The world is in chaos. As usual. But now more in our face as bad things happen and the news pounces on it like a lion on a falling deer and then amplifies it and gives it a soundtrack and keeps feeding, keeps feeding, keeps feeding all our worst fears. There is always something to be fearful of— earthquakes, El Niño, ISIS, disease, school shootings, Donald Trump, legal concealed weapons in Texas universities—take your pick. They’re real and worthy of fear.
But fear is a crippler. It pulls us down to the lowest part of our brain, floods our body with fight or flight chemicals useful for a short-term response, but deadly when just floating around indefinitely. It’s a good idea to lean toward hope and happiness, but naïve hope might blind us to genuine danger and happiness is hard to justify amidst so much grief and suffering.
Then there’s our own personal disasters. The unfinished business of our parents bequeathed to us, our constant failure to wholly love and be loved by those nearest to us, all our doubts and disappointments sitting on our shoulder whispering into our ear. Our dreams trampled or lying neglected or realized and not as rainbow-colored as we thought they would be. The water-cooler complaints at work, the kids we teach who are struggling, the neighbors partying just a little bit too loud. The whole catastrophe.
And yet we still get up in the morning and soldier on. What other choice do we have? And driving to work with Ella singing or Glenn Gould playing Bach’s English Suites helps us to bear up. Or gazing out at a stand of trees who keep calm amidst the chaos, perhaps feeling in their roots that “this too shall pass” and keep breathing out the oxygen we need. 8th grade classes await this fragile mortal and I will step up to them with W.H. Auden’s line in mind:
“Stagger onward rejoicing.”