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America’s Soul Sickness

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AMERICA’S SOUL SICKNESS

I have said before that what is wrong with America is a spiritual illness, a soul sickness. Most of us watched in horror in 2016 as the last remnants of civility and compassion were pummeled into the ground during the presidential election. When Donald Trump made fun of a disabled man, threatened to punch another man in the face, bragged about the size of his genitalia and his power to grab women’s genitalia — well, you don’t need me to go on.

Nobody believed he could win. Because we are better than that.

My contention is that this is where we were inevitably headed. Our national psyche is now firmly centered upon greed, getting  your own, and winning, winning, winning at any cost . . . well, ladies and gentlemen, behold your leader. This is who you are. At least this is who 38% of you are. “He got rich, right? He must be great.”

It’s no wonder that white supremacists are murdering people on trains, congressional candidates are beating up reporters (and winning anyway) and GOP state legislators are threatening to shoot their colleagues in the head. Again, you don’t need me to go on.

America spends $597 BILLION each year on weapons and war — as much as the next seven largest national military budgets *combined.* And the new president wants to increase that. Is this who we are?

Our greed and excesses have quite possibly already pushed our planetary systems beyond the point where humans will be able to adapt. And the new president is OK with that, wants to roll back even minimal protections. Is this who we are?

Is this who we are?? Photo: Dallas Morning News

Somewhere along the line, we lost our souls. Our souls tell us to love one another, to care for one another, to care for our fellow creatures. We have forgotten who we are at heart. We are soul-sick.

The Simple Truth

One of my favorite authors, Father Richard Rohr, writes about this soul sickness. He speaks the truth.

For what it’s worth, an excerpt:

“Most of us have grown up with a capitalist worldview which makes a virtue and goal out of accumulation, consumption, and collecting. It’s hard for us to see this as an unsustainable and unhappy trap because all of our rooms are decorated in this same color. It is the only obvious story line that our children see. “I produce therefore I am” and “I consume therefore I am” might be today’s answers to Descartes’ “I think therefore I am.” These identities are all terribly mistaken.

This foundational way of seeing has blinded us so that we now tend to falsely assume more is better. The course we are on assures us of a predictable future of strained individualism, severe competition as resources dwindle for a growing population, and perpetual war. Our culture ingrains in us the belief that there isn’t enough to go around. This determines much if not most of our politics. In the United States there is never enough for health care, education, the arts, or basic infrastructure. The largest budget is always for war, bombs, and military gadgets.

E. F. Schumacher said years ago, “Small is beautiful,” and many other wise people have come to know that less stuff invariably leaves room for more soul. In fact, possessions and soul seem to operate in inverse proportion to one another. Only through simplicity can we find deep contentment instead of perpetually striving and living unsatisfied. Simple living is the foundational social justice teaching of Jesus, Francis of Assisi, Gandhi, Pope Francis, and all hermits, mystics, prophets, and seers since time immemorial.

Franciscan alternative orthodoxy asks us to let go, to recognize that there is enough to go around and meet everyone’s need but not everyone’s greed. A worldview of enoughness will predictably emerge in an individual as they move toward naked being instead of thinking that more of anything or more frenetic doing can fill up our longing and restlessness.”

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The Day it’s OK to Be Sad

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I thought I’d re-post this four-year old September 11th blog, since it still seems relevant. Little did I know four years ago when I wrote about the divisions and anger in our nation and at the 2012 political conventions how much worst it could get! Be kind to yourself and to others today, please.

Re-post from 9/11/12

I’m terribly sad, which I suppose makes sense, since it’s September 11th. Everyone is allowed to be sad on this one day. You’re not told to “buck up” or “move on,” you just get to be sad.

The odd thing is, I had forgotten the date. I don’t watch television or get a newspaper, and I usually spend my mornings “unplugged” and in silence. And yet I felt myself sinking from the moment I dragged out of bed, late. I turned on the car radio on my way to the doctor’s office and heard some guy talking about how pain is often a shell around understanding or something like that, and how we have to go through the pain to get to meaning, which is very important in trauma. I turned it off. I was already down and didn’t want to hear about trauma.

Then I saw about a dozen people waving huge American flags from an overpass. Something to do with the election, I guessed. Perhaps they wanted us to honk, but nobody did. It still didn’t register.

It wasn’t until late this afternoon that I was writing a check to my doctor and asked for the date. She looked at me like I must’ve just returned from the Mars expedition. “Oh,” I said, and wrote September 11th.

I feel kind of bad about not remembering, like it’s dishonoring to the people who died and their families. I guess my psyche knew, though I was not aware of it. I had plugged into the cosmic stream of grief and loss that is part of the human journey without even knowing I was supposed to be mourning with the rest of my nation.

Thing is, I no longer feel the sense of oneness and spiritual attachment that was so beautiful during the 9/11 aftermath. (I am *not* saying that 9/11 was beautiful, I am saying there was beauty in our response.) It’s long gone. One of the things I mourn on this day is the fact that we can’t have that unity more often. Even the chants of “USA, USA!” at both the political conventions were accompanied by clenched fists and mostly angry or righteous expressions.

Today my response is not to reach out for community or conversation. It’s to isolate and allow myself to be sad. I’m sure there’s a load of talking going on out there in TV/radio/internet land. Nothing more needs to be said, and I don’t want to hear it.

I’m just doing simple, nurturing things. Writing in my journal, watering plants, filling the birdfeeders and birdbaths, making a healthy salad for tomorrow’s picnic with someone I love.

But here I find myself reaching out, after all. Somehow I just wanted to tell you, whoever you are out there in the blogosphere…I am sad today.

How Not to Screw Up Your Holidays

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I guess they are officially here now.

The Holidays.

And you know what that means.

Crazy busy…OMG, I’m so stressed out…I’m so behind with my shopping…Oh no, not another open house!

Stuff We Don’t Need

Every year since my mother died – it’s been four now – I slip away around Thanksgiving to get myself mentally prepared to bow out of the madness. I spend a few weeks at my little writing retreat in New Hampshire and arrive home serene and centered, only to be met with a rush of busyness that knocks me over like a gust of arctic air. No one can stand against it.

This year I am determined. I bought lots of nice chocolates and some calendars – no unneeded gifts, no Christmas cards that waste paper and burn fuel as they jet across the country.

I’m thrilled that my neighbor is making Christmas dinner, so I don’t even have to clean my house, let alone get my pots and pans all dirty.

My Gift to You

Red Christmas Present

To Blog Friends, From Santa

My gift to you, blog friends, is a wonderful essay written this summer, which seems particularly salient as we approach December.

Here are a few excerpts, but I do hope you’ll click on the link and read the whole thing.

  • “The present hysteria is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it’s something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it.”

This is a crucial distinction. We are not victims. This busyness did not happen to us. If you feel too busy, you are likely choosing that. I’m not talking about the people who are working three jobs just to make ends meet; most of us choose our lifestyles, our material “needs,” and our activities, and we can change our minds about what we’ve chosen. We can also change our approach to the holidays.

  • It’s not as if any of us wants to live like this, any more than any one person wants to be part of a traffic jam or stadium trampling or the hierarchy of cruelty in high school — it’s something we collectively force one another to do.”

I was a part of this dynamic when I worked as an environmental lobbyist on Capitol Hill. I bought into it and tried to live up to it.”Really? You’re not working this weekend?” Or, “You’re leaving already?” There can be an added undertone of righteousness when the work is not-for-profit. At Christmas, it’s about competitive shopping and competitive social calendars.

  • Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day … I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.”

Wow – right between the eyes. I could not agree more. This is especially poignant at a time of year when we should probably be reflecting on the deeper meaning of our lives. Maybe that’s why the pace increases!

  • Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain … The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”

This is one of the reasons that becoming a writer attracted me. It gives me “permission” to withdraw from the busyness, for the sake of my creativity. It seems you have to have a special waiver to escape the busyness trap.

  • “I suppose it’s possible I’ll lie on my deathbed regretting that I didn’t work harder and say everything I had to say, but I think what I’ll really wish is that I could have one more beer with Chris, another long talk with Megan, one last good hard laugh with Boyd. Life is too short to be busy.”

This is the wonderful gift of a well-lived Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa. We get to spend real, honest, spacious, wondrous time with the people we love.

People I Love

You Can Do This

Here’s the full blog by Tim Kreider – I hope you’ll take the time to draw a few deep breaths, put your feet up, and read this:

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/30/the-busy-trap/

While you’re at it, here’s a timely piece about the strikers at Walmart, trying to strike a blow (so to speak) for sanity and time with family over the holidays. It’s written by a pastor who points out that Americans work more than any other people in the industrialized world. Perhaps as much as A MONTH more each year. Ponder that.

Thanks and giving: Why Wal-Mart “Black Friday” strikes are important – Guest Voices – The Washington Post

Do yourself a favor. Make a holiday plan now, and schedule in downtime. Alone time to reflect. Leisure time with your family. Face time (not racing-between-parties time) with your best friends. You can do this. (I’m talking to myself as much as to you!)

I wish you peace and happiness and idle time with people you love. Merry, Happy, and Blessed…

hanukkah icon menorahChristmas tree decoratedkinara  Kwanzaa Candles

photo credits to Clipart and : <a href=”http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=13063&picture=inside-a-christmas-shop”>Inside A Christmas Shop</a> by Petr Kratochvil

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