I have been re-reading The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen. Although this book was published in 1972 it is totally relevant to us in the 21st century. Nouwen begins with a chapter on what he calls “the nuclear man.” The dilemma the man faces still holds true. The man doesn’t know who he is, what he is and if or what he will be.
We are living in a world of confusion. A world where we have created so much technology that in many ways we have lost ourselves. We have discovered that technology doesn’t solve everything. Science doesn’t have all the answers and yet we want to think that it does. What is ahead for us? The bigger question is is there an ahead for us?
In many cases people who are part of various religious groups have been seen as hypocritical because they do not seem to be living out the tenets of their faith. Yet, like the rest of us, they are human and flawed. Others have perverted the tenets to create hatred and violence.
Science has created moral dilemmas that even Solomon couldn’t parse. Medicine can clone creatures, make decisions about life and death and use our smallest particles for good or ill. Who gets to decide?
The technology that we have created to make life better is polluting our world. Religion instead of pulling us together has divided us further. We have overpopulated to the point that we will soon extinguish ourselves. There is so much violence played out on media that we are desensitized to it. No one takes responsibility for their actions and blame is prevalent. I wonder what God thinks of all this. We certainly have come far from the beautiful garden.
All of this certainly ties in with the rise in stress, anxiety and depression. If we are not worried then we don’t understand the situation. What to do?
I so wish I had the answers but I must leave that to God. The God who loves us and this earth that he/she created, If we are meant to self-destruct then so be it. All I know is that we are all loved.
Today has not been a good day for me. The sky is sunny. the weather hot but I am sad. I am all too aware that it has to do with my job loss. The problem is that it is not just a loss of a job but that of a ministry. My position as Parish Nurse was everything I yearned for wrapped up in a beautiful package. It was my joy.
So now, I struggle not only with grief for the loss but with questions about what now. I find myself working to maintain a much too big garden and asking “Is this all?” After 20 years my connection with so many beloved people has been severed. My perception of who I am is disrupted. Life is a huge question mark.
I know that sometimes we just need to do nothing. I need to continue with my journey to change myself since that is the only thing I have control over. I will wait no matter how hard that is and hope for a door to open.
It is so difficult for those who have no issue with anxiety or depression to understand it. It is so foreign to how they function. I have heard so many people say that they can’t understand how anyone can commit suicide. Fortunately, that has not been part of my journey but when in the black hole of anxiety I can understand. It would be impossible to go on if you thought that the rest of your life would be lived in despair. Nothingness would be welcome. That is what those of us need to help others understand. It just might give hope to someone in the abyss.
The way our society functions today I can see more and more people having problems. The stress that we are under is devastating. There is so much noise in our lives. A while back I read a book called The Overworked American. The author pointed out that we created so many devices to free us to take time for relaxation and renewal. Unfortunately, the devices have created more stress and less free time. It used to be that when you went to the beach you were free to enjoy the water and the sand and the beauty of the day. Now most people spend more time on their electronic devices than they do taking advantage of the beauty around them.
I have worked with some young people and have found that they primarily communicate by text or email. Speaking face to face has become rare. I believe that we are communal beings and that we need connections to make out world complete. Our souls are not fed alone or electronically. To see the face of a loved one light up to meet us is joy. People who love us reflect our goodness to us. They help us to feel good about ourselves.
To watch the face of others when we talk tells us so much more than the written word. It is so easy to have something misunderstood when we are not present to each other. This may be one of the biggest losses that our new forms of communication have given us.
Obviously, I like to use the written word and love our new forms of reaching out to others. We just need to be careful that it doesn’t replace the experience of talking face to face.
Today I was talking with my daughter and granddaughter, They reminded me that the dangers are not just from the outside but from the inside as well.
Not only is the world a dangerous place but also our own country. There is so much anger….so much hatred. Again there is no middle ground. The sad part is that this is not just political but can also apply to some religious groups There are extremists on both sides. Recently Hulu has aired the program The Handmaiden. I read the book when it first came out and was struck by the concept it suggested. I thought how realistic the idea is.
Muslims are not the only ones who can have extremists. Christians are not free of guilt. We have had crusades against Muslim countries. We perpetrated evil against our own people during the inquisition in Europe.
There are extremist groups in our country today who believe that they hold all that answers and anyone else is wrong.
We need the moderates back. We need those who can hold a discussion and see the ideas of the other person and allow them to hold their own views.
In exploring the concept of anxiety itself I have found that spending time in silence allows thoughts to arise. These thoughts can be good, bad, or neutral. Silence is needed in order to think. Silence allows the questioning of our own ideas. Sitting quietly is good for the soul. Adding meditation to the silence encourages peace and calm. It seems the whole world needs this.
It is easy to be anxious in today’s world. There is plenty to be anxious about. Sometimes it is just easier to be an ostrich and hide my head in the sand. I really don’t like the news since it is so depressing. Yet every once in a while I hear or read something that sinks down inside and I end up ruminating on it. Recently I caught the edge of some news that has been churning inside for weeks. It had to do with important people in silicon valley hiring scientists/geneticists to find the answer to life eternal. Not as those of us as faith see it but as a scientific fact.
What a frightening thought. Should we really live forever? What would that be like? Like most people I am not anxious to die but I have serious concerns about us exploring this concept. Who would control whatever drugs or treatments to allow this? Would it be available to anyone or just a select few? Who would decide? There are so many ethical issues attached to this.
So many people with what we often see as enviable lives are not truly happy. There is much drug abuse, treatment for depression and suicide and unhappy lives among our rich and famous. Would life become boring? How about population control. All of this is overwhelming.
Somehow our world with its dangers and problems may be the world we should live in. I think learning to live with my anxieties is better.
There are so many things in the world today to worry about. Instead of becoming more reasonable and moderate we seem to be radically divided. There is no middle ground any more. Are there any moderates like me any more? Most people cannot discuss politics or religion without setting themselves in concrete. They are even unable to hold a discussion without anger. I remember a line from the movie 1776 (I think said by Stephen Hopkins in the film) “I have never heard, seen nor smelled an issue that was so dangerous it couldn’t be talked about. .” I agree with him.
It seems that part of this is the idea that our language has to be screened so that no one is offended. I’m not sure that we can express ourselves without using language that is clear and shows our thoughts. I haven’t explained this well but I am sure that everyone understands. Where are we headed with all of this? It seems that with language we want to create a homogeneous language but it is okay for us to be totally divided. Makes no sense.
I guess I will always find something that concerns me and has me worrying about the world my grandchildren will have.
I am continuing with meditation and prayer and will begin to add more time. I don’t want to live lost in a dark place with anxiety ruling my life.
This week the news (as usual) is alarming. I have been thinking about those Islamic radicals who are living in so many western style countries and I have been concerned about what I am beginning to see as a pattern. I am someone who tends to believe the best of people and I don’t like having to think otherwise. When I consider how the Nazi regime managed to change the moral compass of a nation it is easy to see that it could be done again. For me, it brings to mind a poem by a poet know for his limericks. That poet is Ogden Nash. Many of his poems are lighthearted and just fun but there are quite a few that force us to confront uncomfortable issues. This poem was written in 1938 just before the war. The insight it provides about how to change ideas and ethics is frightening. When I see radical Muslims demanding Sharia Law and eroding the legal systems of my world I can’t not be scared. Eroding away inch by inch is easier than going to war. Here is the poem for your contemplation.
The Japanese (1938)
How courteous is the Japanese;
He always says, “Excuse it, please.”
He climbs into his neighbor’s garden,
And smiles, and says, “I beg your pardon”;
He bows and grins a friendly grin,
And calls his hungry family in;
He grins, and bows a friendly bow;
“So sorry, this my garden now.”
Except for the above anxiety is momentarily at rest. The trigger has (for now) sent it away. That doesn’t mean that it won’t arise another time. I am struggling to continue my plans for change. When the fear is past it is so easy to slip back into complacency. For those of us who have God in our lives it is typical to let our connection fade when it is not needed. Discipline is so difficult. I will continue to persevere no matter how difficult. I am determined not to let myself back up now.