“The great temptation of our time is to put one’s faith in despair.” -Barry Lopez
Caving to any sense of internal despair in reaction to the alarming events of the past handful of years is understandable – but make no mistake, it is also misguided. Things always need to fall apart if they are to come back together in ways that more fully foster life and vitality for all.
Life is, and has always been, a continual process of breaking down and coming together again in altered form. The thing that is important to remember (if easy to lose sight of) is that within the turbulence of the falling apart is the fecund opportunity for them to come together again in ways that nourish and support. Compost is a nice literal illustration of the way this works in the natural world.
Mind you, there is an art to composting – we can’t just throw all our veg scraps on a heap in the backyard and expect they will turn into life-sustaining compost. Without the proper care they can just as easily turn into a stinking, slimy pile of relatively useless muck. The point I’m trying to make here is that we likewise have an opportunity to turn the detritus of all that we’re currently challenged by and struggling with now, into something useful – something fertile in which the seeds of more productive ways of thinking and being in the world will grow and flourish.
This means we need to exercise more care (not less) in the way we choose to perceive things, think about things and act on things going on in our lives. Perhaps we need to meditate more, not less; make more of an effort to spend time in nature, not less; be more thoughtful and kind, as opposed to guarded and full of fear (the latter is too easy).
Taking a break from the news would go far toward this end. Giving ourselves a sabbatical from constant exposure to the tyranny of adrenal depleting journalism (too much information, and what is essentially theatre parading as journalism). So too would becoming a little more interested at the grass roots level, in getting out and personally observing the way all this is impacting the communities we live in.
Armed with an increased degree of composure and real information we can then take the time to consider how we might personally best respond. Asking ourselves, ‘what is the one thing I have some expertise in that may help mitigate some of the suffering and unrest in my community?’ is a productive place to start.
But first, we need to clear the air with ourself. Taking a substantive inventory of the state of our inner life is where it all begins. Journaling, meditating, running, swimming, knitting and hiking are all activities that can help us mine our depths and work productively with what we find there. Also, I am a big believer in reading – fiction, non-fiction, biography – all are storehouses (when well-chosen) of wisdom that we might benefit from.
All of this is a way of working with any sense of despair that naturally comes up.
Love and courage.