(This is Part 2 in a series. If you missed Part 1, you can read it here.)
Joy of joys – spring is here! And at the same time, war and conflict rage in the Ukraine and elsewhere and the pandemic continues and inflation ramps up… How am I to hold it all?
Here are a few things that have helped me hold onto some semblance of equanimity as my emotions soar and plummet throughout the day. I share them in hopes that they will remind you of what helps you nurture and hold onto hope in the midst of everything.
Alan Jacobs describes “news-resilience” as “finding ways to stay properly informed while avoiding doomscrolling and other forms of obsessive behavior.” We do, of course, need to be aware of what’s going on in the world. We are not called to stick our heads in the sand – we are called to bring compassion and love to those who are suffering. But we need to be aware of how the media shapes our view, and monitor how the barrage of images affects us. We need to be deliberate in our consumption of news. (1)
The Serenity Prayer
I seem to keep circling back to this prayer as I navigate the challenges and conflicts of my daily life and think about the challenges facing the world:
God grant me the Serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And the Wisdom to know the difference.
Prayer is powerful, but is not a substitute for action. Sometimes WE are the answer to prayer – for ourselves and others. Give to reputable organizations that can help in places you are physically unable to be. And help those in your immediate vicinity in the ways you can. It can sometimes feel like our individual actions do not matter. But remember that, just as anxiety and fear are “catching,” so are love and peace.
Remember and Celebrate the Good
I have been inspired by people who have lived in the midst of conflict. One example is Ari Honavar, a woman who grew up in Iran in the midst of war and political upheaval. Ari asserts that savoring a pleasant moment is a “radical act.” She says that while it of course critical to be informed about events of the moment, “it’s also a time to infect each other with love and fortifying stories.”
She tells of one night during the Iran-Iraq war when she was seven years old. Her family went to the rooftop to watch the anti-aircraft missiles shoot into the air. She says, “To my 7-year-old eyes, the brilliant red patterns in the pitch-black sky rivaled the most magnificent fireworks display. But underneath the awe there was a simmering terror brewing in my belly of not knowing who was going to die next. Was it going to be me? My best friend? My sister in Tehran? My teacher?”
What happened next is seared in her memory: Someone from another rooftop shouted a verse of poetry from the beloved poet Rumi:
Even if, from the sky, poison befalls all,
I’m still sweetness
wrapped in sweetness
wrapped in sweetness…
Ari says that, “Even as a young child, I could feel the ecstasy of these verses in my heart, radiating to every cell of my being. In an instant, my world not only became sane, but infinite and glorious. And what bomb could ever touch that?”(2)
What If We Don’t Need To Hold It?
Perhaps we don’t need to hold it all. Perhaps we don’t need to “house” the joy or the grief in this one fragile body of ours. Perhaps we can allow the wonder and grief to be a “duet,” acknowledging it all – the sweetness and the pain – and letting our emotions move through like a song, so that we can again and again “choose the river.” So that we can again and again choose to return our attention to the God who is bigger than the world’s brokenness, to the Divine who wraps us in sweetness, wrapped in sweetness, wrapped in sweetness. So that we can take action to love others and to contribute to change, and even, in the words of Gandhi, be the change we want to see in the world. Perhaps we don’t need to hold anything.
Thanks be to God.