Some mornings I wake with my mind darting around the room like a scared mouse who has found itself in the wrong place; the eyes of my thoughts unsure of what to see and what to do. The news: 194 dead in Turkey coup, 1,000 hospitalized; 11 days of gun violence in U.S. – 509 killed, 1,077 injured; 84 killed, 202 injured in Nice, France terrorist attack by truck plowing through crowd…
My little boy, just 6, sits in the living room, curled up in a blanket with his dog, watching cartoons, waiting patiently for 8 AM, when he is allowed on his Wii game player. He comes in my dark room, shades drawn, and says, “We can’t go to the beach or pool today because it’s rainy.” Yes, it’s rainy, my Love. Seems to me the whole world is in tears lately.
I know why people look away when the news comes through. How can one reconcile living every day with their children concerned about simple, innocent tasks like getting to the pool; with their dogs resting in their laps, and life safely rolling forward in the way life ought to, and then, “out there”, the terror that is rampant mental illness and disregard for human life storming through the streets, where sweet children and their parents are caught off guard by any person’s pain and rage gone awry. How can we make sense of the contrast?
What are we not giving each other – that our anguish can grow inside us and morph into violence unspeakable?
Where is Love absent?
Years ago I heard the beloved Wayne Dyer say that “evil” is just Light turned away from its source. That statement stuck with me because it brings Grace to the darkness of the world and the darkness inside myself. Yes, we all have places where we will not let the Light in, places where we don’t know how. If we knew how, I am convinced that this whole business of being human would be unnecessary and we’d be busy on other more enlightened planes and planets. But we’re not; we’re busy here and the shadows get to be too much for some people. They turn into psychosis for a select few (though the numbers seem to be growing), and that few wreaks a havoc that imprints on all of us.
How do we make it through without losing it? How do we make it through without losing the Light?
I think people are starving. Starvation is, by definition, a severe deficiency in energy intake needed to maintain a human life. It is the most extreme form of malnutrition. In humans, prolonged starvation can cause permanent illness and eventually death. According to the World Health Organization, physical hunger is the single gravest threat to the world’s public health. But, I would say that it is also stark symbolism for what we are most starving for.
- We are starving for Love – for the virtues of kindness, compassion, connection, affection, unity, belonging, acceptance, goodness, safety. To be absolutely seen, heard, valued – Love. To be held in our constant barrage of grief and confusion – will we step up more in our families and then our communities to hold the space for each other when the darkness becomes overshadowing?
We starve our children first and best. Most of us don’t mean to, yet when we ourselves are malnourished on the inside, we withhold the virtues of Love from our children, and they churn that absence in their little minds and hearts into dangerous thought processes and behaviors that affect themselves and/or others down the road. We have to do better for ourselves and our children. Can we use the virtues of Love and our committed presence with our children to nourish them better, right now?
Years ago, I was in a TJ Maxx store, and from far away, along with many other women in the store who stopped and stared, I witnessed a mother smack her toddler across the isle and into a tall mirror, with a level of violence that is only possible when the heart is malnourished, the soul starving. And yet, I did not call the police. I did not step up to rescue the child. I played the scenarios out in my mind. I was scared of the mother, too. But mostly I was scared of the outcome – will it harm the children more to endure the nightmare of their mother being arrested in front of their eyes? Do I want to be a part of the uncertainty and fear they will experience? Where will the children be taken? Self doubt: Have I misunderstood what I’ve seen? Is this a cultural difference that is none of my business? (We were different ethnicities, as if that matters.) And even so, if she did this is in public, what horrors are happening to these children in private? I will always regret not responding differently that day. In retrospect, I was malnourished, too. Someone living Love out loud would sacrifice themselves as a beacon of Light in dark times. Even as I say that, I argue, “Yes, but…” No buts. In every moment, we are either choosing Light or we’re choosing darkness. We’re each of us either choosing to be filled up and fueled by Love or we’re choosing deprivation and fear. And when we choose deprivation for ourselves, that’s what we have to offer others, too.
- We are starving for dialogue. I am always reassured of the truth of this when I witness people taking, or being given, the opportunity to speak. Yes, we most often talk about ourselves. Our egocentrism is a species problem, but I believe it is intermixed with a stronger desire to connect, to bridge the gap of our separateness, both from each other and from the Light (our God-source).
We desire dialogue that has permission in it – a cultural and familial consent to talk about real things, to reveal who we truly are without judgement, to speak and listen in ways that bring the meaning of our days to the surface. I know plenty of people who believe that they don’t need this type of interaction with others, but I would argue that that is the inner dialogue of a malnourished soul. Most often, the desire to keep conversations superficial and safe is a learned behavior, sometimes part of family or cultural pathologies, to eliminate or diminish the risk that we may be hurt. We suffer greatly when we are not authorized (do not authorize ourselves) to talk about the goings-on in our minds and hearts, and when we do not make it a point to learn how to communicate (and listen) more effectively about the undercurrent of our internal and emotional lives. Additionally, I think the “noise” we experience from social media and the world these days, is really just the acting out of an inability to have true, productive dialogue. We have to have better dialogue that allows us to be seen and heard and teaches us to listen, for ourselves and our children. Can we teach ourselves and each other permissive dialogue and the tools that will make it healing, productive, and an instrument of Light?
- We are starving for safety. I think that there is large body of work out there today from clinicians, researchers, healers, people working in psychology, social and health sciences; clergy, etc. that points to our twisted relationship with safety and fear. This relationship is intrinsically wound up with our relationship with darkness and Light. There is no freedom from the occurrence of injury, danger, or loss; and yet our obsession with obtaining this freedom and therefore, securing our mortality and sanity, leads us to do the craziest things. All sorts of neurosis come out of our desperation for internal and external safety.
And yet, because we can not recognize this relationship in our own everyday functioning, we do little to teach our youth about it. We don’t do enough to teach about how every person is subject to unchecked fears that can become distressing to a person, possibly resulting in behavior that violates social safety norms and results in counter-productive neurosis. We need more tools for understanding how we can remain safe in ourselves and create a world where the safety of ourselves and others begins with us – with attention to our own anxieties, phobias, coping skills, and nervousness in the world. We have to do better for ourselves and our children. Can we commit to learning about our own relationships with safety and fear and how to maintain a healthy balance in a world tipped too far in the direction of nonsensical injury, danger, and loss?
I spend so much of my time feeding myself the good. It is one of the few ways that I know I can be a warrior of the Light – to at least nourish and inspire myself with information that is power, with coping tools that are empowering, with wisdom that is Light-filled. Because yes, “where your attention goes, your energy flows”. Some moments I am racked with the senseless suffering out here, but I do not pretend that I am confused about where it comes from. It starts so very small and either grows/becomes larger or heals/becomes smaller inside of each of us.
There is a Cherokee legend which you may be familiar with, but let me repeat it here:
An old Cherokee is teaching his son about life, “A fight is going on inside me, ” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
I would elaborate on this legend only by saying that the “evil’ wolf just needs to be turned back toward the Light, and loved back to its goodness.
We must do better for ourselves and our children. Can we learn to feed the right wolves by bringing the Light of who we are, the all-encompassing Love that we come from, and the endless goodness that is possible within us to the table? Can we fight for ourselves and the children of the world from this place? We must.