This morning finds me bewildered. I am sure that I am not alone and many others are finding themselves mystified by the recent interpersonal climate in the United States and on the world stage.
There are many articles being written about the anger and animosity being displayed in our U.S. political arena as well as social media. Our nation’s reputation for being a world leader and bastion of freedom, especially in regard to religious freedoms, is tenuous. Countries around the world are struggling economically and global strife fills the news.
The solutions to these challenges, no matter where you fit on the political continuum, are always too simplistic. We’ve all read or heard the opposing opinions, curtail immigration and close the borders/support immigration amnesty, redefine marriage/stand up for a specific definition of marriage, increase the minimum wage/eliminate pensions and benefits, increase welfare assistance/decrease public services, tax the rich/pass a flat tax, bomb ISIS/let foreign countries fight their own battles, expand our military/cut military spending, limit unions/buy American, support gun control/pass concealed carry laws, eliminate religious privileges/advance religious principles.
Of course, it is somewhat comforting to propose a simple solution and state pious platitudes. That is certainly easier than actually dealing with the real source of all strife, my self-centered personal desires and expectations. People are slow to admit that anger, greed, jealousy, envy, gluttony, pride, and laziness, are the vices which fuel many of today’s troubles. In other words, it is much easier to point at the speck in someone else’s eye than to focus on my own near-sightedness or outright blindness.
There is no doubt we are in a time of great change, which can be viewed as both a blessing and a curse! Yet as the adage reminds us, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Some will choose to wring their hands and spread predictions of terror and annihilation. Others will choose to face the future with gratitude for and trust in the resilience of the human person. Still others will find courage by connecting to the awesome power found at the heart of all life.
My family history is dotted with several deaths from tuberculosis, survivors of the Great Depression, an uncle who was a prisoner of war during WWII, a grandmother who died of heart failure at age 32, and women who survived the loss of multiple children. It takes more than questionable presidential candidates to make me tremble. The riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention, numerous assassinations and attempted assassinations, gas rationing, 17.5% mortgage rates, Watergate, and the Iran-Contra hearings have all happened in my lifetime. So it is common for me to roll my eyes, sigh deeply, and say, “This, too, shall pass!”
Every era has its challenges, successes, and failures and, as they say, hindsight is always 20/20. In this third stage of life, I am more aware of the many things I don’t know and presently I am not certain whether violence has ever advanced any culture. When faced with the atrocities of the various wars throughout history, I do feel a responsibility to defend the downtrodden. I am grateful for our veterans, and their families, who make untold sacrifices on a daily basis, but I also believe that governments have often used young men as “cannon fodder” to promote strictly economic agendas.
In recent years, it has become more important to focus on my own attitudes and interpersonal relationships, which are ultimately my only arenas of influence. I have found that I am trying to remain connected to and supported by an interior peace and positivity that resides at the center of all being. From that core, I am inspired to reach out to those who are in need, first in my immediate family, then to my surrounding community, and finally to the people who I may never meet, but who are living in circumstances I could never begin to imagine. This then extends to a concern and care for all the life and wonders of this remarkable planet.
My mother used to say, “You should always leave a place in better condition than when you arrived.” When I realized that there were more years behind me than ahead, that advice became particularly pressing. I have been blessed with good health, so right now applying this principle can be as simple as spending time with my children and grandchildren, doing small repairs for seniors who are struggling to stay in their homes, contributing to organizations that provide clean water and medical care around the globe, drinking water from a reusable container, and planting a garden. These little acts help to clear my head and calm my soul!