One child is in debt beyond her means with exorbitant student loans because we don’t live in Finland, the other is unhappy about her upcoming birthday not matching her life timeline, the doctor keeps removing benign melanomas from my wife’s back and legs, I’m going mad with machines that think they’re efficient (and sometimes are), but when they don’t work, are heartlessly indifferent. Jeff Sessions is investigating black extremist groups that don’t exist while giving a free pass to the KKK and Neo-Nazi’s. Trump is every day bringing this country to the brink of extinction, physically, morally and politically. Powerful men are being outed for using their power to hurt, use and abuse women. In short, the whole catastrophe is alive and well and daily beating us down. How can we bear up?
At the Klimmt art exhibit in San Francisco, there was an amazing quote from someone named Herman Bahr in the year 1900:
Common to all people of this age is the fact that more is weighing on them than they can bear. No one is equal to his or her burden. Never before has life been so heavy for people. Just to exist requires them to muster an effort beyond their strength.
In 1900?!!! Compare it to today—jobs threatened, schooling expensive beyond our means, climate change getting real, random mass shootings (387 in the U.S. this year alone), the threat of nuclear extinction and the undeniable fact that our current government is riddled with uncaring incompetents who can’t see beyond their own greed and hunger for power. That’s a lot of weight to carry. No wonder that people look for simplistic solutions and join one-answer fundamentalist groups, be they religious, political or the NRA. Or flee to opiates to escape.
There is an alternative, to see collectively as Jung did psychologically that our sickness is our healing. That in times of great turmoil, the neglected soul is ready to announce itself and do the work it is called upon to do—to keep us connected to the heart of life. But that requires enormous effort, courageous honesty, the capacity to wholly see, feel and accept the pain, sorrow and grief that life is regardless of which government is in power or how good the economy is or isn’t.
But really, what other choice is there? Either we muster the strength to lift our burden, carry it and set it down where it belongs, or we are slowly brought to our knees. Depression is a rising epidemic because that weight that we refuse to carry is pressing down on us and Xanax can do nothing to solve it beyond temporarily stabilize us.
Today it is raining in San Francisco. That’s a beautiful thing, how it soaks the ground and quenches the thirst of plants, gets the rivers rolling and high up, the snowpack building. It wraps itself around us like a cozy blanket, sending us to some interior sense of participation in the mystery, giving us permission to sit on the couch with a great book, perhaps some gentle music playing, the smell of soup cooking on the stove. A chance to re-group and feel the life that is pressing on our neck ease up a bit.
Today I will once again spend time with children, who even as young as three are already carrying all the weight our culture is refusing. But they are fresh and resilient and when I create a time and space in my class for them to be free and unfettered and wholly themselves in their innocence and delight, they are refreshed, I am refreshed and the world is refreshed. What more can one ask for?