Learning To Cope With Tumultuous Change
Life amid protests and pandemic is challenging, but don’t get mad, get calm
Times, they are a changing
Everywhere around you, the world is changing.
Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben are retiring, at long last.
Monuments to slave owners and confederate “heroes” are plummeting to the ground. Even Jesus, depicted as white, is coming under scrutiny. Gone with the Wind and Song of the South productions and themes are being called out for racism, and canceled in some cases. Chokeholds, no-knock warrants, and lethal force are being eliminated from police department procedures. Unfurled flags and being furled for good. Corporations, ever fickle with profitable trends, are changing products, slogans, and practices. Street names, and even some city names are slated for revision.
Globally, demonstrations against racism, and for promoting pride among all human beings, are still unfolding with protests and sometimes, clashes, in hundreds of cities and towns.
Even Bob Dylan has a new kind of music out, and as he so famously and prophetically said in that last tumultuous decade, the 1960’s, times they are a changing.
So much at once!
All of this, is being played out amid the COVID 19, world pandemic. Many social observers had noted that indeed, some of what is being born into the world is precisely because of the pandemic. There was more than just face masks and sofa time that the pandemic brought with it: There was the deprivation. The concerns about food and water insecurity. The economic hardship that comes with a gigantic smashing of millions of people’s incomes. The limited freedom. The complete need to restructure livelihoods, and compensate essential workers. Even the realization that we all must build a whole new normal has enlivened everyone’s sense of self-improvement. With more time to reflect, more people came up with ideas for a more just, and cleaner, green world.
It seems as though it’s changing fast, but in reality, most of these events were decades, if not centuries, in the making.
The new world does feel like it’s either furiously being re-fitted, or falling into complete collapse, depending upon the day and the hour. All this insecurity can be daunting, even dangerous. We have to be very careful about the new world we are creating.
Take a breath, and let it fill you with calm
When I say don’t get mad, get calm, I don’t mean that we should not advocate for social justice. We should. But I think it is best done with a reflective mind, and gentle prodding. Broad, sweeping changes are sometimes made through violent upheaval, but most lasting change is made by winning hearts and minds.
Your heart and your mind — and those of everyone else — needs oxygen.
There are therapeutic ways to calm the mind, and still be open to revolutionary improvements to self and society.
How to cope? First of all, take a deep breath. The slogan of the day, “I can’t breathe.” is very appropriate to help you catch your breath. If you feel like you are in an oppressed minority, think about this. Think about the flow of your breath, and how every other being on Earth either shares the molecules of that breath, or creates it. This will center your belonging. It’s a good place to start.
Catching your breath will also help you cleanse your mind of clutter, and find gratitude for the beauty of the creation that is all around you. No doubt, you have experienced injustice in your life. It is time to take stock of that, and realize it’s as universal as rain. Yes, we do need to find the tools to make life more just for the systematically discriminated against, but we also need to find our common ground as a place to begin.
Move your body, and move the needle
Let our common ground, literally, keep you grounded. If you can, take a walk outside in nature and find some of the beauty of your surroundings. We do have to take precautionary measures every time we go outside, but being outside, is still glorious in the summer of 2020.
I know, because I am in the heart of the Cascade mountains, in a state named for a slave-holder, George Washington. This man is also known as the “father of our country.” Take time to reflect upon all of the history that brought us to where we are today. Make your own conclusions, don’t let any mob, angry, or benevolent, make up your mind for you.
When I take time for reflection in nature, cherishing each breath of fresh air, my mind clears. When you fill all your senses with slow time, fresh scenes, and green, riotous summer growth all around you, you realize what really, truly matters.
I am thinking today, for example, about George Washington, and White Jesus. Surely some of our historic representations are wrong. Some must be reoriented toward more equal representation, and others, like White Jesus, I suspect, will over time simply be replaced with more accurate depictions of what an actual Jesus is best known for.
That Washington inspired freedom is right. That Jesus inspired compassion is right. I do understand that a very great majority of people are not going to start ripping up one-dollar bills, or storming churches to decapitate crucifixes. But, hopefully, we will over time revise many things to reflect communal growth as people, and as nations.
While contemplating it in the woodlands yesterday, I found that my initial reaction to “canceling George Washington” was irritation. But, as I thought about it further, I realized we don’t have to cancel anything historical, we just need to add more to the story. For example, I see Washington daily on money, flags, and more, but why not teach our children the names of his slaves, and the fates of the long ago, perished, who also contributed to creating the United States of America?
Moving my heart just a little helps move the needle of human progress just a wee bit. That’s what each of us must do. Looking out at the gorgeous Cascade mountains, I realized that I was born in Washington state, but maybe I will die in “Cascadia state”. That’s just a better name, on many different levels.
That historical figures come in different colors is best to remind ourselves of as we are moving forward. Their color may be secondary, but we still must pay attention to trying to make depictions honest and to put those we honor into a richer, fuller context.
Take time to reflect alone before brainstorming with others
Reflection time, preferably alone — and afterwards with others of varying viewpoints — will help you cope with this moment in history. You will find that when you take time to let go of fury and outrage, you can achieve a resettled mind that assures you. It will all be made right, if we just both listen and speak, but always follow the path of compassion for every living being.
It will be alright, because it is the duty of each of us to make it so.
The path of compassion is what I am calling the road ahead toward a better world. To get on this path requires of all of us to calm down, be reflective, and engage with ideas you may not be comfortable with at first.
After time alone with nature and quiet in-breath, out-breath, sense-taking, you will find an urge to reconnect, to share your thoughts with others. We have many more options that just the village square these days. Every manner of social media, and good ole’ fashioned over the fence talks with your neighbor are helpful.
You will find that others have just as many insights, and they can share with you viewpoints that offer a new perspective you need to hear.
The many changes brought into our lives by current events are not going anywhere. This means you and I have time for such reflection, and conversations.
Easy as pie in a world that’s no cake walk
I am not trying to tell you that the world will be fixed by a walk in the meadow, or some mindful, reflective breathing.
But, I promise you, it will be better. The challenges we face on Earth right now are huge. We must all be together, in determined alliance to fix so many things we have broken.
Our twenty-first century world is not a cake walk. But it is still a precious and beautiful world worth saving. Finding daily beauty, gratitude, reflection, and shared insights with others is not easy, either.
Such seeking takes real work and effort. And time. No one said staying calm is easy, in the world where outrage spills from every screen and newspaper.
But the prize is a healthier, kinder, world. And that takes the cake.