Perhaps it’s winter, the overcast days that surrender their possibility to such early, daunting darkness, the absence of sunshine that nourishes our souls? Or, a subconscious anniversary of a time when this month brought great sadness? Still does?
Maybe it’s the political climate—the change and uncertainty of where our beautiful world, its people, is headed, the impetus that has razed such ugliness, such terrible, awful hate?
Maybe it’s closer than that—grief and sadness, worry and fraught, life’s many trials and tribulations compounded?
Maybe it’s a cocktail of it all?
Regardless of a definite root, this has been an ugly time, a time cloaked in ragged fear, unwelcomed, heavy. It’s exhausting and soul crushing and not for the living, the faint of heart, me, my nature. You?
St Augustine said, “Fear is the enemy of love.” While at most times it serves best to hold your enemies tight, it feels now is the time to push them away, eradicate, at best mask, them, it, fear and its ugly foes. Wave wand, close eyes, click heals, chant, will, “Be gone,” banish. Conjure happy thoughts, peaceful thoughts. Turn it off. Turn it in.
There are times when we have to act out. There are times when we have to act in. This is that time, to act in. Shut off. Be still. Very still.
“You cannot look after others if you first don’t look after yourself,” They say.
They, the possessors and professors of wisdom much greater than our own. They. Wisdom. Wise.
Fear is the enemy of love. Choose love. Love yourself. Small love, nourished deep and whole with gratitude, blooms.
Sometimes our world is too busy and noisy, its problems too deep and complex and tragic, that when we take it all in we can’t see the flower, the beauty, which still grows, still flourishes, in the wretched land.
Love, really, is all around us. We just need to shut off the noise, the static to see it. Disconnect. Turn it off.
Sometime ago, I worked with survivors of traumatic brain injury and was temporarily assigned to manage a group home for survivors who had suffered catastrophic effects. Inside this house the tribulations of the outside world didn’t really matter, exist: Life there, although tragic and consumed with attention to physical care, was joyous and lived completely in the moment.
One particularly chaotic morning, I was assisting the staff prepare breakfast for the residents, most of whom required a pureed diet.
Following the menu of the day—bagels with toppings, with yogurt and fruit—I was madly chopping dried bagels and jam and strawberries and bananas, throwing them and dollops of yogurt in a food processor and dousing them with milk, when a care aid named Gurpreet walked into the room, sat down at the table beside a resident, who was unable to talk, and began to take her order:
Would you like multigrain or raisin for your bagel? Butter? Cream cheese? Jam? Raspberry? Peach? Strawberries? Bananas? Yogurt? No? Milk? No? Water? Apple juice? Lovely! One minute, then!
Then Gurpreet walked over to the counter, carefully placed all of the requested ingredients into a small blender, pureed it, spooned it onto the plate, walked back to the table and placed it in front of the resident, sat beside her with a tender smile and began to spoon feed the resident.
Amidst the chaos that could have overwhelmed her, Gurpreet shut it off and served not just breakfast, but kindness, love on a plate. Love…on a plate!
Which is what, in these times, we all have to do for ourselves–love us. And to do so, we need to shut off or turn down the noise of the outside world, the sadness, the fear, the sickening fear—TV, social media, the Internet, the news, our smartphones, needless obligation, social pressures, family pressures, consumerism, the voice that tells us who we should be, be doing. We need to stop. We need to be. We need quiet. Love.
We need to find the flower in the wretched and take a moment to watch it grow. To banish fear, to conjure love. To be grateful. To be hope. To multiply and become effusive of that, love and gratitude and hope, the oppressors of fear. Fear’s greatest enemies: Hold them close, give them away.
Because, in the words of Hazif, the 14th century Persian poet who spoke dearly of the joy of love: “Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I would love to see you living in better conditions.” You and I, and all of mankind. Us.
Perhaps, the truth is, one-by-one-by-one-by-all, it is possible, to live in better conditions: Sometimes the means to moving is to shut it off, act in and ensure ourselves a time of fear-free love on our plates.