5 days into the new world order, and I am beginning to discern a path that might just lead me through this very dark and scary forest. It is possible that we may even be nearing the “end of the beginning,” although that is probably grossly optimistic. There are more shocks to come.
The idiots and mean people have revealed themselves, on both sides; the people screaming about blame, and pretty much anybody who thinks “they” are somehow different from “us,” and because “they did this,” “we” are justified in doing “that,” no matter who you think “they” and “us” are, and whatever “this” and “that” are.
The Buddhists from Lion’s Roar have shared their wisdom, and reminded me to return to the cushion, and pay attention to where my feet are. It feels like exercise isn’t working, and it feels like meditation isn’t working, but that’s a bit like saying sobriety isn’t working, just because I still feel crazy. Meditation is working. The noise between my ears could be worse.
I have found new Facebook groups of like-minded strangers to join. I have joined the corps of women wearing safety pins. I considered whether I could wear a safety pin every day for the next 4 years, and decided I could. And then some people tell me that wearing a safety pin isn’t good enough, and I should be doing something more, and I marvel at our need to tell other people how to live. Democrat firing squads stand in a circle.
I realized I needed to learn a little bit more about civil confrontation, and within 3 hours, Facebook came through with posts from Brexit about how to help people who are being harassed because of their minority status. It was exactly what I needed. I don’t like that I needed it, and yet I give a nod to the God of grace who sent that information to me.
My world is beginning to gel. We are crawling out of our bomb shelters, and sweeping off the stairs, and brushing the dust off each other’s shoulders. Look around, and see who is most vulnerable and most at risk in my circle. Look around, and set into motion decisions to cut ties with some other people. I don’t have the energy to be nice; I can only absorb so much meanness.
Last week, I was saying I just wanted this to be over. I was wrong. “Over” is worse, and it’s far from over. It’s going to get very very much worse before were done. I’m hoping that what we’re experiencing is an extinction burst – that flare-up of bad behavior that happens just as you are about to learn something new. However, an extinction burst for behavior that’s been going on for thousands of years isn’t going to end by January.
A couple weeks before election night, I found out some unsettling details about people I knew in real life. I know a lot of people who have challenging histories, and I like to think of myself as someone who can handle anything, and yet I’m having trouble understanding this particular story. I want to cut these people out of my life. I can’t find a path to understand or forgive the behavior, even though I know it is the consequence of drug addiction, and what they did is what drug addicts do.
Similarly, I don’t know how to understand the people in my world who created the situation through their votes, or through their nonvoting, or through their write-ins. I’ve known some of them for years, and I cannot believe that I completely missed the misogyny and racism and hatred that I logically believe they must harbor if they voted the way they did.*
Are they really happy the Klan is marching in Raleigh tonight?
As far as I can tell, they treat me like an equal to my face, but is the only reason they’re not groping me because I’m so big?
I don’t know about this stuff. Really don’t. I don’t know how to move forward knowing that some of the people I know want to build a wall, or think condoms don’t work, or think being gay can be educated away. I don’t know how I’m going to find a way to talk simply to someone who could not be bothered to vote. I don’t know how to think about it.
I don’t have to solve that one today. For the time being, I can fall back on manners and good behavior, and trust that I will find an answer.
I look around. One friend is planning a new project to teach kids in elementary school about the United Nations. My knitting groups are knitting for peace. I’m sure I’ll hear more in the days ahead.
A few weeks after 9/11, I talked to a journalist from the Wall Street Journal who was writing about how lives have changed as a result of the attack. At that time I knew I had to leave the corporate world and make more art. I did that. And now I know I need to take that art in a new direction.
I can support my friends in their projects. I can be helpful. I can talk about my experience this past week and create space for other people to acknowledge their experience, when their immediate circles are telling them to get over it, and to move on. No one can tell you to move on, although plenty of people do not know this.
What I cannot do is spend four years mired in anger and agitation, getting upset about each new outrage. There will be outrages every day. It’s this administration’s stock in trade. Keep us distracted from our work. Keep us too upset to do our real work.
I have been working in the shorter term over recent years. It has been a long time since I was engaged in something that had a multi-year project plan and a remote deadline. However, I have made long-term changes in my life more than once. I moved from tech to art. I changed my health in 1986 and again in 2014. I know how to do this. I know how to take one step, and another, and another, and simply keep trudging, even if I don’t see tangible progress from one day to the next. Over time, the needle moves.
I know what I know. The world needs my art. Continue with the work I know I need to do. Nothing has changed, except that now it’s even more important.
We have come to treat “Keep calm, and carry on” as a throw-away slogan, almost as a joke. It wasn’t a joke when it saved a country. It was guidance to a nation suffering under daily bombing raids. The Germans counted on the bombs destroying British morale, and were wrong. Instead, the people kept calm, and carried on, and did what they would have done, had that crisis not happened, again and again and again.
That’s what I need to be doing—my work. Keeping calm is not diminishing the shock and horror; it is simply not allowing myself to lose energy uselessly, and instead, channeling my efforts into something tangible, something that might actually make a difference.
Someone said, “turn to books written before Gutenberg,” and there are no end to the references I can find for support in those works:
The I Ching (various translations including Wilhelm and Wing) tells me that the times are shocking (#51):
During sudden changes, adjust your tempo and move ahead, remembering that while conditions may alter, the goal remains the same. The Superior Man double-checks his premises, confronts his weak spots and adheres to the rules and ideals of the Work.
Surviving this terrifying force will give you confidence in your ability to deal with all that follows…. If these times inspire you to make any major changes in your life and your relationships and in yourself you will meet with vitality and success.
Proverbs 3: 25-26
Have no fear of sudden terror or of assault from wicked men, since Yahweh will be your guarantor, He will keep your steps from the snare.
We are called to return to the work, whatever that is. Donald says he wants to drain the swamp; that won’t help people clean off the mud and learn to live in a dry house. I have spent the past 30 years helping people move away from the edge of the swamp.
That’s my garden and I need to cultivate it.
*And so I ask N=1, and he explains how he perceived the events, promises, and rhetoric of the two campaigns, and what he thinks will happen next, and I can at least see the logic. Must. Keep. Talking.