Paying Attention Bill McDonald’s
August 2016 - Volume 16, No. 8
Oh No! Not Again!
Every night and every morning
It seems lately that every night just before getting into bed, and every morning, before I get out of bed, I check the world news on my cellphone - it doesn’t help my sleep, but I think it’s just to check that the world is still out there. And these lasts few weeks have been horrid. Again and again there’s a shooting, a terrorist attack, a non-terrorist attack, or something that involves the taking of lives, the hospitalization of dozens, and the terrorizing of innocents. Remember when it was just armies and military folks that suffered casualties? I’ve just read that (in the US) guns are used in 100,000 shootings, causing more than 30,000 (!) deaths. Now no place seems exempt, or any particular class of people - women and children, old and young, vacationers, dancing people, people from all parts of the globe, innocents. For a couple years now, it seems police have been more publicly killing civilians, and civilians are now killing police. Once we get caught on this wheel (O Fortuna!), it seems we can’t get off.
In retrospect, I think my practice began on “9/11” - that morning I was listening to NPR radio at the exact moment, when just before 9am, just as the newscaster was ‘signing off’, there came an announcement that an airplane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I didn’t know what to think, so just kept myself in touch by radio and TV, as the drama rolled on and on.We’d never seen that before (in our short memory which had so soon forgotten London, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Dresden.)
What frightened me more than the attack, was our “battle frenzy” response as a nation. Remember our “shock and awe” (add a satisfied grin) bombing of Bagdad? I realized quickly that they’d “got us” - they got us to “fight crazy.”And, in retrospect, we can see that today’s ISIS was being born, and we’re now caught up in a “war without end.”
A number ofyears ago a teenage client told me his fighting-in-school secret. It was to get the other guy to “fight crazy.” He never lost a fight.
And so every night and every morning, I check to see if the outside world still exists, and what ‘terror’ may have played itself out again just within the few intervening hours.
Many of my clients, who definitely have problems, dilemmas and stresses of their own, tell me they don’t check the news at all anymore. They’ve just shut down at that level. Nor do I counsel them otherwise. Somehow I sense I’m silently keeping watch on their behalf.
Where do I look for wisdom?
This is my greatest difficulty. First, I have to check my own energy, which can easily be drained by the stresses of the world as well as working alongside the stresses of others.
At present, NPR, the BBC and the Guardian are the connections that feed me best. But they too can be relegated at times to “circus announcer” status.
I could look to the preachers. But my own sad experience these days finds only disconnection and an the abysmal niceness of 21st century American caucasian protestantism or - perhaps a resurgent whipped up war mongering by the evangelicals.
My own home town has no virtually no “race” problems, no diversity, no problems with police, no military deaths. We do have problems with poverty, but it’s generally well-hidden. All-the-while we can boast beautification and building projects and bright blue new uniform trash bins. Once in awhile there’s a murder or a high-level economic crime. Few resources for deeper wisdom here. Only suburban privilege.
So I wait, and watch and hunger. And I watch the stresses grow among my people. Children continue to play their violent ‘video games.’Although now it’s PokémonGO - walking down the streets with their heads in their cellphones - looking for something imaginary among the potential real dangers of street traffic. But is that much different than their parents’ heads in their cellphones while carelessly driving their own cars around town on my streets?
Seems I’m on a rant!That nihilist anger of our time has caught me up as well. Even without Donald.
Something I’d Almost Forgotten
I’m not sure how to present this next part.Yet, things seems to happen to me this way. It’s why I sign off each newsletter with “Pay attention.”It keeps me on a track that is right for me.
I’m speaking of a ‘soul friend,’ a Scottish feminist poet from Edinburgh named Aisha Wolfe.I’ve referred to her (on Facebook) as a favorite pagan wisdom keeper from the other side of my spiritual fence. (I just found her new “Light workers” poem on YouTube.)
She reminds me anew, as other teachers have taught me, to not resist the darkness, “for that is where the soul deepens.”Then I remember others who have taught me to despise nothing, honor everything, and to not be afraid.
This war of “terror” will yet rage for a time, as has been true in past and other times. Let it be our teacher, until we learn its wisdom, a wisdom ultimately meant to open rather than close our hearts. And we learn compassion and do compassionate action for its multiple victims, for they are also ourselves.
To paraphrase her words in another place, let us learn to be inclined to rub up against every lie we are being told about an enemy, and let it soften us enough to just love.