I’m extremely lucky to have a few ‘canaries’ on Twitter. These are the people who point out when the air has fouled to the point where it’s a good time to re-assess my habits, and turn away from the negativity. This is a point that I notice for myself, but tend to keep adding ‘one more’ quip, as if I’m contributing something useful. I’m not. I just don’t have the kind of friends on social media who a) need a nudge to do the right thing, or b) have thought so little about the issues that 140(ish) characters are going to sway them. Unfortunately, I’m also not all that consistently funny on the dark side.
Maybe this is just about my own mental state, and it would be enough reason just for this, but I think there’s a larger consideration. Amidst all our constant (and probably justified) hand-wringing, are we fostering the world we want to live in? Yes, we’re not going to be facing ‘this’ for much longer, but after ‘this’, we’ll have to deal with ‘that’. There’s always a ‘that’ ahead. In fact, I tend to hold that as consolation in the darkest times. Whatever I’m dealing with today soon will be a memory, and I’ll have whole new problems to handle. If you squint, a little, it’s pretty comforting. Try it.
So, other than investing all our mental energy into darkly complaining the universe towards peace and justice, what are the other alternatives? As an atheist, I don’t subscribe to the ‘God’s Will’ prescription, but I do find it comforting to steal a few tricks from the Buddhists, particularly people like Thich Nhat Hanh, who managed to live through the chaos of the Vietnam Era (which seemed just as insurmountable as anything we’re handling now), and respond with statements like “It is time for North and South Vietnam to find a way to stop the war and help all Vietnamese people live peacefully and with mutual respect.”. His trick for positivity, as relayed in a lot of great books, and woefully underserved by my description, is Mindfulness.
By my interpretation, and no one should consider that authoritative, the power of Mindfulness is not in ignoring the stresses and worries of life, but in accepting them as a natural part of life. I can acknowledge the evil and injustice of the world without resigning to them. I allow myself to feel them along with all the other experiences in my life, and appreciate the gift inherent in all these moments, good and bad.
Among the trillions of atoms that have spawned in the atomic furnaces that make up our Universe, so few will ever have the opportunity to ponder existence, to feel joy, pain, disappointment or love. Even as I look out into a world full of hate, pain, and suffering, I am lucky to be alive. I am even luckier to be self-aware. I’m trying not to squander that awareness, and I intend to take every opportunity to feel and fully experience as much as possible, even ‘this’.