Friends… I’m low on hope today.
I’m still pretty sick about Newtown. And while I’m glad for developments like Sen. Bob Casey’s change of heart on increased gun regulation, and I wish Vice President Biden the best, I have little hope that meaningful change will happen. The NRA bills itself as an organization that’s all about the rights of individual gun owners, but it is increasingly funded by and cozy with the gazillion-dollar gun industry. I don’t care how many earnest Facebook updates we write. It’s about money and it’s about clout.
I sent some money to Gabby Giffords, but still… I’m low on hope.
I woke up on this mid-January morning to discover that after three days of unnerving fog, we will now have three days of rain and ominously mild temperatures.
We have not had meaningful snow in three winters. Our normal average is 15 inches.
This is not the climate I moved into almost ten years ago. Yes… things have noticeably changed in less than a decade. Meanwhile, 2012 was the hottest year ever recorded.
Again, I don’t have much hope that our leaders will do anything to combat climate change… despite this:
It just feels stacked against us, you know? We face difficult problems, and big debates need to happen. I may be wrong about stuff. I need to be called on things. But I don’t like the feeling that might equals right and that the ones with the money call the shots. Yet that’s what we’re dealing with.
Is it a marketplace of ideas? OK fine, it’s a marketplace. And some ideas are crackpot, and some are well-intentioned but based on bad data, and some are good but need some work. The problem is, there is no correlation between the validity of an idea and the amount of money behind it.
What do you listen to during your morning run when you’re convinced the world is screwed? You listen to Krista Tippett. Krista will make it OK.
January 10, 2013
Compassion’s Edge States: Roshi Joan Halifax on Caring Better
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the bad news and horrific pictures in the world. This is a form of empathy, Joan Halifax says, that works against us. The Zen abbot and medical anthropologist has bracing, nourishing thoughts on finding buoyancy rather than burnout in how we work, live, and care.
Touché, Holy Spirit. Touché.
I will include the pertinent bit at the end of this post, because maybe you’re feeling low on hope too.
The other part is that I had a dream last night that I was running a half marathon. But it was a ridiculous one. We were running up and down the ramps of a parking garage, again and again, for 13.1 miles. There were no water stations. It was too crowded. Some of the inclines were so steep I had to use my hands to hoist myself along.
I woke up irritated and griped to Robert about this blatant anxiety dream. But then while I was running with Krista and Joan in my ears, I realized something.
I didn’t stop running.
No wait—I did stop. I had a hissy fit because this wasn’t what I expected and it shouldn’t be this way and who’s the idiot in charge and I didn’t even SIGN UP for this stupid race!!!
But then I started running again. And I didn’t reach the end before I woke up. But I knew I was capable of keeping going. And it was enough just to know that. That’s enough hope for today.
Ms. Tippett: And, you know, what I was thinking as I was reading this is it touches on something that’s happening even also to us as citizens to a different degree. It’s come up here at Chautauqua this week. Compassionate people are overwhelmed now with the deluge of terrible news. The pictures are too present and too vivid, you know, the news cycle is too relentless. I see pictures of children in faraway places that wreck me for a day, right? So the question that’s in this room and I think is out there in the world and in this country right now is how do we find the courage? How do we heal enough? How do we be present to that and not be overwhelmed by it?
Ms. Halifax: Well, I think this is one of the reasons why I identified these edge states because, when you realize — and the issue that you were bringing up, for example, about violence toward children, whether subtle or direct, and also that we are subjected to these images through our media, bombarded, is, I think, a more accurate statement. So we enter into what we would call a state of moral distress and futility. And the moral distress is something that where we see that something else needs to happen.
Children need to be protected, we have to stop rape and violence toward women in the Congo, and we feel this profound moral conflict. And yet we can’t do anything about it and we enter into a state either of moral outrage or we go into states of avoidance through addictive behaviors where we just, you know, don’t want to deal with it or we just go into another state of withdrawal, a kind of numbness, or …
Ms. Tippett: Tune out, right?
Ms. Halifax: Into freeze. And I think a lot of this world that is hooked up in the media right now, that a good part of the globe is going numb. And I don’t really agree, Krista, with the term “compassion fatigue.” I think what we’re seeing actually is not compassion fatigue, but empathic distress where there’s a resonance, but we’re not able to stabilize ourselves when we’re exposed to this kind of suffering. When we are more stabilized then we can face the world with more buoyancy, we have more resilience. You know, we’ve got more capacity to actually address these very profound social and environmental issues. So that’s why I call these things edge states because they really call us to our edge.
Ms. Tippett: I remember talking once to Ingrid Jordt who’s been a student and a practitioner in the Burmese Buddhist tradition. She talked about a teacher of hers who had also been a teacher to Aung San Suu Kyi who talked about how the great virtues have near enemies. Do you know this teaching?
Ms. Halifax: Oh, yeah.
Ms. Tippett: And that a near enemy to compassion is sorrow and that’s that sorrow, that’s me getting wrecked by the picture of the child in the newspaper so that I can’t actually help them.