk to their friend. Immediately, my mind could make the personality attributions that this person is self-centered, uncompassionate, or didn’t care about their pet. Spewing this all over the comments sparks further criticism–his clothes are ugly too. Her hair is so greasy! That dog is a mongrel anyway! Or going as far as to write, someone should call the police for animal neglect! 

But if instead I had made a situational attribution, considering the events or factors that may have inspired the person’s behavior (Hall), this firestorm could have been avoided. Maybe the Youtuber was stressed and overloaded with work. Maybe their dog is on a diet and begs for food constantly. Perhaps the friend was having a difficult time and the person was attending to their needs first to comfort them, and the dog was fed immediately after filming.

Studies have shown that when judging someone we don’t know very well, we are more likely to make personality attributions than situational ones. However, the opposite is true for loved ones or friends, from whom we may dismiss a hurtful word as stress or exertion…but the same hurtful word from a stranger would signal to us that they are a callous, rude person (Hall). 

Making snap-judgements and spreading criticism may be instantaneous, like attributions. But when criticisms are thought-out or published truly with intent to harm, there can be many factors. Someone could be trying to boost their own reputation by withering another’s, as you will often see in campaign ads. Someone could be acting out of envy, criticizing a feature that they privately covet, or hoping to make the other person seem inferior in any way possible: she’s pretty, but she’s probably failing all her classes. That boy is good at everything, he probably practices all the time… he should get a life! 

I myself am guilty of all of these judgements, especially ones out of envy. When a person seems too perfect, it is our egotistical nature to want to knock them down a notch to make ourselves feel better. So if personality attributions, self-esteem and ego issues, and the desire for political/social success are influencing these criticisms, what can we do to staunch the hate?

First of all, we can make an effort to be aware of our attributions (Hall). By attempting to make more situational attributions, our empathy for others grows and we can understand what other people are going through at home, at work, or in life. 

As for judgements made from jealousy, it is increasingly difficult to avoid nowadays with social media. Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat are all bursting with the highlights in other people’s worlds, them presenting themselves in the best light possible. If you want to learn more about how to combat this, visit my other article, Envy–Why we feel it, how to get rid of it. Try thinking about yourself not as in competition with others, but on the same grand team. 

If you see a beautiful girl on social media, rather than comparing yourself to her, lift her up with a compliment. 

If someone is faster or smarter than you, do your best to encourage them to grow and succeed–they will most likely return the favor. If you believe that all of humanity is striving towards greatness together, you can feel good about lifting others up and improving yourself along the way. Driving progress for all.

Conclusion

Why are people so rude to each other? Why do we say awful things, do awful things? Why do people never budge on an opinion? Criticize others? Spread lies and rumors? I hope my research has helped answer a few of these questions to some degree. 

In the end, don’t get too frustrated. As humans, some of these behaviors are picked up from our environment, ingrained in psychological and physical evolution, or just staples of personality. Keep focus on the positive nature of humanity also. We can’t rely on everyone being polite or perfect or even good…but we can work to better ourselves and our world. Together. One step at a time. 

Sources

Kolbert, Elizabeth, and Maria Konnikova. “Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds.” The New Yorker, 27 Feb. 2017, www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/02/27/why-facts-dont-change-our-minds 

Casad, Bettina J. “Confirmation Bias.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 9 Oct. 2019, www.britannica.com/science/confirmation-bias  

Hall, Elizabeth Dorrance. “Why We Judge Others.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 11 May 2018, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/conscious-communication/201805/why-we-judge-others 

McArdle, Megan. “Opinion | We Finally Know for Sure That Lies Spread Faster than the Truth. This Might Be Why.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 15 Mar. 2018, www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/we-finally-know-for-sure-that-lies-spread-faster-than-the-truth-this-might-be-why/2018/03/14/92ab1aae-27a6-11e8-bc72-077aa4dab9ef_story.html 


Poem

Buzz

Class begins with droopy eyes
Dreary skies
A premonition of bleak surprise--
A day like the one before

Words etched in bold chalk letter
Tighten the fetter
Students, uncaring as a crotchety old debtor--
Yawn and feign interest for life

The lecture sets forth with little preamble
An angst-dashed scramble
But one spark catches like wildfire to a bramble--
She raises her head from the desk

Terms that mean nothing begin to ignite
Molten and bright
Phrases smolder, flash like a floodlight--
Peppery heat fills her chest

Fingers extend from an aching fist
 A bewildering twist
Torches blazing through the frosty mist--
Passion beckoned forth from the soul

Cached away in a drab, dusty room
Knowledge heirloom
Hidden from her world by a festering gloom--
Urges her on through the fog

Erudition in a dose like a drug
Goading tug
Heart thundering like current in an active spark plug--
She wrenches her calling from the chalk

Students snore through the lesson then leave
Ever naive
But she hangs suspended without reprieve--
She has found the ultimate raison d’être

Interest piqued like never before,
Spiral and soar! ; 
One concept that brings her potential ashore--
A buzz she will chase for the rest of her life

Poem

Ancestors

It’s such a strange concept to ponder

Yet when my thoughts do wander

I often find myself thinking

Of the lives of those from yonder


Through time and space my mind does leap

Through valleys and mountains in an arcing sweep

And I think of my ancestors

Back in the past, through years so long and deep


I see through their eyes

I see what they have seen, I fantasize

That all these visions in my head

Aren’t just delusions that I actualize


Forests, endless, green and earthy

Loves and losses, their unique journey

I’ll never know if these visions hold any truth at all

How can I discover if my fantasies are seaworthy?


I lie awake, perturbed and restless

These endless qualms always leave me breathless

Because I will never know

And though my own time is so very precious,


I return time and time again, to them 

Those from which all of history will stem

Our ancestors, our past, our blood

And through all this mayhem


A truth emerges, a few things that are certain

Life is a grand stage in which we stand behind the curtain

And once it comes time to play our part

We play our role as we choose, putting our worth in


And those before us did exactly the same

They gazed at the moon through a slightly different frame

Watched our sun chart a course through the sky

And did all this under their own stage name


It’s such a strange concept to ponder

Yet when my thoughts do wander

I often find myself thinking

Of the lives of those from yonder


My ancestors

Your ancestors

Our ancestors

Poem

Tired

Image from the NY Times
Tired never felt so real
My arms are made of lead and steel
I wake before the sun can rise
And fight off sleep with droopy eyes

Tired, that word doesn’t seem quite right
Exhausted lying awake at night
Grinning faces and cheery greetings
My mind slips as it suffers these beatings

Rest my head on stone and sigh
The world is singing a lullaby
Soft and sweet, an enticing dulcet
I strain not to listen, not just yet

At last the doors of home swing open
A single chance to put my hope in
That I could nap for just a minute
Glance through the window; the sky is sunlit

Regal cat and dopey dog
Dozing and dreaming like a log
My mind is so weighted, and yet
My thoughts spin in an endless roulette

Blissful sleep evades me once again
Twitter to the next task like a jittery wren
Clock ticks on and still I keep
This encroaching fatigue, ever to creep

Invade my spirit and dull my grin
Hold out hope that tonight I win
A precious hour without any toil
So my soul can rest from the heat of the broil

When the moon seizes the sky
And overhead constellations lie
I can listen to that lullaby I lust for
Drift ever closer to that deep, dark shore

Tired never felt so real
My arms are made of lead and steel
I woke before the sun could rise
Now I welcome sleep with grateful eyes


Writer's Wednesday!

WW Elementals Finale Part 3– Soul and Saviors

Screams. Deep, throaty, bellowing groans in discord with the silence of the graves. That was what the goddess wished to hear as she approached the crypt. This spark in her deadened soul, this wisp of something…an emotion? An impulse? 

A fire in the eyes of the devil.

  A bitterness on the tongue of a critic.

A harsh word on the ears of the deaf.

What would someone call that? Not a feeling, the goddess decided. She was not wistful for the sound of screams, not hopeful. She was inconvenienced. Inconvenienced by an impulse–the hard metal heart rotting in her chest was incapable of the experience “hope.” So, perhaps, Artemis was experiencing distraction. Irritation. 

Niggling at her gut, the annoyance disguised as hope for her Huntsman collected her soul together again. As a goddess, it was simple to fracture herself into various forms and disperse them throughout the Earth and heavens at the drop of a hat. But it required the lack of emotion–no, distractions, she reminded herself–that she could not currently obtain. 

It was a cosmic lift from her mind: the weight of all the monitored realities condensing into one form, a merging rather like mixing the ingredients of a pastry; after all, it is easier to carry a single cake than all the flour, eggs, and milk that went into it.

Whole again, the goddess moved with renewed vigor, cautious to monitor her speed lest she overshoot the crypt by a mile at sonic pace. It felt awkward to run again; she hadn’t truly run at a human speed since she ruled the Hunters of Artemis, back when tracking down boar and overconfident cougars was the task of all tasks. 

Finally at the cusp of the leering concrete structure, she took a moment to examine it with cold, calculating eyes leering in the anxious light. It was a beautiful tomb: carved with the intricacies and care of craftsmen from a time before. A time of refined workmanship and gentle, deliberate chiselings and chips. 

Not like today. Cheap plastic. Mass produced goods. Hasty assembly lines–the festering mortal laxity disgusted her. She was born from the cosmos into a world of art. Beauty. Grace. And–consequently–meticulous hours of work behind each vase and script.

But craftsmanship passed with the years and without note, of little matter to an immortal and even less to a human. The true reason why she trudged through this graveyard was infinitely greater than the tomb.

What lay within. Who lay within: the cause of this annoying distraction of hope. Because despite herself, a shrapnel shred of her iron heart held fondness for him.

Orion. Orion, who once upon a millenia she had loved against her will and against her better judgement. Orion, who was destined to be a mortal, who’s scorpion sting should have seeped toxicity through his arteries and stolen his breath. Orion–for which the goddess had rewritten the stars themself.

She allowed this annoyance to broil in the silence, regarding the stone with daggers in her eyes and shoulders defiantly broadened, despising the silence. Her name did not reverberate from within. No prayers echoed dimly through the crack in the door. This wasn’t good…not at all. There should be screams; that fact, and that fact alone, decided it.

The goddess charged violently at the door, lashing a bolt of crisp white light crackling towards the cement. From the silence the burst of power rattled the air into a frenzied hum. Her gossamer hair lifted and spiked from its sheen, frazzled by the static and the door exploded at once. 

Shards of stone and rock thrashed violently against her skin, assaulting the paleness and careening off like a pebble on a bulletproof window. The atmosphere thrummed with the blast as a cloud of suffocating dust billowed from the decimated crypt.

Unmarked, clothes artfully disheveled and hair frizzed, Artemis stumbled forward through the clouds of soot and sucked in a breath. Panic overtook her glass eyes: the rubble was immense. Cradling her thin hands close to her chest, an unexpected regret fizzled through her fingertips in the place of the power she had come to know. Tightness seized her chest. Too much. Too much, I used too much, what if…? 

“No,” she breathed, eyes roving the debris, the annoyance of hope rearing strong in her gut. Shiny, platinum hair. Strong hands. Cloth. An arrowhead. Something, anything, to show her she hadn’t…but what if… 

What if I killed him? What if he was suffering? What if my flicker of effort crushed him, what if? What if Orion is dead? It shouldn’t matter to her. Another feeble-minded mercenary, blindly following orders on the chance that Artemis will show them love…wasn’t that all he was?

The goddess, clutching her arms against her heart, scrambled to comb the rubble. She flung aside rocks with the frenzy of a starving hyena stumbling upon a fresh kill. Minutes screamed by and thousands of shards spiked the earth where she had thrust them from the debris. No sign of him. Drawing back in fright, the goddess examined her work in terror. 

“What am I doing?!” she sobbed to the hazy clouds of ash, to the sky, to the unhearing wind. Dread pooled in her gut.The sky was darkening.  Pressure squeezed her brain. Shivers trembled down her spine: what is happening to me?

Artemis had no time to ponder the question when her vision scattered in a crack of light. Lightning burst from the sky, forking a fiery tongue down directly into her aching chest and bursting her conscious thought into shrapnel. Thunder rumbled in the sky, a crescendo like a bowling ball hurtling down the lane. They stepped forward, emerging from the haze like phantoms floating on the fog.

Four girls wrapped in glittering light, angels gliding through the dim cemetery with elegant strides like a young queen at her coronation. Another burst of lighting struck the goddess. She fell back, back arching with the electricity, fighting to condense her being back into this moment. A girl rose her hand and flame emerged, climbing the silk strands of Artemis’ hair and licking down her simple, threadbare clothes. Rain came pounding in then, icy cold and blistering heat ravaging her skin in a torrent, the charge still buzzing along her body.

The Elements overpowered her one by one, pummeling her figure with bolts of energy and wind and gasps of fire so sweltering her skin burned red. Moon dust choking her lungs, stuffing the delicate trachea full of toxicity and smoke. Lightning sizzling her arms. Fire drowning her eyes. Sea spray whipping down on her head like gravel lashed from a truck tire. 

Artemis clawed at the earth, reaching for a stone to throw, something to cease this pain, a pain like she’d never felt in all her existence.

Instead, her groping hand found skin. Skin. 

The world came back into focus. All the fragmented particles of her essence raced back together in a surge, solidifying in a burst of raw emotion so intense she rocked on her side and screamed. The barrage stopped at once. The four girls were thrown back like rag dolls in the path of a tormenting toddler, thrust on stone mausoleums, bones cracking against graves. 

All the millennia of her life suddenly focused, each minuscule moment notable or worthless jamming themselves into her mind, and suddenly Artemis felt like a human. Frazzled, lying in a pile of rubble and soot, desperately clinging to the hand of her long lost love.

Orion. 

Orion. A romantic love, perhaps, or a friendly one, or maybe not love at all so much as a mutual liking…but whatever they had, she suddenly could think of no happier moment in all her life as when she felt her fingers on his.

Paying no attention to the moaning Elementals behind her, she sat up and drew the warm skin of his hand against her face, gently cradling it against her cheek. A pulse fluttered weakly through the veins there, throbbing in time with her flooded head. All the memories, all the years flurried through her brain, a great burst of humanity ravaging her soul. And there was a soul. She felt it now, festering inside her, thrumming and glowing as bright as Selene’s moon.

Dusting the debris from his body, Artemis pulled him close, golden hair splayed across her lap like a sunburst. Willing a morsel of her mind to focus, the power burst eagerly to her fingers and streamed into his broken body, knitting tissues and mending bones. The years of hunting experience coalesced into a healing energy, one she wasn’t sure she had ever used–not on the dying leper during the plagues or the wounded huntress she had taught since youth. Never would she have thought to try. Never, except for him.

When she was certain Orion had healed, she delicately lowered his head onto the stone, brushing the ash from his lids. Turning her head to face the four powerful girls, she was met with a pair of beseeching midnight eyes.

“Selene,” she whispered. The teen girl stood not far from the goddess, legs twisted at disturbing angles and fingers trembling. 

“Artemis.” The words were cold, doubtlessly intended to ring with strength but quaking with weakness instead. Kenna the fire girl, Daria of water, and Talia of storm gathered themselves and stood, each bloody with the impact of the cosmic blast. 

Stumbling forward, each flashed each other meaningful looks, striding to Selene’s sides and linking arms with her. A row of four girls, meant to be five, full of enough power to rock the universe from its foundation.

There they stood, eyes trained on one lone goddess, the huntress, the eternal maiden. A sense of cumulation permeated the scene, a sense that every instant in their lives, as unique and different as they may be, had been building to this moment. This hour. This minute. This very instant in time.

 The final fight was about to begin.


Writer's Wednesday!

Wolf Pup–An Original Fable

“Wolf Pup”: An Original Fable by Autumn Brutyn

Inspired by the works of Aesop

Once upon a time on a blustery, howling winter day, a wolf pup wandered through a white-dusted wood. The icy cold had spread thick over the land for many days and the poor, displaced wolf shivered with it; it had seeped so deep in his bones it was a wonder it hadn’t frozen his soul. Thusly, he was not so much lost as that he never truly had a home at all–entirely without shelter, on the verge of death, surely, when he came upon a large, hollow oak tree.

“Oh Grand Tree, can you hear me?” he yelped against the wind. The tree bowed its barren branches in response.

“I am in need of shelter and rest, or I will surely freeze. I see you have an ample trunk and warmth to share. May I please rest here until the storm passes?” the pup asked. He quaked with the chill in his tiny body, but the tree drew up sternly, crossing her arms over the cozy hollow. 

“I do not aid beggars. Be gone,” she spat. And so the wolf pup left, bowing his head in shame. He wandered for a time, seeming impossibly thin and small against the snarling branches and towering snow banks that surrounded his path. At once, he came across a sheltered thicket. 

Within this wintry pocket rested a plump doe and a peacefully sleeping fawn, speckled with white spots and peppered with snow. The mother gazed lovingly upon the young deer, yet when her eyes grazed the desperate pup they hardened like water over the lake. 

“Miss Doe, I am sorry to intrude. But I see you have much ample heat in this thicket and a scrap of food to share. I am without shelter and family. May I please rest here until the storm passes?” the young wolf pleaded. But the doe turned up her moist button nose. 

“I do not associate with mangy dogs such as yourself. Be gone.” And so the wolf went on quietly, sparing a glance at the resting fawn with envy leadening his heart. 

Finally he came across a bear den dark and deep. A mother bear and her cubs huddled within, snug beneath the hanging rocks, pleasantly shielded from the sleeting snow. Shaking off his shivers, he called out in the grandest voice he could muster,

“Mother Bear, can you hear me?” She stirred, then stared at him intently with curious chestnut eyes. “Miss Bear, I am in need of shelter, or I will most certainly perish this night. I cannot go on as of now, but I will not trouble you long. May I find rest here until the blizzard passes?”

Wordlessly, the mother bear smiled and invited him in. The wolf pup nuzzled against the warm stone and slept deeply and peacefully through the night, sparing no single thought to the tree or the doe.

Because of the generosity of the bear, he survived the cruel night and received a belly-full of tantalizing meat. Through the passing years the frail pup grew big and strong. He led a grand pack with abundant resources, nestled in that same forest in which he grew up. Soon he was the king of the wide woods, and as such, some earthly troubles fell over his kingdom after harsh weather.

“…the frail pup grew big and strong.”

The wolf decided to trot a loop through the forest to see how he could aid his fellow creatures, when suddenly he came upon a tree. Barren and weeping, unhealthily hollow and her branches sagging weakly to the earth, she cried out, 

“Wolf, O Great Wolf! Wait!” He paused in front of her knotted trunk. “Please, Great Wolf, may you fetch me some water from the stream? My roots cannot reach, and without it I will most certainly die!” The wolf gazed intently at the tree. She was the same oak who had sent him away as a young pup. He turned up his snout and sneered,

“I do not aid beggars. Now I must be gone!” And as the tree watched her only hope trot away, she remembered the hungry pup; he who had become the strongest leader in the wood. 

The wolf continued on for a time until he came across a small thicket. Within a doe yelped for help. Her chest was stained crimson with a bullet wound and the grass around her breast was slick with blood.

“Please, O Mighty Wolf! I can spy healing herbs just beyond the brush. May you please aid me, for I will most certainly perish without them!” But the wolf remembered this doe from the storm. He turned his back to her and answered, 

“I do not associate with mangy doe such as yourself. Now I shall be gone!” And thus the doe thrashed limply on the sticks and remembered with regret a young wolf pup from a freezing night many years ago. 

Finally the wolf came across a cozy, warm bear den in the woods. Within, the mother bear from his youth lay frail and starving, skin stretched taut over her bones. The cubs were gone and her kind chestnut eyes showed the weariness of ages past. Yet when she saw him a spark lit in her and she exclaimed,

“Oh, young pup! I do recall that blizzard, so many years ago! How much stronger you are now…and how much older am I!” she laughed. Her muscles burned with the effort to speak and her stomach grumbled and roiled, but she did not ask for aid. The wolf nodded magnanimously and left the cave.

Mother Bear wondered then if she’d upset him somehow–but she would not beg from him, for she was wealthy with love of her grown sons and the experiences of life. She would not ask of him to spend any of his ample resources on her, yet soon he returned with a plethora of meat and berries for the mother bear.

“Thank you for your generosity, madame. I will never forget your aid in my time of need, just as I’m sure you will never forget mine.” He smiled, pawing the stone pensively, reminiscing of the dream-like storm. “Request my help any time, Miss Bear, for I will feel gratitude towards you eternally.” 

With this, he left the starving bear to feast, glad to help an old friend.


What goes around comes around.

Show kindness to those in a time of need and they will show mercy to you in yours.

Never underestimate the power of gratitude.


Poem

I never knew

I thought I’d seen so much
Until I saw it all

Used my youth as a crutch
So my ignorance would not fall

I never knew

I never knew

I never knew the world
In its endless, infinite sprawl.

Or 
So
 I 
thought...

I knew everything, deep down
Memories receded

I’d seen life and love and truth
In little moments, long retreated

I never knew the dawn

I never knew the night

I never knew the happiness 
Of watching stars fade into sunlight

But 
Now 
I 
Know…

Swimming beneath the velvety black
Dusk gives way to day

Glimmering, burning, glistening jewels
Fade in the sun’s first ray

I never knew the dark
I never knew the light

I never knew the sunrise
Until it made my follies die away

And 
I 
Could 
See…

Years are not what all men need
To triumph in wisdom and relish in life

For I am so young, and still
 I’ve seen my share of victory and strife

I collected little moments

I cached them in my thoughts

I knew all that I needed to know
An epiphany cut through me like a knife:

Daybreak
Dawn
Twilight
Night…

All joy and wisdom and meaning comes from 
These shared experiences
Of the human life
Writer's Wednesday!

WW Elementals– Finale Part 2

Thank you to Jennifer Brutyn for commenting on my last post! (: This is part 2 of the Elementals finale. Find the rest in the archives!

🌧️ Talia Thorn

“No, no, you don’t understand, I think she can…” I trailed off, eyes tightening at the corners, my old distress over interacting with strangers creeping in. There in front of me was a smart, assertive woman with degrees in so many areas of medicine that it made my head spin just thinking about all the years of college it took. And I was…what?

A shy girl with rain  powers? A frail little London teen who could make some thunder rumble if she tried hard enough? A pathetic human sprinkler?
The IV was hooked up. Nurses began to scramble for A-negative, and I just stood there, stomach rumbling and roiling at the presence of needles and blood. I had to stop it before I risked damaging Selene’s power with human fluids. But how?

What did I have to say about her? 

That she could heal herself if they got her off these pain killers? 

That she didn’t need any human blood? 

That it might take away the potency of her powers if she received normal fluids?

I slumped into a rigid seat, holding my head in my hands. What was there to say? The doctors insisted that Selene was rapidly losing blood; I couldn’t use my powers to heal her; Daria was somewhere in a different wing of the hospital. Zara was dead. I had seen her body myself, crumpled in the street, with an aura of absence emanating from her so unlike Daria’s that I didn’t need to feed myself false hope. 

I felt a hand fall on my shoulder. I looked up, expecting the doctor or the matronly nurse with the full, dimpled cheeks. No. The eyes that met mine were a strange, otherworldly gold. 

Jolting out of my seat, I wrapped my arms around Daria, the friend I’d barely known or talked to at all. I hadn’t been on the ship with her and Kenna and Selene. She’d been shot before I could talk to her on the rescue boat. We’d been fleeing from the mercenaries on land, she’d been presumed dead in the alley, and yet, her inviting embrace felt like heaven: a warm hug from a long-lost friend.

“Did they clear you?” I asked, stepping back. The wounds in her gut and her back seemed to have disappeared into thin air, the tattered swimsuit traded out for a fresh white hospital gown. Kenna stepped forward and gave me a hug too, answering for Daria,

“Yes, they cleared her. I had to do a little bit of persuading for that–you know, it isn’t everyday that a girl with suspiciously-healed mortal wounds gets let off easy.” 

I laughed, taking them both in at arm’s length, for a moment wondering how in the world my life had come to this. Not so long ago was I back at my London estate, avoiding my father at all costs, toying with my mother’s earrings before school.

 Now I had a strange set of friends: two of which were mortally wounded by arrows, one who had burned alive a school shooter, and one more–Zara. I couldn’t think about her too much, not then, not for a long time after. 

“We have a plan, Talia. We know what needs to be done to stop all this.” Daria gestured vaguely to the world with a sweeping arc of her hands. Kenna nodded, gripping my hands in hers so tight I could feel the heat burning along her palms, scratching at her skin to be released. I was glad my power was more docile.

“What is it? What’s the plan?” I glanced at Selene, prone on the bed, deep in sleep. “I’ll do anything.”

 Anything at all, I thought, staring at Kenna’s constantly shifting eyes and Daria’s calm, centered ones. These were my friends now. I would never cease to fight for them, I knew, and I was alright with that.

“Zara granted us one final gift,” Kenna said.

“We know where the gods and goddesses will congregate in their Earth-dwelling forms. Artemis and all the others. We can take them down with our combined powers.

“We need to find the crypt of Inara Nightlock. And we need to find it before midnight. It’s the only shot we have.” I nodded, sorting through the information silently, pushing away all the unanswerable questions cropping up in my head. Finally, lifting my chin, I responded.

“Let’s do it. Let’s set this world right.”


Part 3 of the finale is coming soon!

Writer's Wednesday!

WW Elementals–Finale Part 1

This is a continuation of the “Elementals” series. Comment which power you would like to have below for a shout-out in the next post!


“Her color is too pale. She needs a blood transfusion immediately.” 

Color, I thought, I remember color. My lips curled into a droopy smile. The sedatives were acting fast, rolling me gently into sleep, sliding me deeper and deeper into the calm, dark sea. The sea, the gentle sea, the sea that reminded me of Daria, who reminded me of gold, then of yellow by comparison.

Yellow. The dopey smile dripped off my face. I’d never liked yellow like others. Never liked how it felt, so…fake. Like it was trying too hard to be cheery. An artificiality, a toxic positivity that growled at you “everything is alright,” when everything was far from it. Yellow was sickness, negative thoughts masked by a bright facade. 

Toxic, jaundiced, and yet, a memory drifted to me then, a very mixed memory of my time as a human. A memory that I wasn’t sure was even real or a figment of my drowsy imagination.

“No, please, we can wait, just give her five more minutes!” A frantic voice. What were they doing there in my memory? I let the echoes drift into the oblivion, settling deeper into the recollection, welcoming the fragments of speech as they lazily wheedled their way into my mind.

A school day. My lashes grazed my cheeks again, ever so gently, feeling so downy and soft as clouds, so soft that I let my eyes rest with them. The white, beeping world was gone, giving way to the replaying of a moment in my mind. A moment the world would not long remember; a single flicker in any other person’s life, and yet, a precious instance all the same, one I would find pivotal to my life even lying there in that blank place. 

That place–wherever or whenever that was, that place. Somewhere with a bed. And a blanket. And white walls. And Talia, and Kenna, and Daria, all my friends, and a nice lady with sky-blue uniform and soft brown eyes. 

Yes, I would let myself rest my eyes, let my feathery lashes trail kisses on my cheeks. So I did. I rested there, then–whenever and wherever that was–and remembered an instance about color.

A school day, in autumn, when the Ohio breeze swirled and eddied and the leaves patterned a carpet on the earth, dancing in a breeze I could see but not feel. Inside, the cool wind could not tickle my nose, could only gust outside the window as I wistfully watched.

English class. My favorite class. I was Mira Casse, a student, a relatively normal girl with strange features and an even stranger set of parents. Parents no one mentioned, or was quiet about if they did. An unspoken agreement: the Casse family was not to be discussed; there was something wrong about them and their ‘daughter.’

“Okay, for this assignment, we are taking a break from our text analysis for a while,” the teacher announced, eyes wandering to the window, just like mine. I had the thought that she and I were very similar. We were both far away in our minds, both in a place beyond here, somewhere in that wide open expanse of sky and field and forest. 

A few students exchanged satisfied looks. Others outright cheered, chucking their books below their desks and tittering excitedly with their friends. Wide eyed, pleased to move on from endless compare and contrast, baby birds preening and squawking for a chance to leap from the nest.

The elation faded into a softer buzz as the teacher explained we were doing some free association and connotation work with colors. She would call on a few people with the first things that come to her mind when they named the color: emotions, objects, abstract ideas like freedom and wealth. 

“Blue.” The room shot up with hands, arms waving and protruding like blades of grass shooting from the dirt. Sky. Ocean. Water. Calm. Peaceful. Sad. Happy. And the responses bubbled, and tumbled, and crashed in with superficialities. The typical answers. 

The entirely unsatisfying answers that everyone else seemed to accept as their own personal truth–as though thinking that blue meant happiness was a personality trait. Something that made them special.

I returned my gaze to the window, thinking, wondering what blue really meant. Yearning, I decided. It was yearning, a soft yonder blue in the distance, painting the sky with hope. The promise of something greater beyond the horizon. 

As I thought this, a girl poked her fingers up and said, matter-of-fact, 

“Blue is bubbles!” 

 I sunk lower into my seat, frowning.

“Green.” Earth, eco-friendly, gentle, leaves, nature, envy, and I sunk even lower, frown deepening. Analyzing the yellowing grass beyond the glass, a great discomfort gripped my stomach as I felt something new grappling inside my body, twisting me all up inside, yanking at my core and tearing my being. 

Because I knew what green meant. 

Green was wistfulness, nostalgia, a warm, inviting tug that leads you to the meadow or the pasture or the forest. A reminder of a simpler time, an instinctual time when your heart knew the way through the winding path of life and guided you onward without hesitation. Purity. Instinct. Life. Nostalgia.

Yellow was even worse–happiness, sun, beach, I tightened my fists–red about the same, purple made my eyes squeeze shut and when it came to brown I finally raised my hand. Maybe I couldn’t explain the other colors, but I could explain brown, black, deep, dark shades. They seemed to me to be the most simple: pure and natural as tilled earth underfoot.

“Yes, Mira?” The teacher called. I drew in a deep breath, rethinking if I should answer at all, when I finally decided I had to. No one else could do this shade justice; no one in the school or the class or the world.

“Brown is humanity. Brown is the rich, dark earth that coddled our crops, the pools of honey that gifted us sweetness, the decadent truffles we extracted from our simple ingredients and harnessed into a unique experience of texture and flavor. 

Brown was when Prometheus granted us fire and lit the sepia kindling with flame, brown was when we smeared umber mud across our brows to protect us from mosquitos, brown were the feathers and fur of our game, brown was the mahogany that we built into thrones and homes and settlements. Brown is the reason we survived and the ways we thrived. It isn’t just a color. Not to me.”

The room was silent. Every set of eyes was staring at me in awe or disgust or confusion. But the teacher removed her gaze from the world outside the window and beamed at me, eyes sparkling with approval that loosened the knot in my core. 

“Brown is humanity,” she echoed. And with the kindness of her voice brimming over into the silent room, I recognized the twisting that had yanked my gut into knots. It was difference. Difference from the rest of my class, my grade, all of humanity.  

I realized, for the first time in my life, that perhaps I was not a normal school girl, couldn’t be a normal school girl. I was something more. And my gut knew it, my brain knew it, my heart knew it. I was something more. Something…other.

“We have to start the supplementation immediately, ma’am, we can’t wait any longer!” I startled from my memory, the fragments falling away but the tone of the reflection remaining. A mixed tone. Prideful. Bitter. Uncomfortable. Freeing. Overwhelming, and I…supplementation? Curiosity stirred within me, a feeling I wasn’t sure I could act upon. I was so, so tired, bone-tired, Atlas-with-the-sky-on-his-shoulders tired.

“Please, she can heal herself, just don’t give her any blood! It might hurt her!” Talia. I knew that voice. I had to come back, had to know what they were doing to me. A dull ache re-formed in my chest and I remembered the arrow, where I had ripped it from my skin. What were they trying to do to me? What was happening?
I tried to force my eyes open, but they were weighed down like a branch bending under snowfall. A prickle in my forearm–an IV. What was Talia fighting? What were the doctors trying…

“I can assure you, this will not hurt her…” 

The weight of sleep washed over me like a tidal wave, and I struggled for a moment, hearing Talia groan with exasperation. For a moment, I hung, suspended between the waking world and the unconscious one. 

Sleep overcame me at once and I drifted away into the deep, dark sea.


    Part 2 of the Elementals series finale is coming soon!

    Beautiful galaxy viewed from Earth
    Poem

    I don’t know

    “We are what we believe we are.” -C.S Lewis
    What is the meaning of life?
    I don’t know.
    Maybe happiness
    Love
     Success
    Charity
    Giving and taking
    Making something new
    Watching ideas grow
    Take shape
    Transcend space 
    and time
     and your own life...
    I don’t know:
    I’m much too young, aren’t I?
    
    Why are we here?
    I don’t know. 
    Maybe for a purpose
    Because life
     Evolved us into being
    A higher power
    A special role
    A calling
    A perfect passion designed for us
    Another worker bee in a
    Grand colony
    Just to be 
    and live 
    and exist....
    I don’t know:
    I’m much too inexperienced, aren’t I?
    
    Who are you to give advice?
    I don’t know.
    Maybe just a girl
    Behind a computer
    Typing the thoughts in her brain
    Building worlds and characters into existence
    Right there
    On a little webpage
    With a blinking cursor
    Scrambling for inspiration
    Wracking my brain
    Make haste
    and write
    and build…
    I don’t know:
    I’m much too inarticulate, aren’t I?
    
    What do these questions have in common?
    I don’t know.
    Maybe they’re special 
    Because everyone
    In the whole wide world
    Has a different answer to each
    A passion
    A calling
    A reason to be,
    Live
    and work
    and breathe…
    I don’t know:
    I’m much too young for this, aren’t I?
    
    What is the meaning of life?
    Maybe mine is
    To be happy
    To be a writer
    To make haste
    To create 
    To love and to hate
    To exist in this cacophony 
    and wait
    and simply be…
    I think so.
    
    Why are we here?
    Maybe I am here
    To be an archaeologist
    A microbiologist
    An author
    A soldier
    A researcher
    Historian
    Zoologist
    Astronomer
    To find my passion 
    and explore the world
    and be fearless…
    I think so.
    
    Who am I to give advice?
    …
    I do know:
    I am just a girl.
    A speck in the infinite river of time
    One bright star in a never-ending sky
    An author
    A poet
    A musician
    I give my two cents on life
    and live
    and laugh, because...
    I do know something.
    I know myself.
    
    I’m a girl
    A speck
    A star in a beautiful,
    gem-studded sky
    I’m unique
    and wonderful
    and meant for great things...
    I know so.