“How to cope in a world gone mad” was the theme of last night’s Men’s Group. A timely theme indeed. But when has it not been? Pick a year, enter it on Google and read about what happened that year. The world has always been a mess and though it’s hard to imagine it, we are so much better in so many ways than we ever have been. Yes, there is a horrendous explosion of backlash from those watching their unearned power and privilege slipping away and the desperate acts of men—and women— driven by their fear of losing their right to hate and dominate and dismiss and refuse to look into the state of their own soul. That’s one way to read the Capitol Riots, the invasion of Ukraine and the existence of Tucker Carlson. And yes, every time history repeats itself, the price goes up. And yes, the race between education and catastrophe has a time limit that is fast approaching and the banning of teaching social justice in schools, the burning of books, the approved bullying of trans students and other nightmares is not a happy sign. For those who cling naively to the notion of the light at the end of the tunnel, it appears that it just might be the headlights of a train coming the other way to run us down.
And yet. Given the choice between living with the despair of "we're all screwed!!" and considering the possibility that there is a larger story at work here, that the buds of Spring on the branches outside the window may flower after a long, hard Winter, why not choose the latter? Not naively, but actively. Nature will take care of the trees, but the blossoming of human nature needs our effort. What would that look like?
It might begin with grabbing hold of our depression about events and cook it into grief, that active choice to feel the full pain and sorrow of a human life, to sit with it, to hold it, to live with it, to sing it out in a glorious blues. And in so doing, get on top of the sadness pressing down on us. In so doing, to open our compassion to our fellow limping, wounded, suffering souls, which is everyone, no matter how you might try to hide it under money or blaming others for your failures. In so doing, to say a full Yes to the difficult demands of a human incarnation.
It might mean taking your raw anger that the world is not the way you want to be and cooking that into focused outrage, the long, hard, path of political action. From the click of online petitions to writing postcards to knocking on doors to attending city council meetings.
It certainly should include answering the incomprehensible and meaningless destruction with the beauty of meaningful creation, be it writing poems, playing music, creating artwork, choreographing a dance, cooking a festive meal. It would be good for us all to spend more time with children and be infected by their innate delight and hope and curiosity and humor and the way they’re counting on us to bequeath them a world. It’s always good to walk in the natural world, where no tree throws its pine cones at you if it doesn’t like your race, gender, class, sexual orientation or religion. To notice how the trees grew around the one struck by fire in a circle of compassion. (See drawing above of redwood trees in Muir Woods).
Here’s the deal. No one — and I mean no one— has any idea what the future will bring.The future is a story being written by how we act and think now. What happens tomorrow depends so much on what we do today. So if we wallow in despair, feel paralyzed by hopelessness, try to escape into distraction, we help write a hopeless story. If we dig deep and move forward with the most hopeful, imaginative and compassionate part of ourselves, the story we help write might turn out better.
And even if it doesn't, why not do it anyway? As Mother Teresa said:
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honest and transparency make you vulnerable.
Be honest and transparent anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Give the world the best you have and you may get hurt.
Give the world your best anyway.
Listen to your mother.