How to Face the Mess We’re In Without Going Crazy
The beloved American playwright Lorraine Hansberry once observed: “One cannot live with sighted eyes and a feeling heart and not know the miseries that affect the world.”
Those miseries moved a little closer to home for me this week, 20,000 people evacuated from the devastation of wildfires just 40 miles north of where I live, ash falling on my computer as I write this outdoors in my garden.
It’s hard to know how to face the mess we’re in. Last week I suggested in the RRR post Where’s the Safety Net? that trusting in love, trusting in taking action, and trusting in the order inherent in the larger picture would be good places to start. This post offers some suggestions for trusting that trust.
Joanna Macy, environmental activist, Buddhist scholar, and author of Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re In Without Going Crazy, once said:
You don’t have to do everything. Do what calls your heart. Effective action comes from love. It is unstoppable, and it is enough.
We begin to trust that what we do from love, however small, for however many people, for whatever cause calls us, is enough when we take any action coming from love and experience that it IS enough.
I’m going to suggest stating very small because the brain learns its new habits, its new responses to the mess we’re in when we do something little and often. Small incremental changes repeated many times is just fine for building trust in trust.
1. Identify one thing you could do:
– to assuage someone’s fear,
– to encourage someone who’s faltering,
– to express appreciation for a favor done,
– to protest some unfair treatment
– to contribute to a cause you believe in, at home or around the world.
2. Do that one thing today. Notice how you feel about yourself as you experience that doing. (Not the person’s reactions; your doing.)
3. Repeat doing that one thing ten more times for different recipients or for the same people on different occasions. Notice your own reaction for each experiment.
4. Repeat as many times as necessary for this one behavior to become a new habit, a natural action you take in response to the misery.
5. When you get discouraged yourself, read this poem by Vaclav Havel, who led his people to the overthrow of Communist rule in Czechoslovakia. Trusting in trust.
It is I Who Must Begin
It is I who must begin.
Once I begin, once I try –
here and now,
right where I am,
not excusing myself
by saying things
would be easier elsewhere,
without grand speeches and
but all the more persistently
–to live in harmony
with the “voice of Being,” as I
understand it within myself
–as soon as I begin that,
I suddenly discover,
to my surprise, that
I am neither the only one,
nor the first,
not the most important one
to have set out upon that road.
Whether all is really lost
or not depends entirely on
whether or not I am lost.
– Vaclav Havel