Awed by all we’ve been through, from fire seasons to silent streets with worldwide plague, we wonder what matters. Uncertain about our future, we feel more vulnerable. Questions loom as we reflect on our lives at this turn of the year. We ponder many things, among them: how to change the destruction around us?
Many thinkers are encouraging us to imagine a new narrative, engage in conversations and action toward creating a unified, caring world. Among them are Richard Harwood, author of Stepping Forward, Michael Meade, Jungian mythological author, and George Monbiot, British Guardian journalist. Monbiot writes in Out of the Wreckage: “…we find it hard to imagine our way out of the reaction and helplessness to which we have succumbed.
We struggle to recognize, let alone resolve, our common problems. This has frustrated our potential to do what humans do best: to see a threat to one as a threat to all; to find common ground in confronting our predicaments; and to unite to overcome them.” He believes: “We will belong once more both to society and to ourselves” I propose a name for this narrative: The Politics of Belonging.”
Is this wishful thinking, mumbo jumbo in a world with so much violence and cruel suffering? What about Haiti, Syria, the US/Mexico border, the fighting in America? Can we shift our collective dividedness, discover how to live cohesively, redirect our anger, and build togetherness?
At this crucial time, we wonder about our own wishes and also how to help the world. As we grapple with the many crucibles before us, we are challenged to change. But new ways of life do emerge from the ashes. For instance, the 12 step programs, however imperfect, established values and “principles before personalities” which propelled change for millions. As Mead said, “We live at a time when both nature and culture need healing; when people all over the world need a renewed sense that life is indeed meaningful, that each living soul is worthy of love and respect. This is no time for cynicism or giving in to despair.”
Good people are out there. In the middle of our muddle, just this month, the British government acknowledged “strong evidence” that oOctopuses and other marine invertebrates have feelings; lobsters and crabs are now named sentient beings with complex nervous systems – one of the key hallmarks of sentience. Even here, Sonoma Overnight Support serves almost 5,000 meals monthly in our Valley. These stories are occurring everywhere.
Just yesterday, as I jumped into my car after an errand, some strange man, bent over and hooded, kept waving his hand wildly at me. I glared at him, flashing on the latest horrifying newscasts. He pointed at my eyeglasses, fallen under the car. That one act saved me hundreds of dollars.
We can pioneer new ways of life, even though these are threatening times. We often invent better communities, ethics, an improved relationship, home, career, or health through crisis. Most of us change through pain. Our shadows are our teachers.
What really matters? Do good acts, stay engaged, develop new ideas about traditions for the common good. In both little and big ways, we each have great power and potential in these terrifying times.
Katy Byrne is a Psychotherapist, and the author of The Power to Speak Up.