Last month I asked some artist friends of mine to write guest blogs for me on the topic of beauty and illness. I was working hard to resolve for myself what had happened to my outside as a result of a long-term battle with autoimmunity. My friend Jana, a German photographer, wrote a wonderful piece and ended it with these words, "So, don't worry, be content and take your time to include what wants to be understood through your illness." I have thought about those words every day since I first read them.
The more I thought about the words, the more I felt that they applied not just to my individual struggle with illness, but to a much large, "meta-illness." I wondered, "Where does this big-picture illness come from?" And because I have personally been so focused on changing how I eat to heal my body, I naturally connected a line between the big-picture illness and the substandard food-like things we put inside ourselves. Certainly those things make us sick. If you wonder about the food, then you will have to wonder about where the food came from. That made me connect a line between the sad way we treat animals and soil and water. We don't place enough value on these things. Certainly that is making us sick too.
While I was considering all that, the world was going on . . . hurricanes happened, wars escalated, elections drew to a conclusion, and everyone talked about economies all the time. We almost never watch the news in our home. I love NPR, but I only listen for about 15 minutes, Monday through Friday. I don't automatically read the headlines and news articles on-line. The only time I read is when I feel more facts are necessary for me to comprehend. I do this because the news cycle, particularly in the US, is part of what makes us ill too.
Yesterday, it really, really hit me though. Our media is making money off of making us ill with fear and despair. It does it by showing us constantly the deep loss and pain of other human beings. Sometimes, it is right to be exposed to the hurt of others, so you can be aware and practice compassion, but the way our media does it is designed to make us sick. It is not balanced with showing us all that is still good and hopeful. The truth is that MOST people are doing MOSTLY good things everyday. The acts may be very small or very large, but MOST people are doing MOSTLY good things everyday.
Here's the thing about being ill with fear and despair . . . fearful, hopeless people can not ACT. They are paralyzed to help their neighbor. They are prevented from reaching out to strangers. They do not notice other human beings that are isolated, hurt, or hungry. Their natural empathy toward others is numbed, until maybe they do not even try to help their loved ones or maybe even help themselves. They can not be revolutionary with their love.
What wants to be heard when a young man, standing on the brink of his manhood, kills 20 children who have just barely begun the journey at all? Are we listening? Are we taking the time to include what wants to be understood through our collective illness?
Don't allow yourself or your children to be bombarded with the news cycle. It is meant to make you ill with fear and despair. Share your sadness with your friends and family, it is okay that we are collectively filled with sorrow. That burden of sorrow is meant to be shared with other humans though, not with the media. Reject the idea that the media has a right to report on private suffering. You can best display your empathy for the unimaginable grief of those parents in Connecticut by giving them the privacy to mourn. Focus on what is good. Practice noticing it and reciting it. Tell others about the good you saw.
Take time. Be quiet inside. What wants to be heard?