“The Sky Is Not Falling!”

...even if the world is getting worse

image ©Disney Corporation, 2005

If the line that we see the world not as it is but as we are is true (and I’m convinced it is), there are a lot of dark, fearful, negative, cynical people in the world who look around them and see only despair, only things to fear, only the sky falling down around them.

I find myself affected by this. It’s hard work running around crying “the sky is not falling” to a world that is curiously convinced that it is, that there is no hope, that we have reason to despair in this generation, that America and the world are going to hell in a hand basket. The dreariness and hopelessness are penetrating. They get under your skin and drag you into this gloomy world, where everything is wrong, everything is a cause for outrage, everything cries out, “Don’t be naive — it’s awful and it’s only going to get worse.”

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On Suffering, Loss, and Being Okay

How I Know That Whatever You're Going Through, You'll Be Fine

suffering

123rf.com

I’m developing a capacity for suffering, for losing people I love, and yet I know deep down that I will be okay. In fact, I know it because of the suffering and loss.

I know you’ll be okay too. I want to share with you how I’ve come to know this.

A Word About My Own Suffering

I was dx’d with multiple sclerosis 25 years ago, December 5, 1990.

I didn’t get on a DMD (disease modifying drug) until 1998. During that time I had one or two flareups. I got onto my first DMD in 98 and was on it for about four/five years. During that time I had one or two flareups as well, but might have had more if not for the medication. No way to know. I purchased and used a cane for the first time. I would go years without using it. I even considered throwing it away a few times, as its presence reminded me that one day I might need it.

I went off meds in 2003 when the DMD I was injecting caused cardiomyopathy. I was off all DMD’s for years because interferon, the active ingredient that had caused the heart damage, was in nearly all of them. During that entire time off medication, I had three or four flareups, but they were pretty bad. Off work. Unable to drive, type, read, etc. I couldn’t feel my hands, feet or face. [If you’re now thinking of the pop song (I can’t feel my face when I’m with you…”), I definitely did not “love it.”]

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What My Perfect Post Would Say

my perfect post -- notebook

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I realized today that my obsession with blogging is actually a search for the perfect post. I want to write a post that can heal the wounds of all who read it, that can turn a selfish reader into a selfless one, that can convince every reader that they don’t have to worry about their lives and the world, that could somehow convince every person who reads it to lay down their burdens and live in peace.

I know it’s naive, and I haven’t even gotten started. I want to write a post that can help people see God, that can help them heal their relationships, forgive those who have hurt them, and feel like it’s okay to be human, to be vulnerable, to not know the answers to every question, to drop their defenses, to stick their necks out a little.

Of course what I’ve written so far is in itself impossible, but the perfect post would do so much more. It would eradicate fear and hatred from our world, and then teach people how to live in the fearless, completely loving world that would be left. It would convince people once and for all of the absolute, objective value of learning to meditate, of not fearing one’s own company, of becoming comfortable in silence and seeking it out more often, of learning — whatever it takes — to be much less reactive and much more proactive.

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On Being a Non-Anxious Presence

Ultimately all you really have to give to another person is yourself. And that is enough. Presence is the most powerful force in the universe, humanly speaking. When I go to hospitals to visit sick and scared people, they already know I can’t fix them and they don’t expect  me to. What they really need is someone who refuses to succumb to fear. They and their family are likely lost in anxiety. Often their minds are darting everywhere, looking at every possibility, begging and bargaining with God, unable to get away from frightening possibilities at every turn.

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Be the Change

Gandhi - quotes

One of Gandhi’s most famous quotes is, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” This pretty well wraps up the heart of true spirituality. True spirituality stops “waiting on the world to change,” recognizing that the world will not change until individual human beings change.

The reason this is not happening at the level it needs to is because we are each wired to think that others need to change more than we do.

Richard Rohr says that the cycle of violence actually begins with comparison. We compare, we compete, we conflict, we conspire, we condemn and we then crucify with impunity.

Comparing means that when I look at the world and think about what needs to be different, what I see is how much worse other people are than me. I think, “If they would just pull it together, this world would be a better place.”

The problem is that everyone is doing this at the same time.

I think you should change.

You think I should change.

Democrats think Republicans should change.

Republicans think Democrats should change.

Israelis think Palestinians should change.

Palestinians think Israelis should change.

Non-terrorists think terrorists should change, and terrorists think they are forced to be terrorists in order to get the rest of the world to change.

And the wheel goes ’round.

Everyone in the world longs for change, but we long for it in others. And since we are so powerless to make others change, we become increasingly frustrated, and then vocal, and then insistent, and then forceful, and eventually violent.

What is happening at the world level in terms of violence is happening constantly at the personal level in the heart of every human being on the planet.

You think your marriage would be better if your spouse would change, and your spouse thinks the exact same thing — how much better the marriage would be if you would change.

Most of us believe we are better than other people because we do  not allow our cycles of violence to erupt into actual physical violence, failing to see that the same root of violence grows in each of us.

Yes, it’s good to pull the plant out before it blossoms into violence, but we must see that the root is exactly the same. Jesus understood this well.

Matthew 5:21-24 (ESV)
21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Jesus insightfully targets malice, contempt, and anger as the root of physical violence like murder.

Even in most of those that never commit actual murder, the malice, contempt, and anger from which murder grows are alive and well — and often actually nurtured and excused, as we point the finger at others.

Jesus then says that the answer to this is to be proactive, not in forcing the other to change, but in accepting personal responsibility and seeking reconciliation.

He does not say that we are to seek reconciliation if we remember we have something against someone else, but rather if we remember that someone else has something against us.

He puts each of us in the place of being the person who needs to change. That is exactly what Gandhi does with “Be the change.”

Interesting enough, Jesus says we are to do this even if we are at worship.

Love between each of us is therefore exalted as more important than religious ritual, as well it should be.

Love IS the expression of God in human life.