Letting Go of Normal: When Looking Is Itself An Act of Creation and Breathing is A Revelation

Although it’s technically spring, it’s still very much winter. The breeze is distinctly chilly and it’s snowing. Hard. Transitions between seasons, and maybe between anything, can be so unpredictable. Winter, as well as old ways of doing things, does not like to let go.

 

A cardinal, of such a beautiful red color, sits on the branch of an apple tree as the snow filled wind roars around it. How cold it must be out there for it. It waits for the right moment to swoop down and eat the food my wife left for it. And nearby, sits a mourning dove, so much a part of the branch I at first didn’t see him or her or them. Her presence is more beautiful than any work of art, although many artists would love to paint what I now see.

 

So many of us want to return to a different season, a time without at least the inhumanity and destruction of Putin’s war against Ukraine. We want to return to relating to other people without masks, or not worrying about breathing in the air from another person’s mouth or wondering if our trip to the grocery store would result in sickness.

 

We want to return to stable supply lines for food and other necessities and no inflation. We want to return to a time, or maybe create a time, that we see a sustainable, enjoyable future ahead of us. We want to think our financial well-being assured.

 

Or we want to feel the possibility of our rights protected. Our voice not only heard but honored. And justice is, finally, not only possible but a regular occurrence. That the blatant assault on the desire for democracy, real democracy, by the followers of DJT and Putin and white nationalists and others is ended, replaced by a drive toward increasing voting rights and protections. And we want to end the continuing concentration of wealth.

 

Much of this got relatively better with the election of Biden and Harris. At least the possibility of things getting better, of reason, caring, is present. But the concentration of wealth is getting worse, not better, along with the lies, hate, and support of malignant autocrats by much of the GOP. All we need do is listen to the racism implicit in the GOP questioning of Ketanji Brown Jackson to understand what their party represents.

 

We want to free our nation of the racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, anti-LGBTQ+ etc., of the hate that drives too much of our society.

 

We want to end the anxiety over climate change, of the increasingly destructive weather: tornadoes, hurricanes, fires, and drought.

 

But this is our world right now. There is so much and so many to mourn. We can’t crave what we remember as “normal” in the past, because what was normal and good for one was not such for others. We want something fairer and more stable. So many of us care about all these issues but feel that caring hurts too much. Is too painful. We feel facing it means no more joy, no love, no companionship. And yet, we know if we turn away, it will only get worse….

 

*To read the whole post, please go to The Good Men Project.

Brussels

The attacks in Brussels shake my mind. I read the details of the attacks, 35 dead in two locations, of explosions from suicide bombs, of nails embedded in the bombs, and imagine the feeling of nails striking me. What do these attackers feel? Are they too wrapped up in their doctrines to feel the pain of others? Does the pain of the people of Belgium and other nations somehow alleviate their own pain? And what do our leaders say and feel? Do they think that fueling anger, fear and hatred will stop the violence?

 

It doesn’t. The pain continues. The attacks continue. The “ventilation fallacy” in psychology says “venting” anger does not alleviate it. You might imagine if you just expressed and let loose your anger, the pain of it will be lessened, but it only increases. More dimensions of pain are added to the original emotion. The consequences of the angry outburst, the people you hurt, the guilt is added to the original feeling. There is a gigantic world of possibility between unrestrained expression and suppression. When the emotion expressed is hate, the consequences of expression are in a different league altogether than anger and they spiral out in wider and more chaotic circles.

 

When I hear news of such awful violence, I easily feel the social network and the goodness and beauty of the world are falling apart. Maybe you feel the same. It is too easy to hide away in fear or to let the news of all the attacks numb you to what is happening. But the horror of each attack is not diminished with a new one.  When children are faced with the news of such attacks, what do you, as a parent, teacher, or friend do? I wrote a blog about this in November, following the attacks in Paris, Beirut and Mali. About the need for learning how to be strong in mind and body so as to not meet hate with hate and ignorance, but with understanding, compassion, a critical intellect and a readiness for appropriate action. I would add to what I said earlier the need for a critical inquiry into the force of communion and relationship that makes a community and society possible. When students say there is so much hate, ask them about what they enjoy most in their life. If they love music, ask them about all the people who made the music they hear on their ipod possible. If they love food, ask about all the people who had to work together to make their lunch. Ask them about what makes a class or a friendship work. Ask them what they find beautiful.

 

But even more, educate students about mindful action. They can write to children in Brussel’s schools, as well as in other schools in their area. They can do community service, learn about the effects of inequity and abuse, study the frustration, anxiety and anger in their own communities and learn steps to be taken to improve the social-political network. When faced with fear and hate, they can learn how to recognize the love and cooperation that makes their lives possible. They need to feel the connection they have not only to the victims but to all humans. Instead of giving in to the forces of distortion and destruction, they need to understand that without relationship, no society or community is possible.