Monday, March 14, 2011

“What Can Be Done in the Face of Heart Wrenching Truths?” An Exploration in Quotes

 What can be done in the face of heart wrenching truths? What can I do?  Complacency and willful indifference just doesn't work. Ignorance was never bliss, just one of several deceptive ways to keep me from my brothers and sisters suffering - distracted and removed from my own humanity to care. - Jemila Sequeira

Jemila wrote this on Facebook today and it really resonated with me. Sometimes world events can be like an undertow that pulls you down into the depths of anxiety, anger, even depression – and yet becoming “blissfully ignorant” is not a viable option for people who pay attention.  How do we stay compassionate and keep our balance?

Gloria Steinem said “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”

"Usually when people are sad, they don't do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about a change." -Malcolm X

How do we use painful emotions to generate effective action rather than ulcers? How do we tell the difference between right action and reaction?

Siddartha Gautama: "Rage is a powerful energy that, with diligent practice, can be transformed into fierce compassion. However much we disagree with our enemies, our task is to identify with them. They too feel justified in their point of view." Is this really our task? Sometimes it seems naïve or trite. But there have been times when being able to find the kernel of humanness in someone who is acting in a way that I abhor has helped me to make a human connection and have them hear me.

And then there is Martin Luther King, Jr, who has another perspective on compassion when he says, "True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring." This opens up the whole idea that helping individuals may not be enough. Does true compassion require us to address systemic change and, if so, how? Or does system change happen one person at a time?

It is easy to feel hopeless and lose energy. “Politics hates a vacuum. If it isn't filled with hope, someone will fill it with fear.” - Naomi Klein - and that is just what our adversaries do. "Hope is essential to any political struggle for radical change when the overall social climate promotes disillusionment and despair." - bell hooks

We must use all the tools at our disposal to resist the lethargy or unthinking action of despair. How? Music, shared celebration, attention to our needs (rest, good nutrition, recreation, introspection, love), art, mutual support, collaboration and connection. And balance – finding ways to place all the suffering that we see in a “bigger container” that also includes the daily progress, small victories, kindnesses, wonders, and joy of the world.

Malcolm X:  "We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience, and patience creates unity."

Thank you, Ithaca community, for your light!
Your Neighbor


1 comment:

  1. Ahhhh! bathing in the glow of the little light and helping to pass it on! thank you, friend! xo emme