I have a friend who has been studying climate science for ten years and believes that we are headed for destruction, and much sooner than any of us realize. She believes that we are like the Titanic, that we’ve hit the iceberg, and that there is no turning back. She reads every article about every eco-disaster, every vanishing species and she agonizes daily about the looming disaster.
I have two friends, a couple, who voted for Trump. They believe there is no such thing as global warming, that Trump’s treatment of women is just the way men are, that he is doing a great job. That his firing of James Comey was the right thing to do and had nothing to do with the investigation into his or his administration’s ties with Russia. They get into many arguments with their other friends, most of whom do not share their opinions. The arguments get heated. People get red-faced, mean to each other and no one leaves feeling understood.
I have another friend who is beside herself with anguish about the current state of our country and our current president. She believes democracy is ending, that we are becoming a country run by a dictator, like those in the Middle East. She hasn’t been able to sleep well or at all since the election. She writes letters to congress people, makes phone calls, marches incessantly and still, she walks around exhausted, depressed and despairing.
Lena Dunham, as reported by Breitbart.com, listed her 20 diet tips two days ago. Amongst them were: anxiety disorder; resultant constant nausea; constant sweaty dreams of a dystopian future; a quiet rage that replaces food with need for revenge. (She also wrote that giving tips is opposed to everything her career is about).
My opinion here is of no consequence. Opinions don’t change lives. What I’m interested in is how to live in a way that does. And here’s what I know, based on my direct experience.
I know that walking around in a constant state of fear or anxiety or, on the flip side, self-righteousness and smugness, does not lead to anything but more fear, more anxiety, more judgment, more divisiveness.
I know that the world outside is a reflection of the world inside. It can’t be anything else. “The world outside” is only each of us multiplied by billions of people. We are looking at the inside of minds when we look at the news. That’s it. That’s all. We are looking at the insanity of where minds go (see my last few posts about this) when they feel threatened. Or just because that’s what minds do. They are always for or against something. They never feel secure. They feel perpetually aggrieved except for brief moments when they get what they think they want.
When I look at politicians, I see a bunch of ghost children—little kids with undigested feelings that were never attended to. Little kids who think war is a way to solve things. Little ghost kids who believe that if they can just smash the other kid, everything will be fine. Little kids in big bodies who are still fighting like they are on the sixth grade playground, but now, instead of sticks, they have bombs.
And so it is. And that’s what we have to live in and with. And that’s our task: to figure out a way to live in this world, and therefore, in our bodies, that doesn’t cause or generate more despair, more suffering. Which means that the biggest task, and where it all begins, is to start with our own minds, our own lives. Because if change is going to happen at all, it needs to start here, with us. It needs to start with the way we talk to our friends, our children, our spouses, the cashier at the market. It needs to begin with turning towards your own ghost children with an infinite amount of tenderness and hearing what was never heard. If there is no adult present inside yourself, when you wake up in the morning, when you turn to food for comfort when you are not hungry, when you argue with your spouse, when you shame yourself, then we are just like the boys on the playground.
In the end, we’re all going to die. It’s only a matter of when. Matt’s first wife died when she was 33. My first boyfriend died when he was 16. We are not owed a long life, but we can make a commitment to make this life that we have now be grounded in goodness, no matter how long we have left. We can question our opinions. We can understand that most of the time, as I said on Super Soul Sunday, we are looking through loops of lack.
And we can question that.
We can end our own suffering by falling into peace over and over and over again, so that everyone we talk to, everyone we touch, every action we take is an expression of the goodness we long for in the world. If we stop waiting for them out there (whoever they are, politicians or spouses) to become better people and realize that we are them, we are the world, we will have everything we wanted from out there—and the world out there will change.