Pardon my hiatus from blogging but I needed time to do something I haven’t done in a while. Think. Yep I needed some time to do some good old fashioned thinking. When I say thinking I mean TV, cell phone, laptop, and such turned completely off, not just the volume turned down. Then I re-engaged with silence and lack of stimuli to let my mind run free.
Well actually I spent a few weeks of not blogging being like many others, both obsessed and disgusted with the news of the world. “How can I write when every day is a new episode of violence and I can’t keep up with the commentary” I thought. Basically I became overwhelmed and enthralled, expectant and concerned by the images, alerts, and dissension that has taken over the current cultural ethos. I gave parts of myself over to it in little sips and had to disengage in order to re-learn once again that life in fact does go on.
Goodwill appears to be at an all time low. Lawmakers are getting shot, calls for being uncivil abound, throats on trains are getting slit, London is a mess, and all I got was this lousy worry. Prayer and quiet got pushed aside since the November 2016 election for the next cruelty after the next. Like a deer in headlights or better yet a nihilistic deer in headlights, I forgot the mesmerizing effect of constant news is constant deathly fear.
Fear may be too strong of a word. Really what pulled me into the news stories ultimately was the draw to figure out what’s going on in order to protect my family. My wife works in a hot spot for potential targeted terrorism and of course when there’s terrorism, I have to pay attention. It’s good of course to remember that anytime anyone goes somewhere for something, danger is always possible. The spouse of a cop has to learn to live with their loved one out in a brutal world. We people have endured much crazy and still we live on. Giving into the hyperbole of politics, Trump tweets, and the backlash to the backlash doesn’t render much sanity for myself or anyone else.
At this point I know what most seasoned adults know; that life is hard, people die, danger lurks, and at some point pain is inevitable. One could say this is a very dark attitude however I don’t say these awful things to the exclusion of actual good. For the moment I’m not going to get into a tangent about what good is or isn’t. Each person is free to define that word in and out of action for themselves. Good is all around us and whether one calls it love, or grace, or ethics, or God, it is clear in life good is good and it leads to happiness.
Being an adult is about being able to discern truth from lies, propaganda from prophecy, and coerced peace from good intentions. In life there are dichotomies and part of the deal with this living business is to endure them. Sometimes we endure well & others times we don’t. That too is a part of the deal.
Recently I have set out to discover where goodwill towards our fellow man or woman exists. I didn’t have to go far. On the day downtown Portland had 4 rallies, one called right wing white supremacist event, the other three themed on justice of some sort I guess, I watched on the news as a very irate woman pointed her finger at the apparent haters of humanity and shouted with each poke of her finger into her imaginary enemy “hate, hate, hate.” With that we turned off the TV and went grocery shopping.
On TV the news made it appear as if all of the city of roses was downtown having a “who is more mad” contest. In reality the Fred Meyer grocery nearby was packed and I mean so full parking was hard to find. Instead of the town being full of animosity and fear, it was mostly people doing their thing, living their lives, getting BBQ briquettes and patio furniture and Mt. Hood strawberries. In other words life, real life, was business as usual.
After the grocery trip I walked some dogs and listened to the sounds of neighbors chatting with their families and lawn sprinklers doing their sprinkling. A Filipino lady whose garbage receptacle is often on her houses curb invited me from her place in her garden to put the bags of dog poo I had in hand, in her receptacle. I looked around as if a celebrity was asking me to star in their next project and asked “who me?” She smiled and said yes and that she has dogs and she knows how funky it is to carry poop. I almost said no out of politeness but she seemed to really want me to put the poop in her garbage can. It was a moment so small and precious, yet considering the tension happening only miles away downtown, it was refreshing.
Such graces happen all the time but the web of the world and all that feeds it can lead us to sit in front of a screen and bemoan how awful people are. The minute I step outside though I can find intersecting layers of invisible graces everywhere. From the dad who wants to yell at his kids but stops himself to find a new approach to the neighbor who tries to not blow their pot smoke into other neighbors windows, goodwill is often unseen and unheard but it is omnipresent, even when we forget to look for it.
While life will always have its worries it doesn’t mean I have to become worry. I don’t have to make myself unhappy with the noise of those who can’t or won’t try to find the goodwill in others. Yes an attitude of gratitude is nice but for me, what’s even more nice is being nice and trying to notice all the niceness that I experience everyday. It sometimes seems like a lot of work to pull away from the political circus and take back our psyches, but after some time, it becomes easier and easier to try something a little less toxic & more fulfilling. Even a grocery store trip or a walk can restore faith.
No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.
Today I choose not to war with this world and worry less about all the politics. In this era it may be more important than ever to meet someone where they are rather than where we think they ought to be. In order to truly do this though, we have to leave the house and discover the goodwill that is all over the place, if only we stop entangling ourselves in the webs of strife.