One day this week I heard that there had been earthquakes in New Zealand again – something of great import to me (because I have family and beloveds there). Apparently, it was several weeks ago and I hadn’t heard. I’ve concluded it must have been while I was away on the latest stage of the training I’m currently undertaking, where we are in a complete news blackout, no mobile signal, BLISS! Now I know, I can contact those I love and ensure they are all well and whole. I like to receive my news in this way, perhaps a little late, but by word of mouth, from someone who actually cares.
From time to time I shame myself to listen to the news “properly”. I know people who are deeply immersed in the news, who seem to eat, sleep and breathe it; people who are deeply versed in “current affairs”, and I respect their knowledge and dedication to knowing “what’s going on in the world”. We are all different. The effect on me after a few days of listening to the news “properly” is a deep malaise. I wonder if this makes me a “Pollyanna”, I only want to know the good things, why oh why do we need to keep being told the same tragedies over and over again? How many times an hour do we hear about the badness of the world? When I listen to the same thing over and over again, especially when its affirming, once again, how bad we are as human beings, I begin to suffer a sadness and despair, that is at odds with how I generally experience both myself and other human beings.
Where do we get to hear about the goodness of human beings? If we are suffering from depression how do we affirm that there are wonderful events in life as well as the pain and suffering that mirrors our own? I have a friend who began a DOOM AND BLOOM group (look at that name again – its not doom and gloom [which my fingers automatically typed] but doom and BLOOM!). She spotted what was happening to her in her world, that she was getting lost in the despair and hopelessness that comes from full news immersion, and so she began meeting regularly with others who want to make a positive difference to the world. She is one of the most dynamic women I know, someone who is having a huge impact on her local community, AND, ensuring all their lives are future proofed at the same time. Her initiative was born from her despair, she found her own solution to the malaise.
In my life, most people act in a way that reflects the beauty and goodness of their hearts. Of course, from time to time, people cross my path who behave extremely badly, for all kinds of reasons. One of the things I notice is that I can get stuck in a loop of repeating the badness of their behaviour to myself, and others (“you’ll never guess what s/he said!”) over and over again. Much like the news loops we are almost permanently affixed to. What effect does this have on me, on us? For me, I can only speak for myself, I can enrage myself, explode with anger, affirm how terrible I am as a human being that others have behaved that way towards me, affirm how terrible they are, or get depressed, about people, life, myself, everything. It becomes doom and gloom, and there’s no way out. It’s hopeless. It seems to me that the news loops work in a similar way. They keep feeding back to us how hopeless it all is, enraging or depressing us. There are few people in life who are unreachable in my experience – though some are, or appear to be. For one reason or another they’ve closed their hearts to us or to themselves, made judgements about us we know to be untrue, have feelings of entitlement that don’t match their behaviour. And we may choose to remove ourselves from their world. It is never without cost.
Who gains from us feeling permanently enraged or hopeless? I remember, as a small child, sitting in church hearing how bad I was as a human being, and, even worse, as a female. I heard that I was dirty, evil, sinful, and just plain bad, and that, as a girl, I could never enter the Kingdom of Heaven. It was a Kingdom, not a realm, which was for the good ones. Its symptomatic of the kind of parenting in the fifties – if we keep telling our children how bad and wrong they are, they’ll start to do it right! It doesn’t work – plainly – though it does leave generations with low self-esteem. We’ve learned, thank goodness, that affirming for children what they’re doing right, how well they’re doing, has a more beneficial effect. And yet, this negative loop continues. Affirming over and over how bad we are as human beings. So, who gains from us being permanently battered with our badness, from constantly focussing on what’s wrong? Is it possible that those who would like to have control can do so more easily if we are cowed and subdued, bubbling with rage inside, depressed, or just plain distracted by who left Strictly this week? What happens if we take life into our own hands?
All day long I am listening to others, and talking with them about finding better healthier ways through the despair, the incidents of misunderstanding, the mistakes we make as we try to navigate our world. As Victoria Wood famously put it, in an episode of Dinner Ladies, “bumbling along and buggering it up a bit like everyone else”. Yes, we bumble along, we bugger it up a bit, and then, we can, if we choose, do what we can to iron it out with others, make good. Allow them to see and know more of the goodness of our hearts. In short, open our loving vulnerable beautiful hearts instead of armouring ourselves more, and closing them?