I cannot express how deep my aversion to writing about gratitude is, right now, and so I must find a way. It makes sense to say that it is due to all the bad news in the world. I am still grateful, perhaps even more profoundly so, but gratitude in times of crisis, war and loss of life is not a plaster to try to soothe a boo boo. Being grateful in times like these requires first accepting the horror around us, and then finding the good in that.
I see people doing their best to cope and sometimes that means putting a plaster on the gaping wound in our collective soul. Sometimes it means having a shot of whiskey and white knuckling it through the pain, apparently unaware of how the soul of the world is bleeding. Sometimes it means screaming at the top of our lungs and reacting like a wounded animal. I understand. And, I can’t participate.
I am taking a retreat from the world for the next little while. Living in a city and having obligations, that doesn’t mean I get to spend 40 days and 40 nights wandering the desert. It means that I get to choose how I spend my time and social media is off the table. I say that, and yet, I kept checking social media yesterday for word from friends who are the kind of expats who might have been targeted in Mali. One posted immediately. The other didn’t post until 5 am my time. I awoke, certain that something had happened and some of his beat boy poetry was the first item in my feed. He was safe. For now.
I am tired of checking Facebook on what seems to be a weekly basis to see if my friends have been caught up in the violence in their part of the world. I thought, as I was making my coffee this morning, about all the violence we use to combat violence. It isn’t working. What if we tried peace and reconciliation? What if we accepted, as a body politic, that our oil prices would rise and our standard of living crash if we just stopped all the violence? What if we stopped protecting our domestic borders by stomping around foreign lands? What if…? And I wondered. Is the heart of humankind inherently peaceful and cooperative, or not? I don’t have the answer to that. I can imagine that revenge is sweet, but how sweet is the taste of something on the taste buds when it fails to generate the reaction anticipated? Perhaps we might just get bored of killing one day.
I am grateful that my mother’s people are pacifists. I was raised with another philosophy than that of my father’s people and the prevailing philosophy of the west. I am at a loss of what to do with it. Passive people don’t act out. There is a non-doing in their protest. That feels to be both my only viable course and a very uncomfortable position, right now. I wish my mother were still alive – on a daily basis. But in times like these – times she never saw, with terrorism being common place – I wish I had her counsel.
I am grateful that my friend RN checked in as safe and that my classmate JH was not in Mali at that hotel where hostages were taken, yesterday. I know that many other circles of friends and families cannot say the same. I know that I am practicing selective attention and I will not apologise for worry over my friends, even as I acknowledge the atrocities that draw journalists, UN and NGO types to these places. I am grateful that I took the time to do a brave thing with a former classmate and tell him that I love him. I don’t want to wait till it is too late to let people know that they are loved. He might think I am a total nut job and that’s ok. How I appear is not important. What is important is that he know he is loved.
I am grateful that my room is warm and that I have food in the fridge and in my belly. I looked this morning at my single room and wondered how many refugees could sleep here. I think 8- 10 adults could try it, plus a few small children. I am grateful that I was born in the west and that I cannot tolerate people dying as they flee horrors. I struggle to know what to do beyond what I have been doing. I am grateful that people like JH are on the ground in dangerous places, to make a difference and save the lives and futures of those who might otherwise flee, especially the children. He is a peace building specialist. I am so proud to know him.
It was a joy to wake this morning to a bit of sunshine. My mood could use a walk in that.
I am on retreat. However, I am constantly seeking to connect with oneness and silence the chit chat. It helps me to regain equilibrium, although I admit to having lost it, yesterday. I take it as a serious, and perhaps the most important action I can take, to actively seek to connect and magnify the light.
It may sound weird, but I consider my service to be that act of warding off fear and despair. My service is to feel the pain and look for and to magnify the light of humanity. If that doesn’t sound like service, then you are a far stronger person than I.
And so it just remains for me to ask:
For what are you grateful, today?